by Nicky Liedtke
| September 12, 2022
| Reading time: 7 minutes
What Is a Vehicle Inspection?
A vehicle or car inspection is a government-mandated vehicle condition assessment based on standardized criteria by federal or state governments. The main purpose of such vehicle inspections is to determine whether a vehicle is safe for use by its owner and passengers and roadworthy and safe to participate in traffic.
In the United States, vehicle safety and emissions audits are governed by each state individually. Fifteen states require periodic (annual or biennial) vehicle safety inspections, while sixteen states require periodic emissions tests. Some inspections can also be mandatory for commercial drivers, as well as vehicles that have been in an accident or have been deemed unsafe by a mechanic or other qualified authority.
Some states and areas in the UK, on the other hand, require all commercial vehicles to be inspected at least once per year. These inspections may also include inspections on safety and emissions for school buses, taxis, and trucks driving long distances (e.g., interstate trucking).
You should be able to find information about the legal requirements for your country or state in your local government's legislation. If you're not sure where to look, try contacting your local Department of Transport or a similar agency. If you’re searching for vehicle inspections near you, visit this guide.
At its core, a car inspection aims to prevent the following hazardous incidents:
- Air poisoning from leaking fluids or the emittance of toxic fumes into the air around you and your passengers. This can lead to health problems, like asthma attacks and lung cancer down the line and harms the environment.
- Accidents caused by tires that might not be safe for driving on certain roads at high speeds or on rough terrain like snow-covered roads with little traction. Without proper tread depth and tread wear indicators, you or your employees could end up with dangerous blowout accidents while driving.
- Accidents caused by poor vehicle maintenance or lack of safety inspection. Poorly maintained vehicles are more likely to break down while driving or cause an accident when they do break down. Doing regular vehicle status checks can lower the chances of this occurring.
- Expensive insurance premiums. You can decrease insurance premiums by making sure that you have no accidents or incidents on record right before you release your vehicles into commission.
In this guide, you will learn:
1. How much time it takes to complete a car inspection
2. How much car inspections cost
3. Why car inspections are important
4. The components checked during a car inspection
5. Pass the MOT test successfully
6. Best practices regarding vehicle inspections
How Long Does A Car Inspection Take?
You may be surprised to hear that the average time it takes to complete a car inspection is just around 30 minutes. Technicians are already experts in performing routine inspections for vehicles, which is why these checks rarely take a lot of time to complete.
However, these times clearly vary depending on the state of your vehicle and the actual checks that you want or need performed. It is best to schedule at least 1 hour for a thorough car inspection. If you have reason to believe that your vehicle may have major issues, then it is best to assume the inspection will take longer.
A typical car inspection usually includes
- document reviews: 15 minutes
- a physical inspection: 20 minutes
- a mechanical inspection: 30 minutes
- a road test: 15 minutes
What Do Vehicle Inspections Cost?
The cost of vehicle inspections varies. The cost of a car inspection can be free if done by an official state-certified mechanic but will cost a fee if done by a private licensed inspector. If you choose to go with the latter—which is perfectly legal—you can expect to pay between $150 and $250 for the service. The cost of a car inspection also varies depending on the type of vehicle and the type of inspection.
The average cost of vehicle inspection is around $7 to $70 per car if you go to a private licensed inspection company. You may be able to get it for free at the government inspection offices, but the waiting line might be discouraging.
The benefits of vehicle inspection checks can be immense, though. By reducing the number of vehicles in your fleet that are not up to standard, you're reducing your risk of accidents and injuries as well as improving your brand image among customers.
The Benefits of Vehicle Inspections
You need a vehicle inspection to help your business or department lower the cost of repairs and other incident expenses related to vehicle malfunctions. According to the Hedges Company, there are 289.5 million vehicles recorded in the US and 32,697,408 in the UK in 2020 alone. This is a staggering number of motor vehicles that all need to be in good condition for optimal road safety and protection. The World Health Organization and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report that around 1.3 million people’s lives are cut short around the world due to unsafe vehicles or drivers.
Apart from adhering to traffic rules, not drinking and driving and not operating vehicles sleep deprived or distracted (by smartphones, for example), running monthly or yearly vehicle inspections on your vehicles can prevent such accidents from happening. This is especially important if you possess corporate cars and trucks, as you are responsible for the health and safety of your team.
Here are just some of the major benefits vehicle inspection checks can give you and your business:
- Protects you and your company’s reputation: A well-maintained fleet of vehicles is a sign of good management and care for your co-workers. It shows that you're responsible and willing to invest in your business—and will help you stand out from other companies that may not take the same care with their fleets that didn’t get inspected. Regular and verified inspections may even help improve brand image by making sure that your fleet vehicles look good when they're sold off-lot— this makes customers feel more confident about buying from your company.
