Car Inspections are a part of every car-owners life. While they can be a real hassle, they also go a long way to keeping us safe on the roads. Your state may require you to have your car inspected or an emissions test done regularly, or you may choose to have it inspected as a part of buying, selling, or check-up. But what is the real cost of a car inspection?
A standard car inspection may cost anywhere between $20 and $250. Your cost will be different depending on what kind of inspection your state requires and depending on how old your car is.
Car Inspection Cost Details
About half the states require either routine inspections and/or routine emissions tests. The other half does not require them at all, or only in certain—limited—circumstances. Even between states that have the same requirements, there is some variation. For instance, in Washington DC, a two-year car inspection will be $35, whereas in Missouri, the fee never goes above twelve. In California, inspections can fall anywhere between $30 and $320.
Older cars will generally have more expensive inspections, while newer cars will be cheaper. In Rhode Island, for example, vehicles less than two years old are exempt from the inspection requirement. In Texas, older cars have to pay more than twice as much as new cars. In many states, cars older than 25 years qualify as antiques and can skip certain elements of the inspection.
If you’re seeking a non-required inspection, your cost will depend on the amount of detail you choose and the mechanic. According to yourmechanic.com, however, a standard 75-point inspection is going to cost about $90
What Does A Full Car Inspection Include?
No matter where you get your inspection, there are six main things your mechanic will look at:
Certification and Vehicle Information: The first part of every inspection is to check your vehicle papers i.e. vehicle registration, title, insurance. This takes all of two minutes and you can verify it yourself before the inspection.
Exterior: Next, the mechanic will work his way around the exterior of your vehicle. He’ll make sure your license plate is fastened, your doors, windows, windshield, wipers are in good condition. Then he will check lights, blinkers, and bumpers for any damage that might have gone unnoticed. Usually, he will turn on every light you have, high beams, emergency flashes, turn signals, etc…, and make sure it is at full capacity
Interior: Next, he’ll check your steering apparatus (steering wheel, horn, steering column) and alignment to make sure they are well coordinated with the tires. He’ll go over the brakes that are part of the car interior (including the emergency brake), and make sure seat belts are working properly.
Engine: The engine check is one of the most important parts of the inspection because the mechanic will look at your exhaust and your transmission, as well as your battery and coolant. He’ll be looking for fluid leaks and functionality.
Chassis: He will get under your car and check that your equipment—axles, shocks, etc…–is in good condition. He’ll look at the exterior part of your brakes and exhaust system for damage.
Tires: Finally, he’ll go over your tires to make sure they have a good tread (this includes your spare tire). He may take the car for a short drive to check the gears as well.
Where Should I get it Inspected?
Each state gives you your choice as to where you get your inspection done. There are a couple of different kinds of places you can choose:
Public Vehicle Inspection Stations: States that have mandatory annual and biennial inspections often have official vehicle inspection stations to do it for you. They also provide emissions tests if those are required. This is a good, official way to get your inspection done. You may not be familiar with the mechanic and you may—depending on where you are—have to put up with more of a delay than you would at a local place, but the inspection stations get the job done thoroughly and well.
Private Owned Garages or Repair Shops: Body Repair Shops, Mobile Vehicle Repair Shops, garages can all get authorization from the state to perform safety inspections. If you use one of these, make sure to double-check that they have up-to-date government authorization, or else your inspection will not meet the state requirements. Most people who have a preferred garage or mechanic like to use him for their safety inspections. It’s convenient, and, if there is something wrong with the car, you can have the work done right then and there.
Dealerships: People who don’t have a mechanic or garage they like can always take it to the dealership to have it inspected. The benefit of dealerships is that they often do inspections for people interested in used cars, so they know the in’s and out’s of making a very thorough inspection.
Cost in Different States
How will your location really affect your car inspection cost? To give you a picture of how costs vary state-by-state, here’s a run-down on what your price could look like in states that represent different areas of the country.
Any car in New York: A car inspection in New York is $21. Outside the metropolitan area, it is only $11. The required emissions test is $27 ($11 outside the metro).
