Staying up-to-date on general car maintenance is an integral part of driver safety. When you actively take care of common car repairs and ensure your car is in proper working order, you help keep yourself and others safe on the road. You also help enhance your vehicle’s lifetime and stay in compliance with state regulations.
In fact, regular maintenance can be a mandatory requirement for car owners as some states require drivers to have their vehicle inspected by a certified mechanic each year. If you fail to do so by the specified date, the state may block your car’s registration until you complete the inspection.
But, getting your car inspected annually isn’t the only time you might do so. What about before you leave for vacation or sign off on a purchase for a used car? Getting a professional inspection can help you to recognize potential problems or defects and give you a general idea of what you might expect in the future.
How to Get Your Car Inspected
Before scheduling your inspection, set up your appointment with a certified mechanic so you don’t accidentally invalidate any warranty you may have on your vehicle. If you aren’t sure where to take your car for service, contact your local dealership or auto-parts store, or speak to friends and family members for recommendations of mechanics and shops they frequent. Most service stations, automobile dealerships, and vehicle repair garages can also perform vehicle safety and emissions inspections as long as they are licensed inspection stations.
Once you decide where to go and make the appointment, be sure to ask how long the mechanic anticipates the inspection will take. Some might take several minutes, while others can take several hours. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for alternative transportation methods ahead of time. Various dealerships will provide shuttle services or loaner vehicles as a courtesy service to their customers.
Types of Inspections
Depending on your state’s requirements, your mechanic may perform one of three types of inspections—vehicle identification number (VIN), safety, and emissions. However, you can request a safety inspection at any point. Again, you might choose to get an inspection before going on a road trip. Or, you might complete a pre-purchase car inspection before buying a used vehicle to make sure everything checks out.
Currently, seven states do not require vehicle inspections:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Now, let’s dig deeper into these types of vehicle inspections you can get:
Several states require mandatory VIN inspections to help verify your car’s VIN matches your documentation proving ownership. In other words, the number displayed on your vehicle must match the one on your official paperwork and the state DMV databases.
Buying a car from out of state or moving to a new one may require you to obtain a VIN inspection for the examination of several items, including:
- License plate
- Vehicle make, model, and color
- Emissions labels
- Fuel type
State Safety Inspection
Not every state requires an annual safety inspection. However, even if you live in a state where one is not required, it’s always a good idea to have a skilled mechanic check your vehicle at least every 6 to 12 months, depending on how frequently you drive your vehicle.
In the states that do require safety inspections, mechanics will likely review the following components:
- Windshield wipers
- Fuel system
- Emissions system
- Engine compartment
The purpose of an emissions test measures the number of air pollutants, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons your car’s exhaust expels in an effort to help improve air quality and reduce environmental pollution. The test requirements review factors like your car’s age, fuel type, or location. Not every state requires emissions testing. However, 32 states currently require it.
When you take your car in for an emissions test, your technician will connect your vehicle to a computer to conduct an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) test. The test measures your vehicle’s engine control module (ECM) efficiency, which checks your car’s exhaust, catalytic converter, transmission, engine, and fuel system.
Pre-Purchase Car Inspection
It’s always a good idea to clearly understand a vehicle’s history before you decide to buy it, and this is where a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) comes into play. A comprehensive examination of a used car by an independent mechanic can reveal problems that you might not realize, primarily if the dealership sells the vehicle “as is” and without a warranty.
A PPI will look at various elements, like:
- Maintenance history
- Accident records
- Flooding records
- Potential repair work needed
The inspection should examine the following components:
- The condition of the vehicle’s body and interior
- Tires and suspension components
- Electrical components
- Engine component
- Braking system
- Air conditioner and heater
- Fuel lines and gas tank
- Exhaust system
How Much Do Car Inspections Cost?
The cost of an inspection will depend on several factors, including where you live, the inspection being done, and the facility you choose. While the government sets a minimum rate an inspection can cost, each facility can charge as much as they want, with most auto repair shops charging between $35 and $250. The rate for a VIN inspection can also vary depending on the state and may range between $7 to $50.
Other inspections costs include:
|Emission control system inspection||$44 – $56|
|Emission system diagnosis & testing||$44 – $56|
|Pre-purchase car inspection||$132 – $200|
As with any service, ask questions if you aren’t familiar with these inspections to help you understand what you can expect. The facility you choose should be able to provide you with answers regarding pricing, what your current warranty covers, and how long the inspections should take. If you aren’t sure if you have active warranty coverage, contract your dealership directly. They can look up your information using your vehicle’s VIN to determine if your car is still under warranty. However, if you know you no longer have active coverage, the best time to invest in a new extended car warranty is now.
Getting an Extended Car Warranty to Save On Repairs
Any repair your technician makes and the costs associated with them are your responsibility to pay unless you have a vehicle protection plan covering the cost. Therefore, without a warranty, if your vehicle fails an inspection, you will have to move forward with the repairs to make your car compliant.
An extended car warranty from a reputable provider can give you peace of mind when your car requires maintenance. After paying the initial warranty price, you are only responsible for meeting the deductible payment for a car part repair or replacement. And depending on the policy you choose, the terms may also include regular maintenance and extra perks, which ultimately saves you even more money.
But before you commit to any contract, take a look at our extended warranty provider reviews, talk to the providers, and request a free quote. You can start to compare coverage by reviewing our buying guide today.
Inspection costs derived from RepairPal.com