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Auto inspections and car insurance: how are they related?

In some states, passing a vehicle inspection is necessary to maintain car insurance coverage. In other states, car inspection status has no bearing on insurance.

In the states that require periodic car inspections to stay insured, the insurance consequences of a failed inspection may vary. Let’s break down the regulations of some of the stricter states to provide a general idea of what to expect from your insurance company if your car fails inspection.

Vehicle inspection requirements in U.S. states

Nearly half of the states in America require annual or biennial automobile safety inspections. Twelve of these states mandate yearly vehicle safety inspections, while the rest offer biennial or other options. 

STATE-BY-STATE VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS
State Safety inspection timing
Alabama Upon vehicle purchase
Connecticut When registering a vehicle 10 years old or older
Delaware Biennial, once a vehicle is 7 years old
Hawaii Annual, after a vehicle's first 2 years
Kentucky When bringing a vehicle in from another state
Louisiana Annual/biennial
Maine Annual
Maryland Upon vehicle purchase
Massachusetts Annual
Missouri Biennial
Nebraska When bringing a vehicle in from another state
New Hampshire Annual
New York Annual
North Carolina Annual
Pennsylvania Annual
Rhode Island Biennial
Texas Annual, after a vehicle's first 2 years
Vermont Annual
Virginia Annual
West Virginia Annual

*Louisiana offers biennial inspections, but motorists are required to pay double to earn the two-year state inspection sticker. Otherwise, annual inspections are mandatory.

Many states carry exceptions and additions to these laws, often predicated on the age of the vehicle. This list does not account for emissions inspections, which are required in most U.S. states. See below for a list of states requiring regular emissions inspections. 


U.S. states requiring emissions inspections

Some U.S. states require motorists to have their vehicles inspected to ensure compliance with emissions standards. See below states requiring occasional emissions inspections:

STATE-BY-STATE VEHICLE EMISSIONS INSPECTION REQUIREMENTS
State Emissions inspection timing
Arizona Biennial, in the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas
California Biennial in most areas
Colorado Biennial, for vehicles older than 7 years in most areas
Connecticut Biennial
Georgia Annual in 13 counties
Idaho Annual, in the Boise and Nampa areas
Illinois Biennial, in certain locations
Indiana Biennial, in certain locations
Louisiana Annual, in the Baton Rouge area
Maine Annual, in Cumberland county
Maryland Annual, in many counties
Massachusetts Annual
Missouri Biennial, in select counties
Nevada Annual, in the Reno and Las Vegas areas
New Hampshire Annual
New Jersey Biennial
New Mexico Biennial, only in the Albuquerque area
New York Annual
North Carolina Annual, in select counties
Ohio Annual, only in the Cleveland area
Oregon Annual, in the Portland and Medford areas
Pennsylvania Annual, in some counties
Rhode Island Biennial
Tennessee Annual, in some counties
Texas Annual, in some metro areas
Utah Biennial for newer vehicles, annual for older vehicles (in select areas)
Vermont Annual
Virginia Biennial, in some parts of the state
West Virginia Biennial, in select counties

Which states do not require vehicle safety or emissions inspections?

The majority of U.S. states do not require regular vehicle safety inspections. The states not requiring inspections to stay road-legal are listed below:


What happens to insurance after a failed car safety inspection?

The consequences of a failed car inspection vary by state. Typically, you'll need to address any issues and pass a second inspection within a set amount of time. Failure to do so can result in a fine or ticket. Rules and regulations related to physical damage inspections are handled separately.

What is a physical damage inspection for cars?

As a way of preventing insurance fraud, New York, Florida, and New Jersey require all vehicles to be inspected for their physical condition, existing options, and accessories. Companies such as CARCO provide these photo inspections. Physical inspections are important because insurance companies require newly added vehicles to pass a physical inspection to qualify for comprehensive and collision coverages.

 

How to get a physical damage inspection for car insurance in 3 steps:

map
Step 1: Take your vehicle to a CARCO location

CARCO will physically inspect the vehicle and take photos of your vehicle.

documents
Step 2: Obtain a copy of the report

After the inspection, you will receive a copy of the report.

computer
Step 3: Send this report to your insurance company

Failure to send the physical damage report to your insurance company can result in the revocation of physical coverage — comprehensive and collision — from the policy. You can add these coverages prior to sending the documentation to your insurance company, but you will need to furnish the documents within a predetermined period in order to maintain your coverage.


Vehicle safety inspections and car insurance: how they're related

Aside from the CARCO example above, auto insurance and safety inspections aren’t closely related. However, in order to get a vehicle inspection, you may need to show proof of insurance. Make sure your vehicle is insured before you take it in for its inspection.

If you’re ticketed for driving after a failed inspection, it generally won’t affect your insurance. This is because a failed inspection is not a moving violation. If your policy requires you to pass an inspection but you fail, you might run into problems filing a claim with an invalid inspection certificate.

If your car fails inspection, your DMV is going to pose more serious problems than is your insurance company. It's worth addressing the issues and ordering another inspection as soon as possible.


Frequently asked questions

How long does a car inspection take? Chevron down icon

According to car repair resource AutoVFix, a vehicle inspection can take anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. 

How much does a car inspection cost? Chevron down icon

Vehicle inspection costs vary depending on state-by-state fees. Check out this example fee sheet from New York State to get an idea of the costs for a variety of inspection services. 

What do car inspections check for? Chevron down icon

The most commonly checked aspects of a vehicle include:

  • Seat belts
  • Brakes
  • Steering
  • Suspension
  • Chassis
  • Tires
  • Lights
  • Windshield
  • Horn
  • Mirrors
  • Fuel tank

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Ava Lynch photo
Ava LynchSenior Analyst

Ava joined The Zebra as a writer and licensed insurance agent in 2016. She now works as a senior analyst, providing insights and data analysis as one of The Zebra's property and casualty insurance experts.

Ava’s insurance career began as an agent with Farmers Insurance. Over the years, she has become an authority in all things property and casualty insurance, helping her to write informative guides for shoppers.

Ava’s work has been cited in publications such as InvestopediaThe BalanceMoney.comLiberty Mutual, U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, Car and Driver and Yahoo! Finance.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.