Car Buying

How Long Does a Car Inspection Take?

Car inspections address several facets of a vehicle. Learn more about different car inspection types and how long, on average, each car inspection takes.

Read time

8 minutes

Date

12.20.2023

Share

Taking your car in for numerous inspections goes hand-in-hand with car ownership. However, scheduling time to complete the inspection can be challenging if you’re unsure how long a typical inspection lasts. While most car inspections range from 20 minutes to several hours, the exact duration depends on several factors. 


A FINN car subscription helps you avoid the hassle of car inspections. Each FINN subscription incorporates an inspection so you can embark on your next journey with peace of mind. Your monthly subscription fee also includes insurance, maintenance, depreciation, and registration to bring you all the benefits of car ownership without the rigamarole of scheduling inspections among your existing commitments. 

How long does a car inspection take?

Most car inspections take anywhere from half an hour to several hours or more. Below are the basic estimated times for each type of car inspection: 


Inspection Type

Duration

Courtesy/Safety

1 to 2 hours

Point or Pre-Sale

30 to 60 minutes

VIN

Less than an hour

Pre-Purchase 

1 to 2+ hours 

Emissions

30 to 60 minutes

Car Insurance

Less than an hour


Emissions, car insurance, VIN, and pre-sale inspections typically take an hour or less. Pre-purchase and safety inspections can take longer, depending on what issues the technician runs into while performing the inspection. Times can also be delayed if the day calls for multiple inspections. Scheduling an inspection ahead of time can expedite the process. 

Types of car inspections

Car inspections go by several names, depending on the reason for the inspection. Below are some of the most common car inspections you’ll come across. 

Courtesy/Safety inspection

In addition to emissions testing, several states require safety inspections. Automotive mechanic shops also perform courtesy inspections that address some of the same components. For instance, both inspections ensure your headlights, taillights, and horns work correctly. Many mechanics may use a courtesy inspection during routine maintenance to update owners about potential issues requiring attention. 

Point or pre-sale inspection 

Dealerships often advertise a 125-point inspection or the like that describes their pre-sale process of reviewing several key touchpoints on a vehicle. Before placing a car on the lot for sale, dealerships must ensure their inventory meets set standards, including emissions and safety. For example, tire tread depth on vehicles legally offered for sale must be over 2/32 of an inch. 

VIN inspection 

When you transfer a vehicle’s title from one state to another, you typically have to complete a VIN inspection. This inspection confirms that your vehicle’s components contain the same VIN stamp. At its most basic level, a VIN inspection deters fraud. 

Pre-purchase inspection

Completing a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) before purchasing a used car, especially one bought via a private party sale, can be a prudent move for any potential buyer. Most dealerships and independent repair shops offer PPIs so buyers know what they’re getting into before sealing the deal. The depth of PPIs varies, but some of a car’s most basic yet critical systems undergo review. 

Emissions inspection 

All vehicles must meet emission-specific standards per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many states require emissions inspections on a yearly or biannual basis to ensure the cars currently on the road adhere to those standards. Unless you’ve modified your vehicle’s exhaust or emissions system, your car should pass an emissions inspection with flying colors. 

Car insurance inspection 

Auto insurance carriers may require drivers to pass an inspection before receiving coverage, especially where full coverage (comprehensive and collision) is concerned. Alternatively, car insurance companies may only perform an inspection upon making a claim. Generally speaking, most brand-new vehicles don’t require a car insurance inspection. In addition, most states require car insurance coverage to complete registration


Pre-insurance inspections provide several benefits. Besides establishing the vehicle’s condition in the eyes of the insurance company, the inspection also protects the driver from coverage issues down the road. By requiring pre-insurance inspections, auto insurance carriers can also lower the number of motor vehicle accidents and thus reduce insurance premiums. 

How to get a car inspection

A certified technician or agency performs most car inspections. You can learn more about which types of car inspections are required in your area and who can perform those inspections by visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website.  


  1. Determine what type of inspection you need and who completes those inspections. For example, if you receive a notice in the mail that your car’s due for an emissions test, research your local emissions testing center. 
  2. Post-pandemic handling of inspections may dictate that you set up or schedule an appointment. Most agencies allow you to schedule the inspection online or over the phone.  
  3. Gathering any necessary documents before your inspection shouldn’t require more than a few minutes. Required documents should be listed on the same website where you set up your appointment. Remember to ensure your anticipated payment method complies with accepted payment methods. 
  4. The time necessary for completing the required inspection varies, but you can also verify wait times with staff when you arrive. Scheduling an inspection early in the day, week, or month can help offset wait times.


It’s often a good idea to schedule an inspection well before strict deadlines or road trips. The inspection may turn up something that requires immediate attention, and waiting until the last minute could put your plans in jeopardy.  

How long is a car inspection good for?

