Are car insurance inspections required?

Some states require inspections on all used vehicles to keep car insurance rates down. In large metropolitan areas, car inspections are required for emission and pollution standards. If a car inspection is required for car insurance, then the purpose of the inspection is to make sure that the car is not a hazard and to prevent insurance fraud.

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jun 5, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...
  • Car inspections are a requirement in some states prior to registering a car
  • Even if your state does not mandate that you need an inspection, your insurance carrier may
  • It is always a good idea to have your car inspected periodically to ensure that it is safe to drive

Every state requires car insurance. Inspections, however, are only required for certain reasons in certain states.

Car inspections are valuable to have to reduce the number of accidents that occur due to poorly maintained vehicles.

Statistics show that, if car inspections are required, fewer cars will be a hazard on the road due to faulty brakes, broken windshield wipers, or burnt out turn signals.

Another way car inspections are helpful is in reducing the overall costs of car insurance premiums. Car insurance rates are based on a number of factors, including the cost of car insurance fraud. If less fraud occurs, then car insurance premiums can be lower.

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Car Insurance Inspection to Reduce Accidents

Vehicle safety is critical whenever you take your car on the road. The way you drive is critical, but so is the condition of your car.

Before you get into your car, you should always walk around the vehicle and do a quick visual inspection.

Some of the things to look for are flat tires or broken lights.

If you see something wrong with your car, do not drive it unless you know the car is in a safe condition to drive. Driving an unsafe car, even for just a few blocks, is not worth risking an accident and someone’s life.

Since vehicle safety is such an important factor in reducing the number of accidents that occur on a daily basis, several states have mandated car insurance inspection rules.

In these states, you are unable to register your car unless you have an inspection done first. Without a passing inspection report and registered vehicle, you cannot get car insurance.

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Car Insurance Inspection to Reduce Fraud

Every day, car insurance fraud occurs and increases the cost of car insurance premiums. By requiring inspections, the chance of fraud is greatly reduced, and the cost of premiums can be lowered.

Typically, brand new cars do not require car insurance inspections.

However, if you buy a used car and want to insure it for comprehensive and collision, then you may need to get a car inspection before getting car insurance.

Car insurance companies do not assume that everyone is going to try insurance fraud.

However, in order to reduce the risk of insurance fraud, just requiring everyone to get an inspection prior to insurance helps keep everyone honest.

If you buy a used car and add comprehensive coverage without an inspection then call to submit a claim for a dent a few weeks later, the insurance company may not cover the damage.

The car insurance company would have to pay your claim even if it is fraudulent, and the more claims it has like that, the higher everyone’s premiums will be.

A simple inspection prior to insuring your car will reveal if there are any problems that won’t be covered by your new insurance policy. That way, if your car is dent free at the time of the inspection but it gets a dent a few weeks later, you have a justifiable claim for the car insurance company to pay.

Certified car inspections are done at numerous places, such as gas stations or inspection stations. If your state or car insurance company requires an inspection, they can provide you with a list of approved inspection locations.

How Do I Know Whether I Need a Car Insurance Inspection?

If you are not sure if you need a car insurance inspection, check with both your DMV and your insurance company.

Just because your state does not require an inspection doesn’t mean your car insurance company does not require an inspection to cover you for comprehensive car insurance or collision car insurance.

When you buy a car from a dealer, then you may receive inspection advice from the dealer.

However, it is best to confirm the facts with the state and your car insurance company. It is also important to read the fine print of your car insurance policy.

Imagine you buy a used car, apply for insurance, pay your premium, and think everything is fine. However, your policy is contingent upon sending in an approved inspection document.

If you are involved in an accident or your car gets damaged in a hit and run, your car insurance company will not cover your claim.

Keeping a well-maintained car is important for your car’s overall condition and the safety of you and others on the road. Getting a car insurance inspection is a good idea whether it is required or not. Car insurance inspections can help keep car insurance premiums lower.

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What do car inspections for car insurance check for?

