How Long Does a Car Inspection Take And Why?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 3rd, 2022

Exact answer: up to and including an hour and a half

Car inspections are an important part of the purchasing and selling process. They are comparable to other types of property inspections.

Car Inspection

An inspection is essential whether you are buying a new or old vehicle. Depending on your scenario, it is critical to understand that some treatments might take time and demand patience.

The time it takes to examine a vehicle is determined by your state’s or city’s inspection laws, the car’s model, year of production, the mechanic, and the equipment required to operate.

Some jurisdictions’ strict inspection standards may cause the inspection to take longer than intended.

What exactly is a vehicle inspection?

A vehicle inspection is a process of determining a vehicle’s overall condition. It assesses a vehicle’s operational needs, including maintenance, repair, and replacement.

It is a critical duty that aids in preventing operational flaws like delays, costly repairs, and noncompliance with safety regulations.

The Advantages of a Vehicle Inspection

Vehicle inspection is critical in fleet operations. It is a federally mandated duty to reduce the number of vehicle-related accidents. A frequent vehicle inspection enables the company to:

Identify mechanical difficulties or defects that may lead to accidents and operational downtime; avoid massive vehicle damages and unforeseen vehicular expenditures; and extend the vehicle life cycle.

How Long Does a Car Inspection Take?

Car Inspection StepTime
Physical Status of the car20 minutes
Emission Test15 minutes
Exterior (Lights, Brakes, Tires)30 minutes
Interior15-20 minutes

During an automobile check, the technician must take the time to ensure that nothing goes overlooked. A trained and experienced technician will evaluate your car in around 1 hour and 20 minutes, and paperwork will take about 10 minutes to complete.

Why is it that a car inspection takes so long?

If a failed inspection occurs, an automobile inspection may take even longer. A vehicle may fail the inspection for the following reasons:

The vehicle’s interior

All electrical components, including the headlights, windshield wipers, and horn, must be tested by the mechanic. The inspector must also ensure that the brakes and clutch are in good working order. This should take a few minutes because it’s obvious whether or not everything works.

The vehicle’s exterior

Following an examination of the inside, the technician inspects the external components. The exhaust pipe is included in this. The complete examination, including both the inside and outside, should take no more than 15 minutes.

Smog check

Most basic inspections include an emissions check. This guarantees that your vehicle’s emissions are within legal limits. This should take another 20 to 30 minutes.

Take a test drive

The inspector will need to test drive your vehicle. This is to determine how well your car stops and turns. The majority of inspectors merely walk around the block. To pass a test, your vehicle must complete all of these procedures.

Check for Abs-Srs

Most new automobiles include an anti-lock braking system as a standard safety feature. They also feature an additional restraint mechanism.

These two features improve the safety of automobile occupants. They must also be checked. They require hours to inspect due to their complexity properly. Using a Professional OBD2 Scanner, this examination duration can be reduced.

The Engine Brake

Engine brakes normally bring your commuter to a halt by changing down the gears while simultaneously withdrawing the accelerator. It must be examined to ensure that it is in good working order. Due to its sensitivity, this takes around an hour to solve.


Vehicle certification assures a firm or potential customer that the vehicle is in excellent condition. The vehicle must be properly scanned and examined before granting this certification. This might take hours, if not days, to complete.

Because the quantity of motor vehicles in each state varies, the requirements for one gov state may differ from another. In some cases, they may also request an updated license.


The windscreen prevents approaching air from blasting the driver’s eyes while allowing for an improved view while driving. Its inspection is never likely to take long because the flaws are easily seen and repaired.


Vehicles are supported by their tires, which roll to propel them forward. The tires must be free of any punctures or other difficulties that might jeopardize the smooth operation. As a result, the vehicle must be examined for punctures. It takes around an hour to inspect the four tires of an average salon car.


The trucks rely extensively on lighting technologies to be able to travel the routes at night. The lights must also be in the right hues. A visual evaluation of the lighting systems takes only a few minutes. This is primarily due to the huge visual approach used at the time.


The seat belt secures the driver and the inside occupants, preventing them from fidgeting or injuring themselves more while in the automobile. It must be tight to keep the occupants from drifting and collapsing during vehicle construction. A visual examination of the seat belt takes only a few minutes.

Alignment of Differentials

All components must line exactly smooth for the automobiles to ride smoothly. Misalignments must be investigated and corrected as part of the inspection. The procedure might take hours because it is a demanding task. It also necessitates the employment of complex machinery to be implemented.


