Why Don’t All States Have Vehicle Inspections?

If you drive an older car or haven’t kept up with your maintenance, a vehicle inspection can be an expensive proposition. In many states, you can’t renew your car’s registration or legally drive it in the state if it doesn’t pass its inspection. What are the pros and cons of vehicles inspections, and if they’re so useful, why don’t all states have them?

Pros of Vehicle Inspections

Many industry experts argue that vehicle inspections are a necessary tool to ensure driver safety, and in some cases they are correct. The benefits of annual or biannual vehicle inspections include:

  • Emissions: Many of the states that have inspections only focus on a car’s emissions to keep the local smog levels down.
  • State Income: The fees collected by the vehicle inspectors are contributed directly to the state’s annual budget.
  • Economy Booster: Some local mechanics and car repair places love inspections, because car owners spend extra money every year to get their car ready to pass the inspection. However, others are worried that they might be liable for accidents when wrongly approving broken cars.
  • Public Safety: One of the biggest arguments for annual vehicle inspections is that it keeps rusty or poorly maintained cars off the road. In some states, you need to have any rust on your car repaired before you get your car inspected. Rusty cars simply won’t pass. Experts claim that the metal is weaker and could be unsafe during a crash.

Cons of Vehicle Inspections

In spite of the obvious pros, many state officials are starting to question the benefits of mandated vehicle inspections. Legislators in Mississippi, for example, have started working on a bill that would completely eliminate the requirement for vehicle inspections within the state. Here’s why:

  • It’s detrimental to low income families: There has not been any research to support this particular con, but some experts have suggested that the cost of vehicle inspections and subsequent repairs on vehicles could be detrimental to lower income families because they’re the ones driving older cars.
  • It’s outdated and inefficient: New cars are much more efficient and reliable than older models, reducing the need for inspections.
  • It’s subject to bribery: Inspectors are, after all, only human. If you look at any forum post or comment’s section that refers to vehicle inspections, you’ll constantly find references to officials that can be bribed in exchange for a passing score.
  • You never know how accurate they are: Two scenarios come to mind. In the first, you take your car in right before closing time. The tired mechanic puts it in his shop, glances over it without opening the hood, checks “approved” and heads home for the day. This might be nice for your pocketbook, but not when it breaks down because something wasn’t spotted. In the second scenario, the mechanic is exceptionally harsh in his review, pointing out flaws that can conveniently be fixed at his own shop, for a price. And don’t forget, if you don’t fix them, you fail inspection. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Why Don’t All States Have Inspections?

Many states have passed legislation to remove the requirements for inspection. Florida, for example, required emissions testing in major cities like Miami and Tampa until 1990, until then-governor Jeb Bush eliminated the program because of the cost to the state, and the fact that the state of Florida at the time had met Federal air quality standards.

The decision to implement or stop vehicle inspections falls to the individual states. With the growing concern about climate change, we may find that more states start implementing emissions inspections to reduce the amount of vehicle emissions released into the atmosphere by the millions of cars on the road today. As for mechanical inspections, we’ll have to wait and see.

Are you in favor or against mandatory vehicle inspections? Let us know in the comments!

Scott Huntington, an automotive writer from central Pennsylvania has his own blog called Off the Throttle and feel welcome to follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.

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32 Responses to “Why Don’t All States Have Vehicle Inspections?”

  1. RobG says:

    Safety inspections are pointless. In an ideal world, sure, they’d be great. But all it ends up being is another fee to have to pay and more bureaucracy to manage it. It’s the same as emissions inspections… more time spent having to do something that quite honestly has NO EFFECT on the environment, particularly given all the various “outs” states allow when a vehicle doesn’t pass. It’s another great example of how government is not good at running things.

    • danny says:

      Safety inspections are not pointless. That’s an ignorant comment to make.
      It helps keep the roads safer for you and I. You are probably one of those people that drives on bald tires. I’ve seen wheels practically falling off due to suspension component wear.

      • James says:

        They are pointless for the exact reason you pointed out.

        Lets say this guy is driving around with bald tires and his inspection isn’t due for another 5 months. What is going to keep the road safe from him for those 5 months? Absolutely nothing. Safety inspections are pointless and time consuming. It also influences people to wait until inspection time to get work done on a car thus making the roads more unsafe.