The shelf life of a car inspection depends on the type, among many other factors. Emissions and safety inspections are often good for at least a year, depending on state laws. Car insurance inspections may follow the same schedule if the carrier requires annual inspections before you can renew your coverage. If you want to get out of a car loan, you may do it before your next safety, insurance, or emissions inspection interval arrives to avoid paying additional ownership costs for that particular vehicle. 

Does every state require a car inspection?

Inspection requirements vary from state to state. Certain vehicles of a particular age may also qualify for exemption from inspection based on individual state requirements. Below are the basic vehicle inspection requirements for each of the 50 states:


State

Inspection Requirements

Alabama

VIN

Alaska 

VIN

Arizona

Emissions

Arkansas

None 

California

Smog, VIN

Colorado 

Emissions

Connecticut 

Emissions, VIN

Delaware

Safety, Emissions

District of Columbia

Emissions 

Florida

VIN

Georgia

Emissions 

Hawaii

Safety 

Idaho

Emissions, VIN

Illinois

Emissions, VIN

Indiana

Emissions, VIN

Iowa

None

Kansas

VIN

Kentucky

VIN

Louisiana

Safety, Emissions

Maine

Safety, Emissions

Maryland

Safety, Emissions

Massachusetts

Safety, Emissions

Michigan

None

Minnesota

None

Mississippi 

None

Missouri

Safety, Emissions

Montana 

VIN

Nebraska 

VIN

Nevada 

Emissions 

New Hampshire

Safety, Emissions

New Jersey 

Emissions

New Mexico 

Emissions, VIN

New York

Safety, Emissions

North Carolina

Safety, Emissions

North Dakota

None

Ohio

Emissions, VIN

Oklahoma

None

Oregon

Emissions, VIN

Pennsylvania 

Safety, Emissions

Rhode Island

Safety, Emissions, VIN

South Carolina

None

South Dakota

None

Tennessee

None

Texas

Safety, Emissions

Utah

Emissions, VIN

Vermont

Safety, Emissions

Virginia

Safety, Emissions

Washington 

VIN

West Virginia

Safety 

Wisconsin

Emissions

Wyoming 

None

Should you get a car inspection if it’s not required?

If your state doesn’t require a car inspection, it’s still a good idea to schedule your vehicle for a routine inspection. Proactive measures can help you reduce any potential repair bills and help you avoid getting stranded should catastrophic failure ensue. Prudent drivers may also look into what roadside assistance covers to offset the risks of breaking down due to a failed component. 

How long does vehicle inspection take FAQs

Learning about how long a vehicle inspection takes is similar to figuring out how to check the warranty on a car. Arming yourself with the knowledge can save you heartache in the future and may even protect your bottom line. Read on to learn more about vehicle inspections from these frequently asked questions. 

It’s a good habit to inspect your vehicle every time you get behind the wheel. This advice is especially true if you plan on taking an extended road trip. Follow your state’s posted guidelines on emissions and safety inspections to stay safe on public roads. 

Car inspections can help you stay proactive and compliant with state transportation laws. Most car owners rely on car inspections to avoid catastrophic and potentially financially draining damage, or at least head them off at the pass. 

The average car inspection cost ranges from less than $100 to upwards of $250. Most state-required inspections cost under $100. Pre-purchase inspections can run up a bill of several hundred dollars, depending on how in-depth you’d like the mechanic to inspect the vehicle. 

Final thoughts

Each type of car inspection dictates how long the actual inspection lasts. For example, pre-purchase inspections can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how detailed an inspection the automotive technician performs. However, car inspections can be difficult to plan for, especially if you’re stuck waiting in line before the inspection even takes place. 


FINN lets you skip the line and free up your schedule with car subscriptions that fit seamlessly into your daily life. Choose monthly mileage and subscription terms that fit your needs, and FINN will deliver your new vehicle to your door. 

How Long Does Vehicle Inspection Take
How Long Does Vehicle Inspection Take

Final thoughts

Each type of car inspection dictates how long the actual inspection lasts. For example, pre-purchase inspections can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how detailed an inspection the automotive technician performs. However, car inspections can be difficult to plan for, especially if you’re stuck waiting in line before the inspection even takes place. 


FINN lets you skip the line and free up your schedule with car subscriptions that fit seamlessly into your daily life. Choose monthly mileage and subscription terms that fit your needs, and FINN will deliver your new vehicle to your door. 

You may also like

How to Pay Off a Car Loan Faster

How to Pay Off a Car Loan Faster

Figuring out how to pay off a car loan faster requires math and critical thinking. Read on to see how to pay off your car loan quickly to get out of debt.

Read more
Can You Return a Car?

Can You Return a Car?

Returning a car isn't always possible, especially if you've already signed the agreement. However, you can quickly rectify the situation in a few ways. Find out how.

Read more
What Is a Standard Car? What to Know About Renting One

What Is a Standard Car? What to Know About Renting One

Compact, standard and full-size sedans are the most commonly rented cars. If you’re looking for one with adequate space and high fuel economy, consider a standard car.

Read more