How Long Will a Car Inspection Take? (Answered)

How Long Will a Car Inspection Take

A new car must go for a vehicle inspection before a new owner can register it. Perhaps you are thinking of buying a new car, then be ready to take it for review by an authorized agent of the state you reside. The inspection must take place before you own and drive the car.

How long a car inspection takes will depend on the state of your car, if it is new, the model, and the country or state you live. Different states have stricter inspection routine than others.

What is involved in a car inspection?

a man doing car inspection

Both exterior and interior status of the car

The process involves checking the physical components of your vehicle. Here, the inspector takes a look at the headlights, taillights, suspension system, tires, brakes, windshield, windshield wipers, horn, etc.

The inspector will also look at your exhaust pipe because it is a significant part of your car. Sometimes the inspector looks further and may check the status of your clutch and handbrake. This process should take only 15 minutes or less if your inspector is diligent enough.

You must take a road test

Most states require that a new vehicle takes a road test. The purpose confirms how the engine is running for the safety of the people you will carry. Another reason for the road test is to see how different components work. The emergency brake should work efficiently.

The inspector also checks the wipers and the many lights on the dashboard to see how they function.

Some states do not conduct road tests anymore. States like Virginia in America are content with the physical inspection if the components are in good condition.

Emission check

The emission test is critical to determine if your car passes inspection. Most states are strict on the emission check. Should your vehicle fail the inspection test, you will not be allowed to drive away in your car. The analysis confirms if your car belches hazardous fumes. Some exhaust emissions produce smog.

If you fail the effusion test, you can take the vehicle back to your dealer if it is new. However, if it is an old car, you should take it to a service shop. Ensure you give them the final report from the inspection attendant and let them remedy the faults.

After the repairs, take your vehicle back for another inspection.


Once your car is approved, you will get a certification. The certificate shows your car passed the inspection test. The inspection attendant will also give you a sticker to place on your car’s windshield and license plate.

The certification is essential when you are seeking approval for registration. It is also needed when you want to renew your license.

Reasons your car may fail an inspection

Defective windshield wipers

Check that the blades of your wiper are working correctly according to the manufacturer’s manual. It seems like a trivial issue. However, wipers help with visibility during poor weather conditions. Your car must always meet safety standards.


The brakes must always work. Check if your brake has enough brake fluid and if it works efficiently. Failure means that you risk failing the inspection or put your life at risk.

Problem with your tires

If your tires are new, then all you need is the right tire pressure. For old cars, check that there are no cracks or slump on the sides. Check the tire pressure levels as recommended by the automaker. Tires that have scuffs, tears, and flat spots require replacement before taking your car for inspection.

All Light related problems

Check that all your lights are working well. Including the check engine light. Check all light bulbs in the exterior and interior. A single defective light bulb is enough to make the inspection attendant disapprove of your car’s safety standard.

Reasons why cars must undergo inspection tests

The inspection is a mandatory requirement by the state. It is not optional. The government sets the stipulations, and your vehicle must meet all of them. It is an offence if you drive a car that is not clear of inspection. All states must meet the emissions regulations set by policymakers.

An inspection is also necessary when you want to transfer ownership of the vehicle. The new owner must drive a car that is roadworthy as intended by the state.

You also have an inspection if you are buying a new car. Another check will take place in two years. Some States do their inspections annually to ensure all vehicles on the road are roadworthy.

How should you prepare for a car inspection?

Most people find inspections dull and time-consuming. To avoid wasting time and risk failing the test, you need to prepare your car for the day.

You must always assume that the day will have other vehicles that seek inspection approval. Therefore, set all your affairs in order. Carry any documentation that may be needed. Arrive early for your appointment.

Consider this list of things that may be needed.

  • Payment. Carry cash or credit card to make payments for the inspection. It is not free. Ask your motor dealer if you are not sure how much an inspection costs.
  • Proof of paid insurance. It is not enough to bring the insurance card alone. The inspection attendant may ask for more information on the coverage.
  • Proof of identity. At least carry two identity cards. It can be your driver’s license or state ID and passport.


There is no way of determining how long an inspection will last. Utmost, it can take 1-2 hours. It depends on the model of your car. It also depends on the inspection attendant you have. The paperwork consumes time to clear, and the road test as well.

To be on the safe side of time, arrive 15 minutes before your appointment. Arrive early to clears your schedule soon in case you have other meetings.

After inspection, keep regular service to ensure your car is in excellent condition always. Drive safe.

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