A 2-24-year-old car in Texas: In Texas, you generally pay for both an inspection and a registration. Inspection: $25.50, Registration: $14.25 (For cars less than two years old and more than 24, it will be $14.50).
Inspections in California: In California, everything depends on what dealership or car shop you choose. An inspection can range from $30-$70 at one shop, to $160-$320 for another.
Inspections in Nebraska: Nebraska doesn’t require inspections, except for vehicles that are registered from another jurisdiction. These “title inspections” cost all of $10.
Broader Picture: Different areas of the country tend to have similar regulations for car inspections. In the North-East, regulations tend to be more stringent and regular—all tests are required annually or biennially. The Mid-West of the North-West, on the other hand, normally do not require any tests. If you live in a very rural area, you are less likely to need inspections than if you live in a suburban or urban district.
To see what states require inspections, emissions tests, or no test at all, consult this map: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_inspection_in_the_United_States#/media/File:VehicleInspectionLawsUS.svg
Cost for Different Services
You may be wondering what different kinds of inspections are out there. Though there are many types of inspection, don’t stress too much about which is which. What it really boils down to is who your mechanic is, and how detailed a look-over he gives your car. Here’s everything you need to know:
Point Level of Car Inspections: On a simple level, the higher the point level, the more detailed the inspection is. For instance, a 29-point inspection will survey 29 major parts of the car. Some of these parts are things you can check i.e. checking your vin. A 75-point is more detailed. The mechanic will survey 75 points on the car, looking closer at each part. Naturally, a higher point inspection is going to have a higher price tag. If your car is running pretty well, however, the extremely detailed inspection is not going to be necessary.
When to Choose a More Detailed Inspection: When you are buying a used car, you might want to opt for a higher point inspection (from 70-point and 150-point). You want to make sure everything is in really excellent condition. A more summary inspection might pass over small problems that will end up being a real headache for you later on when you start driving it.
Your Mechanic is the Most Important Factor: For all the talk about point levels, having a thorough mechanic is the most important part of a good inspection. A poor mechanic could look at a hundred and fifty different points and miss all the essential things, whereas a good one might find everything he needed to know in 50. Ultimately, pay for the mechanic, and let him decide what level inspection you need.
Frequently Asked Questions About Car Inspections
Now you have the run down on car inspections, there may be a few more things you’d like to know. Here are some popular questions people ask:
Does Jiffy Lube Do Car Inspections? Some Jiffy Lubes do have safety inspection and emission testing services, and some do not. Research online where the nearest ones are that include these services and then call ahead of time to make sure. Not every Jiffy Lube mechanic is authorized to give you an official inspection, but many of them may be able to give it a cursory (and unofficial), visual inspection.
Does AutoZone Do Car Inspections? No. Autozone is primarily a car retail store, not a garage, so they don’t do inspections or emissions tests. They do offer some tests for free, though, such as battery, alternator, voltage regulator, and starter tests, however. And they also offer services such as battery charging (free) and oil and battery recycling.
Does Walmart Do Vehicle Inspections? The short answer is no. Walmart Auto Care Centers do not offer safety inspections or emissions tests. Some mechanics at a Walmart Auto Care Center, however, may be certified and can do it for you. Since the company doesn’t require this certification from their employees, it will be an exception.
Does Pep Boys Do Inspections? Most of them do. Pep Boys offers safety inspections and/or emissions tests in 21 states—all the states in which the tests are required regularly. In the states where the tests are only required under certain conditions, or where there is no state requirement, Pep Boys does not offer the tests.
Can I get my Vehicle Inspected out-of-State? If you register your vehicle in a state that requires certain tests, you must have your vehicle inspected in that state. If you just want to get a car inspected because you’re worried about damage or you’re buying it used, it doesn’t matter where you get the inspection.
If you live in an area that requires regular inspections or emissions tests, it won’t take you long to get used to doing it. Urban and metropolitan areas require them more often than rural counties. But now, no matter whether you drive frequently or infrequently, used cars or new, the basics of car inspections are at your fingertips.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
Hi, I am Brad. Car Independent is your source for independent views on cars and car accessories. Whether you looking to buy a new car or something cool for your car, you have many options. My aim to help you make the best-informed choices.