The brakes are responsible for bringing motor vehicles to a complete stop when necessary. These brakes must be responsive and quick-acting. Being crucial to the safety of the autos, the check of the brakes typically lasts too often. This might last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Checklist for Vehicle Inspection

A car inspection checklist is designed to uncover mechanical problems with any vehicle. It is used to avoid automotive problems by inspecting all vehicle parts to determine whether the vehicle is in good working order, requires repair service, or parts replacement.

The following vehicle components must be inspected:

  1. Ignition – This is a switch or key mechanism that is used to start the vehicle’s engine.
  2. The engine is the vehicle’s primary source of power. It transfers heat from burning gas into motion, which translates power into motion.
  3. Starter motor – It draws a large electrical current from the battery to start the vehicle’s engine.
  4. Distributor – A component in the engine that sends a high voltage electrical current from the ignition coil to each spark plug in the proper order and for the appropriate amount of time.
  5. The spark plug ignites the vehicle’s gasoline and is installed in the engine’s cylinder head. It is linked to the ignition coil, which creates the high voltage required to spark the gasoline and ignite combustion in the engine.
  6. Alternator – An alternator is a type of electrical generator that charges the battery to power the starter motor, ignition, and all other electrical components.
  7. The battery provides the power required to start the vehicle’s electrical components, such as lights, wipers, air conditioners, and so on.
  8. Oil pressure is the resistance that oil encounters as it flows through the engine’s oil tubes.
  9. Radiator – It aids the engine’s cooling by removing heat from the coolant before circulating back through the engine.
  10. The fan and compressor belt is a flexible rubber belt that connects various engine components. It links the crankshaft pulley and alternator to the cooling fan on the engine.
  11. One of the most critical safety components in a car is the brake. It may be located on the vehicle’s four wheels. A disc brake is a gleaming metal disc found beneath the hubcap of a car’s front wheels.
  12. Shock absorbers – These are devices that assist regulate the movement of the suspension and springs while maintaining the tires in constant contact with the road.
  13. Steering mechanism – It translates steering wheel rotation into swiveling action of road wheels.
  14. Windshield – the front window glass that limits air pressure and protects passengers from debris, dust, flying stones, and weather conditions.
  15. Side mirrors – are located on the vehicle’s exterior to assist the driver in seeing other elements outside the vehicle.
  16. The fuel tank stores the gasoline that powers the vehicle.
  17. Exhaust systems – It starts at the engine combustion chambers and goes along the vehicle’s underside to the visible tailpipe. It consists of the following components: exhaust manifolds, oxygen sensors, catalytic converters, resonators, exhaust pipes, mufflers, and tailpipes.
  18. Lights – It is installed in many sections of the vehicle, including the headlight, fog light, signal (left, right, and flasher), reverse light, brake light, tail light, rear reflector, and registration plate light.
  19. Tires are the rubber coverings that go around the wheels.

The most typical reasons why your vehicle may fail the inspection

Your car is made up of many moving parts. Various circumstances might cause your automobile to fail, and these are just a few of the more typical ones.

  1. Spark plugs that aren’t working
  2. Gas cap leaks
  3. Oxygen sensor malfunction
  4. contaminated engine oil
  5. Catalytic converter failure
  6. Air filter clog

Why Should You Get an Inspection?

The first and most apparent response is that you may be obligated to do so by law. Periodic inspections are required in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Some demand simply emissions, others require only safety, and others require both. Intervals might range from one year to several years. Regardless, if you want to drive legally, you’ll need to undergo an inspection at some time.

Another reason to inspect a car is if you are purchasing a secondhand vehicle. With a new automobile, you have a fair guarantee that it is in good functioning condition and a warranty and lemon law to back you up if something goes wrong.

You’re taking greater chances when you buy a secondhand car. Spending a few bucks to get the automobile examined is well worth the cost of preventing more significant problems.

While it’s usually not a good idea to buy an automobile without first seeing it, having an inspection you can trust can make it possible.

The most crucial thing is to ensure that it is someone you can trust! Allowing the seller to employ their inspection is never a good idea. Clearly, this would result in a severe conflict of interest.

Finally, having your automobile inspected might be beneficial if you’re planning to sell it. For one reason, it can assist you in resolving any difficulties that may arise when a buyer does their inspection.

