Is Safety Subjective? A Sampling Of Vehicle Safety Inspection Requirements

One of the periodic comments that emerge when seeing a vehicle on these pages having corrosion, cracked glass, and so forth is speculation about it passing a safety inspection.

In researching this, it’s quite safe to say each political subdivision (state or province) has it’s own take on the matter.  What’s the case in one area may not be in another so taking personal experience and extrapolating it globally will often provide an incorrect assessment.

Examination of every variation out there would be tedious.  Thus in a less than random sampling of variations, I’ve picked out those locations in which contributors live.  These will more than illustrate the differences that exist.

Let’s start in the United States, where there is no national drivers license nor is there a national safety inspection.  That has always been an issue left to the states, with states rights having been a very large consideration when our Constitution was written in the 18th Century.  To help give readers elsewhere in the world a more comprehensive picture of things, I am including population and geographical size with each state and province.


Population:  4,143,000

Size:  98,381 square miles

If you live in Oregon, no vehicle safety inspection is required.  If you move to Oregon, you do have to have the serial number (or VIN – vehicle identification number) checked out to ensure your buggy is indeed what you say, it’s not stolen, etc. before it can be licensed there.

There is an emissions check, but it is only for those in the Medford and Portland areas with excessively smoking vehicles denied testing.  Cars model year 1996 and newer are automatically denied if the “check engine light” is lit.  Repairs must be made prior to retesting.  These cars can be repaired by a shop or the owner, so long as it passes the test.

Cars made during, or prior to, 1975 are exempt from smog testing.


Population:  6,667,000

Size:  36,418 square miles

The only persons in Indiana whose vehicles must undergo emission testing are those in Lake and Porter Counties near Chicago.  This must be done every two years.

Safety inspections are required and these must be performed at authorized stations.  Cars made prior to 1976, and vehicles over 9,000 pounds are exempt from safety inspections.  Like Oregon, bringing a car in from out of state requires a VIN check.


Population:  12,802,000

Size:  57,914 square miles

Safety and emissions testing is only required for those living in specific zip codes within the Chicago and St. Louis metropolitan areas.  For those living there, this is required ever two years.  The safety and emissions tests for these two areas are waived if the car is less than four years old or older than 1967, is diesel or electric powered, or is a special use such as shows, parades, etc.

For the rest of the state, there is no safety or emissions testing.


Population:  6,860,000

Size:  10,565 square miles

In Massachusetts there are annual inspections for both safety and emissions.  This is also one of the few states in which a vehicle can fail the safety inspection if the factory ride height has been altered more than a certain amount either up or down.

Vehicles less than 15 years old have an OBD11 test while those older have a visual opacity test for smoke.

The inspections are $35 and details about what is included can be found here.


Population:  5,607,000

Size:  104,094 square miles

There is no safety inspection in Colorado although there is emissions testing in specific counties; this is primarily any county containing I-25 plus the Denver area not serviced by I-25.

Like Oregon and Indiana, somebody moving into the state is required to have a VIN verification for licensing.


Population:  8,470,000

Size:  42,774 square miles

If you bring a vehicle into Virginia, and you have a current safety inspection from another state, it is exempt from a Virginia inspection until your current one expires.

Emissions testing is required in some counties and cities, particularly around Washington D.C., although this only applies to vehicles less than 25 years old that are under 10,000 pounds and are powered strictly by fossil fuels.

Annual safety inspections are required, the list of items inspected can be found here, and the program appears to be administered by the Virginia State Police.


Population:  6,114,000

Size:  69,714 square miles

Like most of the other states seen so far, emissions checks are only performed in a few counties and those are all limited to the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Safety inspections are good for two years but there is a caveat; it’s good for two years if, for instance, your even-number model year vehicle is inspected during an even-number year.  Otherwise it’s only good for one year with similar being the case for odd-numbered models and years.

Somewhat like Massachusetts, there are parameters for bumper height deviations from factory settings with a maximum height of 22 inches for cars and 27 inches for light trucks.

The inspection is $12 with the list of what is inspected found here.  What constitutes an inspection is overseen by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Over the last few years there has been talk within the legislature about eliminating the safety inspections, which would put is in line with Oregon, Illinois, and Colorado, among other states.  The concern has been inspection stations also perform service work so if a person replaces brakes for a living but also inspects cars, there is the potential conflict of interest by generating additional business.

Such was attempted with upper and lower ball joints about a month ago when I got my Ford van inspected.  This is only mentioned to paint a comprehensive picture.

The states of Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and South Carolina require neither safety nor emission testing.

Let’s go to Canada.


Population:  4,067,000

Size:  255,541 square miles / 661,848 square kilometers

Like in Missouri, Alberta’s inspections are performed by the private sector.  Researching on the Government of Alberta’s website, there is nothing requiring an inspection other than if one brings a vehicle into the province or if a car is re-registered.

Fees for the inspection are not fixed but are determined by the labor rate of the shop chosen, although Alberta does provide guidelines for roughly how much time an inspection will require.

Interestingly, it is perfectly acceptable to import a right-hand drive vehicle into Alberta and get it licensed, provided it meets all other requirements of a vehicle entering the province.


Population:  13,448,000

Size:  415,598 square miles / 1,076,395 square kilometers

Acquiring license plates requires a safety standards certificate that is obtained via an inspection administered through an agent of the Ministry of Transportation (MOT).  The only exceptions are trailers, off-road equipment, and when transferring a vehicle to one’s spouse.

The cost of the certificate is not regulated by the government, so prices will vary as they will in Alberta.  The items examined to acquire the certificate can all be found in this 90-plus page document.

Let’s head south to Australia.


Population:  5,000,000

Size:  715,309 square miles / 1,852,642 square kilometers

A safety certificate in Queensland, unlike most of the other jurisdictions discussed so far, requires a safety certificate prior to sale or transfer of registration.  It is also required when an unregistered vehicle is being re-registered or if bringing a vehicle into Queensland.

The inspection is $82.85 for vehicles up to 8,500 kg GVM.  It includes the expected items such as tires, brakes, suspension, and glass.  Scouring the Queensland website, nothing was immediately found regarding frequency of inspection.  Perhaps then it is possible for a person to own a vehicle for years upon end without the need of periodic inspections.  If somebody from Queensland can shed more light on this, it would be greatly appreciated.

This is only a small sampling of all the variations that exist in just the English speaking world when it comes to requirements for motorized vehicle safety inspections.  Just as with people, it seems no two political jurisdictions are alike.