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Car Inspection: How Long Does it Take? Better Read This Before You Buy a Car

If you want to purchase a brand new car, you must be aware that your new vehicle should undergo a thorough examination by your state’s concerned agency. The inspection is done before you can drive the automobile and consequently, legally own it. A car inspection is actually needed and takes time which requires more patience on your part. 

Even simple details, like the car’s upholstery or the headlights, tail lights, fog lights, are subject to inspection. Before you bring your car to the authorized inspection agency, be sure that you conduct an initial checkup on your vehicle yourself. Aside from the lights, also check your breaks, emission, tires, and other significant parts of the car.

In the United States, the vehicle safety inspection and emission test are commonly governed by each state. The period of time it will take depends on the county, city or state where you purchased the car and where you intend to use the vehicle. Some countries have strict regulations or procedures about this task, but it could be done with simple steps, whilst the time or period of inspection varies from different locations. 

With this article, we can help you find out how long does a car inspection takes before you can drive your new automobile permissibly in your state.

When is car inspections required

As a concerned citizen and as a responsible car owner, you should know that a car inspection is not only for brand new vehicles. In California, for example, its Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) requires new residents to bring their cars/vehicles to inspection before they can register the same, whether the automobile is newly acquired or otherwise.

In other states, even old vehicles are required to be inspected first after they are bought from another person. An inspection is required when transferring the title or ownership of the car. Additionally, registered vehicles are usually required to have an inspection every 2 years to prove its road worthiness and know if its emission still conforms to standards.

What to prepare before the actual car inspection

To save you time, effort, and money, better to know the things that you must prepare before showing up for your vehicle’s inspection. Here is the list of requirements during the inspection:

  • Payment

Bring cash, credit card or other modes of payment to pay the fees for the inspection. A vehicle’s probe is not free of charge, that’s why you must have an adequate amount of money on hand. If you are not aware of how much the fee is, you can ask your car dealer about it.

  • Proof of vehicle’s insurance

Bring the entire file of your car insurance and not just the card. You may need more than the card when the inspecting personnel asks for more information about your car insurance. 

  • Confirmation of your identification

Also, bring any 2 valid identification cards. These might be your company ID, driver’s license, passport, state ID or other proof of identification with your current photo and signature.

Here are the things that may take place during a car inspection

To give you a preview of what will transpire on your car’s inspection, here are the enumerated step by step sequence of the activity. These steps are practiced in most countries, particularly the United States and Canada.

01. Checking car interiors and exteriors/ physical status

At this juncture, inspectors shall determine the physical components of your vehicle. This may include, among others, the suspension system, headlights, tail lights, seat belts, brakes, tires, windshield wipers, exhaust system, and horns, to name just a few.

Don’t be surprised if other delicate elements of your car will also be subjected to inspection (like the clutch and emergency brakes). The inspection could take between 15 to 30 minutes depending on the speed and diligence of the person who handles the task.

02. Doing road test

Most states in America require a newly bought vehicle for a road test which typically lasts for 30 minutes of running time. Here, the brakes, wipers, and other minute details are given priorities. The engine is mostly given credence to ensure the safety of the car’s passengers and makes sure that the motor runs smoothly.

03. Inspecting emission/smog check

The next step is checking the emission. An emission test will be conducted to know if your car is belching out fumes or smog that conform to standards. Some states have strict emission control rules, so you must be ready for any consequences. Be sure you use the best engine oil for cleaner exhaust.

The effusion test usually lasts from 10 to 15 minutes. The car should pass this test, otherwise, you won’t be able to drive your vehicle unless you fix the problem first. If your vehicle fails this test, you can bring your car to your dealer if it is newly bought and they will fix the problem.

For old cars, bring your car to your trusted repair shop with the detailed report from the inspection station attendant which will list down the problems. The shop should be able to correct the troubles. After the vehicle is repaired, take the car back to the station for re-testing.

04. Know if your car passes the inspection

The inspection agency will issue a certification signifying that your vehicle passed the test. They will also attach a sticker to the car’s windshield or the license plate as a confirmation that your vehicle passed the emission test. You will need this certification for the approval of the registration or for the renewal of license.

Why you may fail the car inspection

0.1 Defective windshield wipers

Double check your wipers if they are working properly before the actual inspection. Ensure that the blades are working properly according to the owner’s manual.

02. Problems with the tires

Be sure that your tires are in the right pressure recommended by your automaker. Check also the condition of the tires (brand new ones should not be a problem) like the tread and bulges on the sidewall. If your tires have several cracks, scuffs, tears, and flat spots, replace them immediately.

03. Problems with lights

The lights (head lights, tail lights, etc.), including the “check engine lights”, and other warning lights should be replaced when not working. Even a single busted bulb is enough reason to fail the inspection.

04. Defective brakes

When you have bad brakes during the inspection, you will certainly fail outright. It is better to check the condition of your brake pads and ensure that you have enough brake fluid.


If there is no problem with your car, as we have surmised with the above discussion, a car inspection might take only more than an hour (two at the most). The actual time may slightly vary depending on what part of the country you live (also your vehicle model) and the requirements of each city or county. But whatever it takes, now you know that the inspection will not take much of your time.

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