  2. jr says:

    How many states has vehicle inspections.

    Agree, some auto repair shop turn the auto safety sticker into a ransom situation in order to get your car back on the road. They just inflate the repairs as they desire.

    Still, we need something to keep unsafe autos off the road. If you can not afford to keep the auto safe for one family and all the others on the road, then you need to park it.

  3. YelmiC says:

    European countries have pretty thorough roadworthiness inspections, and their road crash statistics are much better than ours. If your car is roadworthy, it makes sense to want others’ to be too. While inspections don’t catch everything, people who are about to have their car inspected will fix their broken headlights, replace bald tires and other junk. There are people with some pretty horrific bangers out there.

    That said, cars are getting safer every year. It might make sense to have more thorough inspections but for cars 10 years old or more..

    • joe wonoski says:

      BUT, can those better safety stats be directly attributed to the vehicle inspections, or are they better there because the driving habits are better? it’s widely known after all that the vast majority of crashes anywhere are caused by driver error, so where’s the inspection relevancy in that fact?

  4. Alice Lillie says:

    No. I do not favor mandatory inspections for registration mainly because I oppose vehicle registration in the first place. ***WHY*** is it necessary to register a vehicle? It does absolutely no good whatsoever. It is only a cash cow for government. It does not affect safety whatsoever. As the article says, how inspections affect safety is doubtful. One might say registration will help find stolen cars. Very doubtful. The first thing any thief will do if they have half a brain is remove the plate. The VIN is difficult to remove so a car can be found just as easily without registration.

    If one wishes one can register their car with the manufacturer (like one can a toaster for the warranty) or with the insurance company if they keep registries. But I say end the government’s cash cow racket.

    • Al Goneb says:

      In Pennsylvania [as in most states] you need to have insurance for your vehicles. Liability as a minimum, but you can add collision, etc as options. This is enforced by by registrations. You can’t register a motor vehicle in PA without insurance. Having registration also means a licence plate is attached to the car so it can be identified for violations, accidents etc. Driving without plates will get your car impounded. Registration is not just in the U.S., it’s worldwide. All E.U. countries have registration requirements. You are correct, registration does not affect safety. Many states in the U.S. have no safety inspections, which is the point of this article. But all states have registration. Your point about safety is then moot. You didn’t think this through.

      The toaster analogy is also not applicable. When you buy a car, new or used, it is reported to the mfg, whether or not you chose to register it. It is also sup[posed to be reported to various government agencies to track owner’s for recalls, etc. Driving and owning a car is a privilege not a right, is is not protected by the constitution.

      • Majik says:

        Hilarious you would say that…..you must work at the rmv. Our right to travel by ANY means is protected by the constitution. Also why with a good lawyer most driving without a license charges are dropped its actual in the constitution travel by any means as long as its not a commercial vehicle it is actually not illegal to drive without a license.

        • George Washington says:

          Majik you sound like one of those idiotic sovereign citizens who just make up laws in their own heads because they don’t want to follow the laws of this country. DRIVING a motor vehicle IS a privilege, not a constitutionally protected right. Sure you can travel all you want any way you want. I don’t see anywhere in this country where it is legal for a person to just go to an airport, get into an airplane and starter her up and take off without any kind of training or licensing whatsoever. That is no different than doing so in a motor vehicle. By your non-legal definition of any kind of travel, you ARE allowed to travel in a motor vehicle on the country’s highways and byways free of charge and without restrictions or registrations. You are NOT allowed to DRIVE the vehicle free of charge and all registrations. There is a difference, and it is both legal and common sense. Next thing we know, you’ll be saying some nonsense like you’re not a legal entity or that you can’t be taxed or some other nautical court system mumbo jumbo. This is what happens when illiterate people watch too many stupid youtube videos.

  5. connie smith says:

    I believe in safety inspections! Especially where brakes and tires are concerned. I bought a used car from someone and didn’t think about going and getting a “checkup” on it. We just moved to Florida where inspections aren’t required. I almost had a serious issue when my front brakes went out one day! Had to replace brakes and rotors. As for the argument that inspections hurt the poor: I am poor! But I think if you can’t keep your brakes and tires up then you can’t afford to drive! Lives are at stake here.