Another advantage is that it might assist you in making the transaction in places where inspections are required. If a potential buyer notices that your vehicle has a fresh new safety or emissions sticker, they will know you are not attempting to conceal anything.

Is a automobile inspection required in every state?

No federal rule requires all states to conduct automobile safety inspections in the same manner. The only way to determine what rules and regulations apply in your state is to educate yourself on local laws and regulations.

If there are state-wide guidelines in place, you can be confident that your municipal government authorities are aware of them; thus, calling your local DMV or conducting a fast web search can confirm what the rules are in your town.

You may discover that your state mandates periodic inspections of all automobiles registered inside its borders.

This would apply to cars owned by private and public enterprises and municipal, state, and federal authorities operating inside the state’s borders. It will also apply to automobiles owned by long-term residents and newcomers to the state.

Your state may mandate all commercial and government-owned cars to be inspected regularly, but not individuals. You may also discover that submitting a confirmation of a recent inspection is part of the documents required when renewing your car tags and registration.

Which states have vehicle inspection laws?

It may surprise you that not all states require a safety and emissions inspection.

In the United States of America:

  • Inspections for safety and emissions are required in 19 states.
  • 21 states are partial in their requirements for safety and emissions inspections.
  • A safety and emissions inspection is not required in 12 states.

Each state has the authority to establish its rules for safety and emissions inspections.

As a result, each state has distinct criteria for the standards that must be met and the frequency of the tests themselves.

Currently, just 33 states mandate regular emissions testing. The frequency varies per state, although it is usually yearly or biennial.

Only 19 states mandate safety inspections regularly. The frequency of inspections, like those of emissions tests, varies, although the majority require yearly or biennial checks.

Finally, 12 states do not need any safety or emissions checked.

States That Require Safety Inspections

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode island
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

States That Require Emissions Inspections

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • [illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington DC
  • Wisconsin

States That Don’t Require Inspections

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • lowa
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Florida
  • Wyoming

Why should I get an inspection if my state does not mandate it?

Even if your state does not mandate individual vehicle inspections, there are compelling reasons to obtain one on your own. The most obvious concern is one of safety.

Because an inspection will often reveal mechanical and other concerns that might cause damage while the vehicle is in operation, you have the chance to get those issues fixed before anybody is injured.

Another practical purpose for an examination is when acquiring a used car. A pre-purchase automotive inspection will inform you of any major repairs required before the vehicle is safe and functional, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in maintenance costs.

Finally, selling your car is a wonderful incentive to schedule an inspection. Documented documentation of an inspection, coupled with a summary of findings, serves as a selling resource that you may offer prospective purchasers.

The facts on the inspection report may be all required to persuade a buyer that the offer is good and provide them with peace of mind to make a quick choice.

What should you do to be ready for a car inspection?

Most individuals dislike inspections because they are tedious and time-consuming. To prevent wasting time and may be failing the exam, you must prepare your vehicle for the day.

  • You must always presume that additional cars seek inspection permission throughout the day. As a result, get your affairs in order. Carry any necessary papers with you. Arrive 15 minutes early for your appointment.
  • Consider the following list of items that may be required.
  • Payment. To pay for the inspection, bring cash or a credit card. It is not for free. Ask your car dealer if you’re unsure how much an inspection will cost.
  • Proof of insurance coverage. It is not sufficient to bring only the insurance card. The inspection attendant may request further information on the coverage.
  • Identity verification. Carry at least two forms of identification. It might be a driver’s license, a state ID, or a passport.

Dos and Don’ts of Car Inspection

Before having your car inspected, you should keep a few things in mind. Here are some fundamental dos and don’ts:

  • Get an inspection done a few weeks ahead of time. If any problems are discovered, you want to have enough time to correct them before finalizing a sale – or missing a state-mandated deadline.
  • Don’t put it off until the last minute. Mechanics are hard workers. If your phone now to schedule an appointment for tomorrow, don’t be shocked if they say no.
  • Keep your repair and maintenance documents close at hand. These might be valuable to mechanics if they need to work on previously fixed systems.
  • Don’t get your automobile inspected by a mechanic you’re not confident with. A mechanic performing repairs may be motivated to fabricate problems to increase revenues. Similarly, a technician engaged by the seller has an incentive not to discover any flaws.
  • Seek a second viewpoint. If an inspector informs you that you have a significant suspension problem but that it can be fixed for $1,500, have another technician look it over. Preferably a mechanic who does not have a conflict of interest.


Editorial Staff

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