Anyone who owns a car knows that there’s always another reason to open your wallet. The cost piles up with repairs, title fees, insurance, tolls, and more.
On top of that, you may need an inspection. But how much is an inspection for a car?
The average cost of a passenger car inspection is about $35.
In some states, a technician will conduct the check for free. In other states, the fee approaches almost $100.
But, generally speaking, you can expect to pay less than $50 for a safety or emissions inspection.
Of course, the actual amount will vary by the type of inspection, where it’s done, and the cost of any repairs required to pass.
A car inspection comes in many forms. The most common types include a safety inspection and an emissions inspection.
The rules for each vary considerably by where you live, what kind of car you drive, and how old it is.
Some states require annual safety and emissions inspections for all vehicles. Other states require a safety inspection for newer cars and periodic emissions checks as the vehicle ages.
The rules vary by the county or even around certain large cities in some states.
The reasoning for an annual inspection requirement is pretty straightforward at face value.
But, there are four main reasons why cars need yearly inspections, at least from the state’s point of view:
Many states charge drivers money for their inspection. For example, suppose an individual state charges $25 per inspection, and one million vehicles need an inspection annually.
In that case, that represents gross revenue of $25 million, a considerable sum of money that the state can reinvest into other projects or road repairs.
By adjusting the fees for inspection by vehicles, states try to influence the behavior of their citizens.
For instance, there is a fee for an annual inspection for all cars except electric vehicles in some states.
The exemption of green vehicles is meant to influence consumers to buy electric and hybrid vehicles in place of a gas-powered car.
An emissions check, sometimes called a smog test, checks a vehicle for excessive emissions.
A technician inserts a probe into the exhaust pipe, and the inspection computer analyzes the contents of the gasses created by your vehicle.
The technician will also rev the engine to sample the exhaust at multiple speeds in some states.
Many states require an emissions check. But, newer vehicles might not need an inspection until they reach a certain age.
The government wants to ensure that the vehicles driven on its roadways are safe.
So a safety inspection checks for everything from bald tires to cracked windshields or loose battery cables.
Often, older vehicles are subject to a more thorough inspection, as they’re more likely to have mechanical deficiencies that can make them unsafe to operate.
For instance, in New Hampshire, all vehicles require an annual safety inspection.
There are many variations in the type and frequency of inspections required. Some states don’t require any safety or smog inspections at all.
Other states even require an inspection of our Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) when you register a car from out of state.
A VIN inspection is typically quick but annoying and carries a small fee.
You have to check with your local state’s DMV for the most precise answer.
But, here is a list of states that require some sort of vehicle inspection:
- Florida (VIN only)
- Georgia (Atlanta only)
- Illinois (metro only)
- Kansas (VIN only)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Oklahoma (VIN only)
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- Wyoming (VIN only)
The states of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota don’t require any inspections.
Cost is another area where inspections vary from state to state. In some states that require an inspection, there is no fee.
Most often, states with no fee conduct the inspections at government-run facilities. In some cases, motorists who prefer to have their own mechanic perform the inspection can do so for a fee.
In other states that require an inspection, you’ll bring your car to a privately-owned and licensed inspection facility.
Safety inspections tend to be less expensive than emissions checks. But, the fees vary quite a bit.
For instance, in New York, new cars are only subject to a safety inspection that costs $10.
Inspecting older cars that also need an emissions inspection will cost $37 annually.
Both inspections are done privately, as the state doesn’t operate inspection stations and instead licenses shops to do the work.
But, each inspection station logs the date of your vehicle’s check into the DMV’s registration computer, so the New York State Police can tell when you haven’t passed your annual inspection and ticket you for the offense.
Aside from the fee for the inspection itself, it’s quite possible that a failed emissions or safety inspection might end up costing you additional money.
That’s because if your exhaust system or another component of your vehicle caused your car to fail the inspection, it would need fixing to pass the test.
So, if you failed your safety inspection because you have four bald tires and a broken windshield, you’ll have to pay for those repairs and possibly an additional inspection to get your sticker and stay within the good graces of your state.
Since inspection costs vary so widely, this chart of inspection costs by each state might be helpful.
Since the costs can vary by the type of inspection, locally, by station, or even by county or metropolitan region, there is a range of pricing data offered.
This way, you can get a sense of pricing across the state. Just keep in mind that costs can go up considerably if an inspection reveals a defect that needs repair.
If a state has an “N/A” (non-applicable) notation under the average cost, the state either absorbs the cost of the inspection or doesn’t require one at all.
|State||Average Car Inspection Cost in $|
|Arizona||20 – 50|
|California||30 – 70|
|Colorado||15 – 25|
|Delaware||20 – 40|
|Georgia||10 – 25|
|Hawaii||15 – 40|
|Idaho||14 – 20|
|Illinois||20 – 50|
|Louisiana||10 – 30|
|Maine||12.50 – 18|
|Maryland||50 – 100|
|Massachusetts||15 – 75|
|Missouri||10 – 34|
|Nevada||56.50 – 84|
|New Hampshire||20 – 50|
|New Jersey||0 – 50|
|New Mexico||15 – 25|
|New York||10 – 37|
|North Carolina||13.60 – 40|
|Ohio||0 – 18|
|Oregon||0 – 30|
|Pennsylvania||25 – 75|
|Rhode Island||55 – 64|
|Texas||7 – 40|
|Utah||20 – 33|
|Vermont||6 – 56|
|Virginia||9.63 – 64.20|
|Washington||30 – 70|
|West Virginia||11 – 14.66|
Typically, there is not a grace period for an expiring car inspection, but you should always check with your local DMV to ensure you understand the rules where you live.
Sometimes, there may be a short grace period for repairs in the event that a vehicle fails its safety inspection.
Since it’s not always possible for a repair shop to remedy everything right away, you might be allowed to continue driving the car without penalty until the parts are available and the repairs have been made.
Paying for an inspection is usually pretty simple. In fact, in some states, the inspection is completely free. In other states where you do have to pay, you can pay by cash, credit card, or check.
Since the rules vary so much from one state to another, and there is a mix of types of inspections and facilities that perform them, this is another place to check locally.
For instance, some service stations that perform inspections might not accept payment by check.