    • Tim says:

      Anybody with even half of a brain in the skull would know or think to have a car looked at by a licensed mechanic either before or after purchasing a used car??
      More and more states are abolishing inspections every year, both safety and or emissions. Why?? Because they are nothing more that a way for the state to collect more money from us. As of this year alone Utah is ending all testing and both Pennsylvania and Texas both have bills in legislature to end their states testing. It’s long overdue that the government stops stealing from our pocketbooks and stops these silly useless testing that only benefits the state and the auto mechanics which are making a fortune anyway!!!(up to $90 an hour labor fee in my state!!!) talk about highway robbery!!!!

      • autoshop says:

        Absolutely untrue. We have been in the auto repair business for 10yrs . A very honest one at that. The vehicles that come in the door time after time, year after year are unreal. How can I in good conscience send someone out the door with bald tires, gas leaks, exhaust leaks, wheels ready to fall off, brakes on metal to metal ready to burst into flames. If those people had not fixed those issues BEFORE an inspection, how far you think that would go? If not safety inspections, you are looking at emissions. One or the other. Emissions are brutal. People have become more irresponsible and have less time and money than ever before. They would rather waste money on frivolous things and not maintain their vehicle. If you don’t mind your life or childrens lives on the road at the hands of these irresponsible people , then I don’t understand your moral code. In the last year alone, deaths or a total of the vehicle locally to me were due to bad tires . 4 of those cases. Now imagine if that is just tires , what else is going on . This is why you have to do the right thing and find a trustworthy shop that you can count on but not be a cry baby because you have to spend some money to keep your wheels from falling off. Do you live in the same world that I do knowing darn well people wait until the whole car is ready to fall apart before they do anything about it?

  6. joe wonoski says:

    I’ve never heard a shred of evidence that states with annual safety inspections have any better road safety record than those without. Further, any argument that inspection fees help state income is flawed right from the start by showing those states aren’t truly interested in safety at all, but instead simply put dollars into state income. if they want more income, just increase the registration fee. No money should ever be collected in the name of safety when safety isn’t actually the motivation to begin with. Again, refer to the first sentence in this regard.

  7. John C Jackson says:

    Not in favor of vehicle inspections. In the 1st place the people that will obey the law will get it inspected regardless of the obvious appearance of impropriety associtated with state legislators forcing state residents to get these inspections at independent repair shops while ignoring the safety concerns of vehicles crossing state borders for the purpose of tourism and the revenue generated. The 2nd problem is that all people do not obey this law. So it is ineffective at protecting the law abiding citizens from in state and out of state vehicles that go uninspected. The 3rd problem is that these independent repair shops also perform free courtersy checks everytime a vehicle enters the bay. They do this to promote add on sales and advise consumers of the vehicles condition based on services associated with those the customer requested, safety concerns, preventative maintenance, inhanced performance, recalls, manufactureres recommendations based on driving condition, mileage and time frame. These technicians do this each time the vehicle enters the bay. So if your getting 4 oil changes per year with free courtesy checks and they are far more informative than a state inspection then why would you need a state inspection. Clearly it is because the lobbyists are telling state legislators that it is essential while mechanics look at it as working welfare for those days when they aren’t feeling appreciated or that someone else owes them a living wage. Hence the impropriety and apparent extortion associated with a law that circumvents a vehicle owner from looking around for a better price associated with a required repair.

  8. Raisa Delima says:

    I can see how some states would want to have vehicle inspections be mandatory so that there are fewer safety concerns with cars on the road. I hadn’t really thought about that aspect, but now I can see that it’s probably the most important one. My son is learning to drive, and I want him to be safe on the road, so I’m glad vehicle inspections are required in some places.

    • Bob says:

      Please educate your son on the basics of taking care of a car and don’t reply on a government inspection program to do that for him. The more knowledgeable we all are and take responsibility for ourselves the better we’ll be. We drive and look at the fuel gauge and know when to get more gas. Every driver should also look at their tire tread occasionally, check your headlights by the reflection on your garage door or vehicle in front of you at night, etc. etc.

