Many states and counties require motor vehicles to be inspected every 1–2 years, depending on the age and make. Other places, like New York City, require an inspection yearly. Therefore, motor vehicle owners must budget for car inspections.
An inspection for a car can cost from $11 to $320 on average. Factors that affect the motor vehicle inspection cost are the car’s age, the make of the car, where it’s being inspected, and the type of inspection being conducted.
Read on for more insights into the factors that affect car inspection costs and why it’s crucial to have your car inspected regularly.
How Much Does a Car Inspection Cost?
Most mechanics will charge between $150 and $250 for a car inspection. This price usually includes a comprehensive check of the engine, brakes, suspension, and other key systems. Some mechanics may also offer a discount for customers who buy additional services such as an oil change or tune-up.
Here are examples of the typical costs of motor vehicle inspection in some states in the US:
|State||Average Inspection Cost|
|California||$160 – $320|
|Texas||$25.50 – $540|
|Pennsylvania||$50 – $100|
|New York||$11 – $21|
|Florida||$0 – $99|
Despite these costs, it’s always a good idea to have your car inspected before buying it, especially if you’re not familiar with its history or condition. A car inspection can help you avoid costly repairs down the road and ensure that you’re buying a vehicle that’s in good working order.
What Do They Look for When Doing a Car Inspection?
Here are a few essential things inspectors look for in a car:
- Horn, headlights, taillights, and brake lights
- Braking system
- Suspension system
- Tires and wheels
- Exhaust system
- Condition of the windows
- Condition of the seat belts
I’ll describe each so you can better understand what they entail.
Horn, Headlights, Taillights, and Brake Lights
The mechanic will test all of these to ensure they’re in good working order. This is because the lights need to be bright enough for other motorists to see them at night or when it’s foggy or raining.
For example, if the brake lights aren’t strong enough, other motorists may not be able to tell if you’re slowing down or not. This puts you and other drivers on the road at risk of an accident.
The mechanic will check your car’s braking system for leaks, cracks in the brake lines, faulty brake pads/shoes, worn-out drums and discs, to mention but a few. They’ll also check how well the vehicle stops when applied to different surfaces (such as gravel and asphalt).
Some mechanics may use a special machine called a BrakeOmeter to determine the condition of your brakes. This machine measures how much force is required for your car to stop at a certain distance. When inspecting manual transmission vehicles, mechanics will check that there’s no resistance when moving through the gears or that they can engage and disengage smoothly.
Car inspectors will look underneath your vehicle by popping open the hood and checking that the suspension system components are in excellent condition. They’ll check for worn-out shocks, struts, leaf springs, torsion bars, among others.
Suppose the suspension system is faulty. In that case, it may cause problems such as excessive tire wear, vehicle damage, and poor handling. To avoid these, have your car inspected for suspension faults regularly.
Tires and Wheels
The mechanic will check your tires for any signs of irregular wear or that they’re wearing thin. They’ll also inspect the car’s wheels to see if there are any dents or cracks in them.
If the mechanic notices any problems, they’ll recommend that you replace the tires or wheels. This is important because your tires and wheels need to be in good condition for the car’s steering and braking systems to work properly.
Here’s a great YouTube video of how inspectors check the tires and wheels:
Your exhaust system comprises the exhaust manifold, muffler, tailpipe, and catalytic converter. The mechanic will check all these components to ensure that the back pressure is normal and that there are no leaks in the system.
Suppose there’s a leak or an obstruction in the system. In that case, it may cause damage to the engine due to high amounts of unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide getting into the combustion chamber. Besides, a faulty exhaust system is environmentally unfriendly since it emits harmful greenhouse gases.
Condition of the Windows
The mechanic will check that all your windows work perfectly, that they’re free of cracks, and that they roll up and down smoothly. They’ll also check the rubber seals for any signs of wear or damage.
If there’s a crack in your windshield, it’ll reduce visibility, making driving hazardous. Also, broken windows will let rain, snow, dust, dirt, and insects into your car, affecting its performance.
Condition of the Seat Belts
Car inspectors will check your car’s seat belts to ensure that they’re in perfect condition. They may also show you how to use them properly to avoid injuries in case of accidents.
When inspecting front-seat passenger belts, mechanics will check their retractors for signs of wear to see whether they’re jammed or if the buckles are stuck.
Note: In addition to these specific items, car inspectors also check the vehicle’s overall condition and examine it from all angles to ensure there are no signs of structural damage. They’ll inspect the body panels, doors, trunk lid, and hood to make sure they open and close properly before starting the engine.
What Are the Three Types of Vehicle Inspection?
Generally, there are three types of vehicle inspection, these are:
- Courtesy inspection
- Insurance inspection
- 12 point inspection
Here’s a breakdown of the cost of each type of inspection and what they entail:
|Type of Inspection||Estimated Cost|
|Courtesy Inspection||$0 – $99|
|Insurance Inspection||$0 – $150|
|12 Point Inspection||$11 – $320|
It’s the most basic type and often done when you bring your car in for service or repairs. It involves a visual check for anything that seems amiss or out of place.
Tip: Although courtesy inspections aren’t mandatory, it’d be best to have one done when getting your car serviced to protect yourself from potential expenses later on.
An insurance inspection usually has a specific list of things to look for, such as rust and corrosion on the undercarriage or suspension components. Also, they check your brakes, lights, tires, windshield wipers, and horns.
Insurance companies often require this type of inspection when you want to get your car insured or re-insure it. After inspecting your car, the insurance company may ask you to repair some items before they agree to insure your car.
12 Point Inspection
A 12 point inspection is the most thorough type of inspection. It’s usually done after paying an independent mechanic to do your yearly inspection (or safety certification).
The inspector will check every major component of your car, including brakes, steering system, clutch assembly, suspension system, brake hoses and lines, engine cooling system, among others. They’ll also check for any signs of structural damage which may affect your car’s performance.
Why Is Vehicle Inspection Necessary?
The purpose of a vehicle inspection is to ensure that your car is in good condition and safe to drive. Some states have laws requiring motorists to get their vehicles inspected every year because it protects both you and other drivers from potential hazards or accidents.
Here are some reasons why it’s necessary to get an inspection certificate every year:
- It’s the law in many states, including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California.
- It can help you save money if the mechanic finds problems during the inspection.
- The mechanic will let you know if anything needs immediate attention. You can take action right away to get the necessary repairs.
- An inspection report is a record of your car’s condition on a given day. You may need to produce the report to register or insure your car. You also use the report to file an insurance claim in case of accident/damage.
Tip: To keep your car in the best shape and increase the chances of passing the inspection, I recommend keeping it well maintained. In this case, it’s also crucial to keep records of the service and maintenance procedures you’ve done on your car.
Therefore, it would be best to get the KNB Publishing Car Maintenance Log Book (available on Amazon.com). It’s a crucial resource for recording service dates, the parts you’ve replaced or repaired, and the costs incurred. Therefore, it’s a handy tool if you need to pinpoint any areas of your car that need repairs or replacement.
A vehicle inspection is important to ensure your safety and the safety of other motorists on the road. It also provides you with an accurate record of your car’s condition so that you’ll know what needs to be fixed or replaced.
Typically, car inspections can cost anywhere from $150 to over $250, depending on factors such as the type of inspection and the age of your car. It’s crucial to abide by state laws on vehicle inspection to avoid financial penalties, inconvenience, and to ensure your safety and that of fellow motorists.