- Saves time: A well-maintained fleet also means fewer trips to the shop and more time for more high-conversion tasks, like focusing on sales or training new employees.
- Saves money: You can save money on repairs by identifying potential damage and problems before they become serious safety hazards, especially if you buy a used car. With the inspection, you can even identify when your cars are due for maintenance and use the information on car damage to negotiate the best car price.
This results in more efficient use of resources and less downtime for employees. By identifying these problems early on, you can make informed investments in new equipment without having to pay for costly repairs later down the line.
- Keeps customers safe: When vehicles are safe and reliable after a car inspection, they're less likely to break down in the middle of an important trip, which means happier customers and happy and safe drivers.
- Reduces liability and non-compliance penalty costs: An inspection can reduce liability costs and ensure that all passengers are safe while traveling in your company cars or trucks.
It also provides you with proof that all employees are complying with federal regulations, resulting in increased safety for all employees, reduced risk of accidents, and improved employee morale and productivity. Your vehicle inspection check decreases insurance premiums by making sure that you have no accidents or incidents on record and that you always pass standardized emissions testing.
- Gives you a competitive edge over other businesses in your industry: You'll be better equipped to handle any accidents that occur in your fleet of vehicles—which could help you avoid hefty fees from insurance companies or third parties who suffered damages as a result of those accidents (like pedestrians who were hit by one of your cars).
- Gains you peace of mind that your company cars are roadworthy: You’ll always know how often each individual car is being used, how many miles it's traveling per day/week/month, or where it's going most often. All of this info will help you make more informed decisions about which cars should be included in future fleets for both logistical and economic reasons..
You'll be able to keep track of all repairs, replacements, inspection requirements, and vehicles' maintenance and state inspection history—and know if they need further work before they hit the road again.
With the rise of ride-sharing services and the increased presence of autonomous vehicles, it's more important than ever for companies to ensure that their vehicles are safe and reliable through a comprehensive vehicle maintenance log
Vehicle Audit Components: What Does a Complete Car Inspection Include?
If you're a business owner or manager, you may be wondering what a complete vehicle check includes. This can be a tough question to answer because it’s different for every business. To help you get started with this process, we've collected data to give you some ideas about what a complete inspection might look like for your company.
The type of inspection required varies from state to state and even within states depending on the type of vehicle that is being inspected and its intended use. Most commonly though, it includes checking tires for tread depth, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), brakes, lights, and other exterior parts, such as bumpers for damage; inside for seat belts, and airbags.
A full vehicle inspection process usually includes:
- An assessment of any damage, defects, and visual signs of misalignment conditions, verified by a qualified engineer. This includes checking the tires for wear and tire, their tread depth (including spare), as well as the brake pads, mirrors, and horns. The inspector will also check for leaks in brake lines or other fluid lines; check that all fluid levels are correct; look for any issues with belts or hoses; examine exhaust systems for leaks or problems, and go over brakes by pressing down on pedals.
- Electrical systems and battery-related components are also checked if they’re working correctly. Inspectors will also listen for any unusual noises coming from undercarriage components.
- They will test headlights and illuminated TPMS mini lights to ensure they work properly; observe whether there are any leaks around doors or windows’ windshield wiper blades; inspect suspension components for cracks or corrosion; and inspect cooling system components for leaks such as radiator hoses, cabin air filters, radiators, and PCV valves (if applicable).
- A full vehicle inspection checklist or report of what could go wrong with the vehicle is also necessary. This includes an evaluation of how well each system works, as well as recommendations for repairs.
How To Pass the Ministry of Transport (MOT) Test
An MOT inspection (UK), or Ministry of Transport test, is important because it’s a state vehicle safety check that all vehicles in the UK must pass every year to ensure they are roadworthy. The MOT test covers a complete vehicle’s inspection check, including lights and indicators, brakes, steering and suspension, exhaust emissions, tires, and bodywork.
The purpose of the MOT test is to “ensure that vehicles on Britain’s roads are safe for their drivers and other road users”. Every year, users have to take their car to a professional garage and have a mechanic check it over to make sure it's road-stable. The mechanic will look at everything from the engine to the lights and tires, and if anything needs fixing, they'll tell the owners how much it will cost.
But how do you pass an MOT inspection? If you're a company car owner, chances are you've had to deal with a mandatory annual MOT test for your staff. The good news is that it's not hard to help them pass the test, especially if you include these general tips in your full vehicle inspection checklists.
- Check your tires first.
