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  • It’s outdated and inefficient: New cars are much more efficient and reliable than older models, reducing the need for inspections.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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17 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.

  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.

  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!!!!

  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.

  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.