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How Long Do Car Inspections Take?

Depending on where you live, you may have to get your car inspected from time to time. 

And if you’ve never had a car inspection before, you may wonder just how long it will take. 

How long a car inspection takes depends on the state and its inspection requirements. In general, though, a car inspection takes around half an hour. Yet, it may take as little as fifteen minutes or as long as an hour and a half. 

In this article, I will explain how long car inspections take, what you need to do for a car inspection, and what gets inspected. 

I will also describe how much a car inspection costs, how often you need an inspection, and if you can get in trouble for not having one. 

I will end the article by discussing what a rejection sticker means and which states require emissions inspections. 

How Long Do Car Inspections Take?

A mechanic holding a clipboard and checking the car for inspection at repair service.

If you need to take your car for an inspection, it can be pretty important to know how much time you’ll have to dedicate to this activity. 

Unfortunately, though, there really isn’t a set time that a car inspection takes. 

But, I can say that, on average, you can expect the entire inspection to take between 30 and 60 minutes. 

However, the length of the inspection largely depends on the state. 

To give you an idea of how long you’ll need to wait, here are some of the average inspection times in different states: 

  • Louisiana – 25 to 45 minutes 
  • Maine – 15 to 30 minutes 
  • North Carolina – 15 to 30 minutes 
  • New York – 30 to 60 minutes 
  • Pennsylvania – 20 to 30 minutes 
  • Texas – 30 minutes 
  • Virginia – 30 minutes 
  • Nebraska – 15 minutes 

When scheduling an inspection, you should keep in mind that inspection time also depends on how long it will take before they can start inspecting your car.  

If you want to make sure you can leave at a specific time, ask the inspector how long you’ll need to wait. 

What Do I Need to Do for a Vehicle Inspection?

Generally, you do not need to do anything before a vehicle inspection. 

However, it is courteous to clean up your car a bit and remove any trash. 

You should also remember that state vehicle inspections typically include a check of the parking brake, so make sure nothing is blocking this part of your vehicle. 

During the actual inspection, an employee will usually guide you to a waiting room, where you can sit until they’ve finished inspecting. 

Afterward, the inspector will talk with you and explain whether you need to have anything fixed to pass inspection. 

If you do, you will have to have those repairs performed before you can get your state inspection sticker. 

What Do They Check for During Vehicle Inspection?

A mechanic standing near a car is writing on the clipboard in a car garage.

Even though not every state will check for the exact same things during a vehicle inspection, car inspections in the US are all rather similar. 

So, as an example, let’s look at what Virginia checks for in its inspections since this state’s guidelines are pretty standard. 

Virginia’s vehicle inspectors ask questions such as: 

  • Do tires have a reasonable tread depth?
  • Is tire wear equal across the tire surface? (If one area of the tire has deeper wear, this is indicative of alignment issues)
  • Do headlights, backlights, reverse lights, tag lights, brake lights, and turn signal lights work properly?
  • Are the mirrors cracked or missing?
  • Does the horn work?
  • Do the windshield wipers work properly?
  • Are there any cracks in the windshield?
  • Are there any stickers on the windshield that could block the driver’s view?
  • Is the check engine light on?
  • Do the brakes work correctly?
  • Does the defroster work?
  • Are steering components worn down?
  • Are there any problems with the suspension system?
  • Is the exhaust system in good shape?
  • Does the hood latch work?
  • Is there enough brake and power steering fluid?
  • Do all the seat belts work properly?
  • Are there any problems with the airbags?
  • Are there any leaks in the fuel system?
  • Do all the door handles work?

Again, not all states will ask these exact questions, but this is a pretty good example of what the inspector will examine on your vehicle. 

How Much Does a Vehicle Inspection Cost?

Below are the costs of vehicle inspections in various states: 

  • Hawaii – $25 
  • Illinois – $20 
  • Louisiana – $10 to $20 
  • Maine – $12.50 
  • North Carolina – $13.50 
  • New York – Varies, but is $21 on average 
  • New Hampshire – Not mandated by the state, but typically costs between $20 and $50
  • Massachusetts – $35 for standard vehicles 
  • Texas – $7 for safety-only inspection 
  • Utah – $20 to $30 
  • Virginia – $20 
  • West Virginia – $14.66 
  • Delaware – No charge 
  • Nebraska – $10 
  • Rhode Island – $55
  • Alabama – $15 to $23 

How Often Do I Need a Vehicle Safety Inspection?

A man in blue uniform is checking the car while holding a diagnostic tool.

Most states that require vehicle inspections make their citizens get them once a year. 

But, just like everything else, the frequency depends on the state. 

States that require yearly vehicle inspection: 

  • Connecticut – Only for certain commercial vehicles 
  • Hawaii – Except for certain commercial vehicles 
  • Illinois 
  • Louisiana 
  • Maine 
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey – Commercial vehicles only 
  • New York 
  • New Hampshire 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Texas 
  • Utah – Every two years for certain vehicles 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia 
  • West Virginia 

States that require vehicle inspection every two years: 

  • Delaware 
  • Rhode Island – Every year for heavy-duty vehicles 
  • Utah – Every year for certain vehicles 
  • Missouri 
  • Washington DC – Publicly owned vehicles only 

You should also be aware that Nebraska requires inspections for certain types of vehicles. 

Additionally, you must get a car inspected in Alabama before you sell or give it to someone else. 

And Maryland has a similar law requiring most used vehicles to have a safety inspection performed before sale. 

Can You Get in Trouble if You Don’t Get Your Vehicle Inspected?

Yes, in states where you need a vehicle inspection, you may get pulled over and ticketed by a police officer if you haven’t had your car inspected. 

What Is a Vehicle Rejection Sticker?

Photo of the word REJECTED on a white background.

A vehicle rejection sticker states that your car failed inspection. 

Typically, if you get one of these stickers, you have a certain amount of time where you can still drive your car while you get the issues repaired. 

How long you have depends on the state. 

For example, in Massachusetts, you have 60 days to make the repairs. 

In Virginia, meanwhile, you only have 15 days. 

Which States Require Vehicle Emissions Tests?

Vehicle emissions tests track the level of pollutants your car produces. 

In some states, this test is part of your safety inspection, but it may also be separate. 

The following states require vehicle emissions tests: 

  • Arizona – Only in Tuscon and Phoenix
  • California 
  • Colorado – Only in certain counties
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware
  • Washington DC 
  • Georgia – Only in counties near Atlanta
  • Idaho – Only in Ada County and Canyon County
  • Illinois – Only Chicago and St. Louis metropolitan 
  • Indiana – Only in certain areas 
  • Louisiana – Only in Baton Rouge 
  • Maine – Only in Cumberland County 
  • Maryland – Only in certain areas 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Missouri – Only in certain areas 
  • Nevada – Only in Las Vegas and Reno 
  • New Hampshire 
  • New Jersey 
  • New Mexico – Only in Bernalillo County 
  • New York 
  • North Carolina – Only certain counties 
  • Ohio – Only Cleveland metropolitan 
  • Oregon – Only in Portland and Medford 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Rhode Island 
  • Texas – Only in the largest urban areas 
  • Utah – Only in certain counties 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia – Only in northern counties 
  • Wisconsin – Only in certain counties 


You can typically expect a car inspection to take about thirty minutes, but the amount of time mostly depends on the state.

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