- Clean the inside of your car.
- Make sure you have enough fuel in your tank.
- Check the lights and indicators on your car (they must all be working).
- Look at the exhaust pipe and make sure there are no leaks or holes in it.
- Check that all windows are clean and windscreen wipers are working properly.
- Make sure there are no cracks in any glass windows or mirrors on your vehicle.
- Make sure brake fluid levels are up-to-date (if in doubt, get them checked by a mechanic).
- Check that there aren't any loose parts on your vehicle (e.g., mudguards) which might cause damage if hit by another vehicle during an accident.
Best Practices to Finish Your Vehicle Inspections Fast and Penalty-Free
We've all been there: you're running late, and you just can't get your inspections done. You've got a million things to do, and neither the time nor the inclination to do them. But here's the thing: if you want to run your business efficiently, you need to set aside time for your vehicle inspections before you get the state to certify them.
It might seem like an unnecessary expense, but it's one that has far-reaching benefits for your company. Here are some best practices for finishing your vehicle inspections fast:
- Consider potential issues before a vehicle check and how they affect the performance of your vehicle. It always pays to be prepared for the inspection before it happens. Get into the habit of doing regular vehicle inspections or checks (even if it's just changing the oil). This will help prevent big, expensive problems down the road.
- Always be comprehensive. Remember that even under-inflated tires can pose a problem, as they can wear out quickly, which can be dangerous for both you and your employees. Tires with too little tread depth can create unsafe driving conditions, so make sure you include them in the check. Look for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage, like bulges along with uneven wear patterns which could indicate improper alignment or balance issues.
Check all lights, including headlights, brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. You want to make sure all these items work properly so other drivers know what you're doing on the road.
Don’t forget to include checking the bolt heads or nuts which may indicate loose fasteners that need tightening up. Don’t wait until they become dangerous distractions while driving along bumpy roads or highways where sudden bumps can cause parts to shake loose from their mounts. This can cause serious safety concerns while driving down the road.
- Make sure you have a vehicle inspection checklist. This should include an audit on vital areas like: ignition, engine, starter motor, distributor, spark plug, alternator, oil pressure, radiator, fan and compressor belt, and many others. Asking your mechanic if they perform these checks can help ensure that they're working on your vehicle properly. A checklist helps keep track of issues found and provides documentation for the future.
- Prepare all of the tools and documents needed for a vehicle inspection check. Make sure you have all the necessary tools for emissions inspection with you at all times—this includes wrenches, jack stands, and an oil drain pan. You may need these things at any time, so it's best to keep them in your car at all times.
Doing this helps you avoid missing something important because you don't have the right tool on hand. Your vehicle inspection checklist should include everything from checking the tires and looking for rust, to checking the lights and wipers. You can even include things like making sure that your doors open easily or that there are no leaks under the hood.
- Always have a clean rag or towel handy in case there's dirt or grease inside the engine compartment or undercarriage of your vehicle. If there is dirt or grease on something important inside the engine compartment (such as an air filter), then you can immediately get rid of it before a state inspection, preventing penalties.
- Check the body of the car for dents, rust, fake inspection stickers, and other damage. This can be done by looking under the car and inside the doors using a flashlight. If there are dents, ask if they have been repaired, or if they were caused by vehicle accidents. Check for dents or cracks in the bodywork, especially around doors and windows.
- Don’t ignore the little things. If rust is present in any area that could affect its function (like near an exhaust pipe), this could be a sign of an underlying problem. This will reflect how well maintained the vehicle has been over time, especially if it was not properly cared for after being repaired.
- Call ahead before taking your car to an inspection station, especially for heavy vehicle inspections. This will give the inspection stations ample time to prepare for your arrival and ensure that everything is set up properly when it comes time for your inspection. If possible, schedule an appointment for them at least two weeks before that date goes into effect.
- When buying a used car, call a motor vehicle inspection station, DMV, or your local police department and ask them to run a check on the vehicle's history first. They may be able to tell you if the car has been involved in any accidents or had theft issues.
If there are no vehicle inspection reports of accidents or theft on file, then it's probably safe to assume that the car has never been involved in incidents like that before. However, always check with your mechanic before buying any used vehicle because they might be able to find evidence of damage that isn't recorded anywhere else. This may be due to improper repair jobs being done after an accident occurred.
If there is an accident report filed with your local police department, then this most likely means that someone has already been injured while driving that particular vehicle around town. This increases the chances that something bad could happen again if you bought it without having it inspected first.
Nicky is a content writer and researcher for Lumiform. With her content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, sustainable operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to have a positive impact on the environment and helping organizations reduce paper waste and achieve their business goals.