  • In many states in the U.S., a car inspection is required before you go to officially register a car with the state department of motor vehicles (DMV)
  • The purpose of a car inspection is to make sure that a car is safe to drive on the road and is not going to cause an accident
  • If a car inspection is required for the purposes of taking out a car insurance policy, then the purpose of the inspection is to make sure that the car is not a hazard and to prevent insurance fraud
  • If a car inspection is required by your state, then there will be officially licensed stations that are authorized to perform the inspection

If you are required to get an inspection of your car, this could be a condition of getting car insurance coverage or because your state department of motor vehicles requires inspections before a vehicle can be legally registered in that state.

Either way, a car inspection is used to ensure that a vehicle is in proper working order and will not cause an accident on the roads.

For insurance purposes, a car inspection will be used to document any damage to the vehicle at the time that you purchased it.

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Reasons that Your Car Might Fail an Inspection

If you receive news that your vehicle did not pass a required inspection, this could be for a variety of reasons.

Some of the common reasons that a car could fail an official car inspection include issues with:

  • Vehicle exhaust
  • Suspension system
  • Tire pressure
  • Tire and wheel alignment
  • Battery
  • Fluid levels
  • Belts
  • Vehicle lights

If the inspection is focused on the mechanical workings of the car, then this is probably a state inspection. Some states even require a separate emissions test at set intervals in order to make sure that your car is not violating any regulations on the emission of gas.

However, if an inspection is focused on the physical appearance of the car, this could be for insurance purposes to prevent the filing of fraudulent claims.

The reason that an insurance company would require this is that they do not want insured drivers to be able to file a claim for vehicle damage if they purchase a used car that is already in a damaged condition.

A car inspection helps to keep the entire insurance process honest.

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Car Inspections and Comprehensive Auto Insurance Coverage

There are serious consequences if you fail to get a vehicle inspection as required by the car insurance company.

The most obvious problem is that if your vehicle is damaged after you purchase it, your car insurance company could refuse to cover a claim because you cannot prove that the car damaged when you bought it.

This scenario usually only applies to used vehicles because a new vehicle is presumed to be in pristine condition from the time of purchase and from when it is first insured.

Even if you decide to purchase a car that is used, a comprehensive insurance policy can be a very prudent thing for you to consider.

A comprehensive insurance policy is optional in all states, but it does wonders in terms of offering protection for damage to a car from an incident that is not a car accident.

Non-accidental incidents could include a tree falling on top of your car. If you still have car payments to make on a car that is seriously damaged in this way, then you can be stuck with a huge expense to have to cover on your own.

Events like this are why you should still consider other types of optional car insurance even if your car is not in pristine condition.

You can purchase a comprehensive auto insurance policy as supplemental coverage from your current auto insurance provider.

As with all types of auto insurance, you should make time to shop around a bit before settling on a rate for comprehensive car insurance coverage.

Having a Car Inspected for Purchase

In addition to any inspections that you are required to have done for your car, you should examine a car thoroughly before deciding to purchase it.

Thorough examinations include checking into the history of the car so that you know ahead of time whether it has been involved in any major accidents.

You can ask to see a vehicle history report before deciding to ultimately purchase a car or not.

If you are purchasing a used car, it may be a good idea to have an inspection performed before you purchase it.

Your car insurance will not cover mechanical failures of the car because it is only for physical damage as a result of an accident or some other type of event.

If the engine in your car dies and you are wondering if car insurance will pay, this is an expensive repair that you would have to pay for on your own. In light of this reality, it is important to be aware of any issues before you purchase it.

While no car inspection can guarantee that your car will be good to go, it is an effective way to get in front of major problems with your vehicle.

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Wrap Up On What Car Inspections Check For

If you are required to get a car inspection by your state department of motor vehicles in order to register your vehicle, then the purpose of the inspection is to make sure that your car is not a hazard to both you and other drivers on the roads.

The idea behind this requirement is that more car accidents will be prevented because dangerous cars will be kept off of the public roads.

Sometimes, a car insurance company will require a car inspection as a condition of coverage.

This condition is typically true for a car that is not purchased in new condition or if you are taking out a comprehensive insurance policy.

Having a car inspection helps to make sure that there is no fraud in any claims filed for physical damage to that car.

You may also want to have a used car inspected on your own before buying it.

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