  9. S says:

    Safety and emissions inspections only benefit the repair shops. In fact, they’re the ones who lobby the government to KEEP inspection programs in place!

    • Zack Lloyd says:

      I have to second that notion….
      This is just a way for Service Centers to rip off poor motorists, the ones who generally have older, used cars, yearly….
      I drive a 2004 Jeep Cherokee, and every year I have to go and spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in order to get that little yellow sticker. It is ridiculous, and the mechanics, I apologize, Automotive Technicians as they like to call themselves now to justify charging labor rates that are higher than a doctor, know that once they got you in their bays, you are basically theirs. I just went in to try and get my inspection sticker for this year, and the Boomer behind the counter gave me an estimate of $920, to pass inspection. OUCH, that is harsh, and leads me to believe that the only point of yearly inspections is to force people without means to get a new car every year. THANKS Boomers, for the joke excuse of a country you have left your children!!

  10. Raymond Starnes says:

    I moved here to Florida in April of this year. Most of my 59 years have been spent as a resident of Pennsylvania. It was somewhat of a cultural change coming to Florida. Living in Fort Lauderdale I have never seen more cars in disrepair as I have in my life. Break lights out, bald tires, broken windows and car bodies that are loose and rattle down the busy roads. In a climate where public safety is such a concern, seat belts, DUI’s DUIE’s, children in the back seat in car seats, I cannot believe that there is no inspection for vehicles. I feel like I am living in a third world country, or perhaps the wild west.

    • AljerHyss says:

      Yeah, but you’re still living there, aren’t you. This didn’t bother you THAT much, did it.

  11. Advance Auto Parts says:

    Getting your vehicle inspected even though you see nothing wrong is the best measure of preventive maintenance. If you want to save more money on repairs and not make any kind of car issue escalate, regular inspections are simply essential.

  12. Ray says:

    I lived in Vermont for 10 years, It was the worst state I have ever lived in for car inspections. The state has an almost 400 page manual of what needs to be inspected. My wife’s Dodge Grand Caravan failed one year because there was not enough washer fluid coming out to clean the rear window. Not every car has a wiper blade on there rear window, does that mean all those cars are unsafe? It costs 500 bucks to replace a rubber hose. I had to drive 3 cars to the junk yard over the years because it was going to cost more to get them thru inspection than what the car was worth. Car inspections are no more than a way for the garages to hold your car ransom and demand money from you. I had taken my car to one shop for a couple of years and when he failed me I would take the car back home fix what he said was wrong and bring it back. He finally told me he did not want me to bring my car to him any more because every time he fails me on something I either fix it myself or bring it somewhere else to get fixed and he can not make any money off of me. Anybody that says car inspections are about safety are full of it. It was very frustrating so I moved to Connecticut where we have no car inspections.

  13. George Washington says:

    There are pro’s and con’s of inspections of course. Thankfully we did away with them here in Florida back in the early 1980’s. I’m not fully against them other than the fact that they are a further burden of cost to the drivers or the taxpaying citizens. That is a major downside and I don’t believe it fully offsets any perceived increased safety on the roads or improved air cleanliness. Safety on the roads is in the hands of drivers, not so much the vehicles themselves. What have we seen from people driving over the past 50 years as vehicles have been made safer and safer. Technologies such as crumple zones, seat belts, and air bag systems have been completely offset by the drivers just driving faster and ignoring the driving rules more and more. They push the limits every year as manufacturers try to make safer vehicles, so you’re not doing much by trying just a little bit more to make the vehicles safer. Air quality is a joke. Compared to what industry pumps into our air or ocean going vessels or the semi trucks on the highways, cars are a minute fraction and the vast majority of that pollution control should start at the government which should mandate cleaner emissions in new vehicles, not making it impossible for the 2-5% of the population that drives 30+ year old vehicles to keep their cars on the road. The REAL problem I have with inspections is where the state can just run away rampant for NO reason whatsoever with them. Who is there to stop states from going out of control on their safety inspections? I believe Vermont is one of the worst. If you make any modifications under your vehicle, such as an aftermarket exhaust system, they can and will deny you approval for a new registration. It doesn’t matter if you can pass the emissions standards or tests, if they see anything non-OEM under your vehicle or on it, they will fail you. That has completely blown past the realm of safety and pollution inspection and just become a communist nanny state. I don’t know a single person that owns a truck around here that hasn’t modified it to some degree, and in the South here, most people drive trucks as a primary vehicle. That is my biggest fear. Some faceless state agency telling me I cannot put an steel bumper on the front or back of my truck because it’s not the stock one from the factory which is just a flimsy joke.

