Do You Need a Car Inspection for Insurance Coverage?

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To ensure driver safety and prevent insurance fraud, many states require one or more vehicle inspections for reasons that include vehicle safety, checking the VIN number, and measuring emissions

You may be wondering, are these kinds of vehicle checks needed to get insurance? What happens to my insurance policy if I fail my vehicle inspection? In this guide, we’ll cover all your questions about required car inspections for insurance coverage, including how it works and each state’s requirements.

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What is a State-Required Inspection?

Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has a car inspection for insurance policies. Some state laws require a passing grade before you can legally drive the vehicle, while others don’t have any required inspection mandates.

For vehicle registration, most states require a VIN inspection, which is a physical check of your vehicle identification number (VIN) performed by a certified VIN inspector. This inspection matches the number with the DMV data on file, helping prevent insurance fraud. Your vehicle’s VIN is usually found on the driver’s side door jamb or lower windshield.

Other states require a safety inspection. An auto shop, repair shop, or dealership mechanic will check and sign off on your vehicle’s frame, body/undercarriage, windshield wipers, seat belts, odometer, brake system, exhaust system, emissions system, turn signals, parking brakes, and other components so it can pass a car inspection for insurance coverage.

Another common state-required test is emissions testing. Emissions testing checks your vehicle’s pollutant levels to ensure they adhere to your state’s limits.

Do I Need to Pass a Car Inspection for Insurance Reasons?

Different states and insurance companies have different inspection requirements for a new car and a used car.

For example, Delaware requires inspection services every two years for vehicles over seven years old, but no vehicle emissions testing. On the other hand, Idaho requires no physical checks but does require emissions testing for Boise- and Nampa County-based drivers.

If your state requires inspections, they must all be passed in order to drive legally and obtain proof of insurance.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your state’s DMV to learn about its auto inspection requirements.

What Happens to Your Car Insurance After Failing a Car Safety Inspection?

Car inspection for insurance: car pile-up on a busy road

Failing a car inspection for insurance coverage will require you to make the needed repairs before your vehicle can be reinspected — and hopefully brought back into compliance with your state’s requirements.

A failed safety inspection is not a moving violation, so it will not add points to your driver’s license nor impact your auto insurance rates. However, if your vehicle fails, it can affect your insurance policy since passing one or more vehicle inspections is often required to file a claim and maintain coverage.

We highly recommend reading your insurance policy‘s fine print to learn all the consequences of failing a car safety inspection.

Car Inspection for Insurance Requirements in the U.S.

The following is a breakdown of the vehicle inspection types and the states requiring them.

VIN Inspections

When registering your vehicle, the following states require a one-time VIN inspection as part of your vehicle inspection report:

  •  California
  •  Colorado
  •  Florida
  •  Idaho
  •  Indiana
  •  Kansas
  •  Kentucky
  •  Maryland
  •  Nebraska
  •  Nevada
  •  New Mexico
  •  Oklahoma
  •  Oregon
  •  Rhode Island
  •  Vermont
  •  Washington
  •  Wyoming

There are other states that require a VIN inspection, but they ask that motorists complete this vehicle inspection at different times. For example, Illinois requires biannual reviews, and Pennsylvania requires annual inspections.

Every state has its VIN-verifying personnel who can conduct the inspection. For example, VIN inspections in Nevada can be conducted at a DMV or a sheriff’s office. In New Mexico, licensed private VIN verifiers do this kind of vehicle inspection.

Safety Inspections

Here are the states requiring an annual safety inspection, regardless of vehicle age:

  •  Hawaii
  •  Illinois
  •  Louisiana
  •  Maine
  •  Massachusetts
  •  New Hampshire
  •  New York
  •  North Carolina
  •  Pennsylvania
  •  Texas
  •  Utah
  •  Vermont
  •  Virginia
  •  West Virginia

Other states have different inspection intervals/age of vehicle requirements:

  • Delaware: Annual inspections apply to vehicles over five years old.
  • New Jersey: Annual inspections apply to vehicles over four years old.
  • Illinois: Annual inspections apply to vehicles over four years old,
  • Rhode Island: Annual inspections start two years after the date of purchase.
  • Alabama: A safety inspection is required before transferring ownership of a vehicle.
  • Mississippi: Safety inspections are optional unless the car has a window tint.

Emissions Inspections

The last state inspection for insurance purposes you might face is an emissions inspection.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York require an annual emissions inspection report.

States requiring a biannual emissions inspection include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Additionally, some state counties may require emissions testing. For example, the Texas Department of Public Safety requires emissions testing from all Texans living in the following counties: Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis, and Williamson.

If you live in one of the following states, check your county’s laws to see if you must submit to an emissions test:

  •  Colorado
  •  Georgia
  •  Idaho
  •  Illinois
  •  Indiana
  •  Louisiana
  •  Maine
  •  Maryland
  •  Mississippi
  •  Nevada
  •  New Mexico
  •  North Carolina
  •  Ohio
  •  Oregon
  •  Tennessee
  •  Texas
  •  Utah
  •  Vermont
  •  Virginia
  •  Washington
  •  Wisconsin

How Much Do Car Inspections Cost?

Man on the phone while looking at his broken down car

Each state has its car inspection costs. For example, Texas charges motorists $7 for a one-year safety inspection (statewide) and $25.50 for safety emissions testing in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

In New York, light vehicles (under 10,001 pounds) must pay a $10 inspection fee, and heavy vehicles (over 10,000 pounds and under 18,001 pounds) have a $20 inspection fee.

Refer to your state’s DMV office to find information about standard fees for an inspection sticker and vehicle registration renewal.

How Can I Save on Car Insurance?

Did your vehicle recently pass an inspection? 

If not, increase your chances of saving on your next premium with the following tips:

Rework Your Policy. Increasing your deductible (e.g., from $500 to $1,000) and lowering liability limits will reduce your premiums by as much as 30%.

Call Your Insurer for Discounts. We highly recommend calling your insurer for standard discounts. For example, signing up for autopay/paperless billing, enrolling in a telematics program, installing anti-theft devices in your vehicle, and bundling two or more policies (e.g., auto and homeowners insurance) from the same insurer are just some of the many ways to save on premiums.

Play it Safe. Maintaining a safe driving record free of insurance claims and moving violations within the last 3-5 years is your best bet for keeping your premiums low.

Reconsider Your Vehicle Choice. Are you in the market for a new vehicle or a pre-owned vehicle? If so, research the cars with the lowest average insurance coverage rates, like the Ford F-150, Jeep Wrangler, and Honda CR-V. These models cost much less to insure than the Tesla Model X, Porsche Cayenne, and other vehicles with a high depreciation rate, due in part to the lower cost of parts, labor, and specialized expertise required to address these vehicle fixes.

Shop Around for the Best Car Insurance Rates

If you’ve recently failed a vehicle inspection and are in the market for a new, affordable auto insurance policy, Compare.com can help. Our platform offers real-time insurance quotes from dozens of top-rated car insurance companies, including AAA, Metromile, Nationwide, 21st Century, and Liberty Mutual.

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