  14. Bob says:

    In NC the safety inspection is a political joke. In an ideal world they’re a good idea but as usual, people have ruined it. I lived in SC years ago and they abolished the program I believe due to all of the fraudulent inspections being done – heck you could get any tint, exhaust, etc. sticker-ed with no problem. In NC I bought a very nice out of state car that had tint that just missed the NC passing mark. I had to remove it yet I see more and more cars now with extremely dark tint and I know they all don’t have medical waivers …. some guys I know and they have a buddy that will pass it. Heck just go by a tint shop and look at the owner’s and employee’s cars :). But most of all I see more cars in NC with burned out headlights, tail – stop/turn lights so maybe the inspection will catch that next time they go but thus far I at least see the same thing I saw in SC. A system that takes my time to go waste my time and pay more money to the state and to a car shop for a pointless activity. Sigh.

  15. Barbara Jessen says:

    In Maine, yearly car inspections are very necessary because of the rust on cars. I am appalled that other states have dropped this safety requirement. I would feel unsafe driving in a state that didn’t require the BASIC: lights, tires, body, suspension, exhaust, windows, seatbelts, etc. It’s bad enough all the vehicles I see with 1 headlight. If rust is caught quickly, it is not costly to repair. Before the emission check the cost was $5, after it was $15. Maine is talking about changing it. I truly hope they don’t. We’ll have a junkyard on our roads!!

  16. Roger Hoskin says:

    I’m from Ohio. Never inspected our cars–gee, how did I survive. Moved to Michigan, again no inspections. Not until I moved to Virginia did I have to put up with this nuisance. I used to have to do it twice a year; in 1983 the State moved to annual inspections.
    I would dispute that inspection fees add to state coffers. Our inspections are $16 (pretty cheap, really). How many inspections can an inspector do in one hour-three, four? At that rate the mechanic would earn $48 to $64 an hour. I don’t know of any garage in Virginia where you can buy an hour of a mechanic’s time for $64 an hour. Rates here are between $90 and $125 an hour; I suspect the subsidy goes the other way.
    There are only 15 states that still do this and all but four are on the east coast. I guess I’ll be taking my life in my hands as I drive my Virginia inspected
    car to Illinois.

  17. Renee Smallwood says:

    I have always thought that the emissions testing is not right because WE ALL LIVE ON PLANET EARTH and any pollution made from our vehicles ALL GOES TO THE SAME PLACE !! So yes I would definitely love no more emissions testing

  18. David Norriss says:

    It’s great that you mentioned how vehicle inspections improve public safety by getting old hazardous vehicles off the road. This keeps tons of people safe every day because only cars that are up to date can be on the road ensuring that they won’t malfunction. Thanks for explaining why vehicle inspections are beneficial.

  19. Cooldude says:

    I am from Pennsylvania an I do not like any inspections to expensive it dosen’t do anything I agree with I drive a 1988 ford Thunderbird and finding parts for it is hard and expensive I would like to worry about other stuff about my car instead of inspections not if I can afford it

  20. Bubba Smith says:

    This whole rust crap is BS. My family has driven rusty cars for years and have had no problems. The force of the airflow forces the CO2 out behind the car. If you are stopped at an idle you are probably not going to sit there with the car running long at the price of gas. When you start moving the CO2 will clear out from ventilation. This is more Govt. BS. As far as safety inspections go in our state they are a joke. I see more busted down vehicles now than I did before they were “so strict”. If people start referencing the police explorers gassing the people that was just an incident of the exhaust pipe not being routed fully to the back of the vehicle. The other point of this is the new engines of today are not like the ones from the 1970’s. They do not produce the amount of lead and toxins that the older ones produced. It takes a lot longer exposure to the exhaust with todays cars than the older ones to do any damage to you or kill you.