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Having Your Car Serviced/Inspected: Where Is It Required?

Can you get away with not servicing your car regularly? In some countries, it is a legal requirement to have your car “checked” every year to ensure safety on the roads. The United Kingdom, for example, has what’s called an MOT check every year and without it, you cannot legally drive your vehicle.

With that in mind, if the MOT check passes the first time, you technically don’t have to service the car.

While it is not a legal requirement to have your car serviced regularly in the US if at all, you must have a safe and “roadworthy” vehicle according to your state’s roadworthy requirements. Some American states require a yearly vehicle inspection, but some states only require emissions testing or no tests for your vehicle at all.

Basically, in America, and depending on what state you live in, you can get away with not servicing your car yearly, regularly, or at all. Do you think this makes for a safe driving environment for yourself and your kids? or do you agree that regular servicing of your vehicle is just too expensive?

To find out more about the law and legal requirements around servicing your car read on below.

Is it Illegal Not to Service Your Car?

Each American state has its own vehicle inspection system and is governed at each state level. It is, in some American states, illegal not to have your car “inspected” annually, while other American states do not require any vehicle checks, inspections, or servicing demands.

As mentioned above, many states have discontinued the vehicle inspection law. Alaska, for example, stopped the law requiring emissions inspections in 2012.

This can make matters confusing when it comes to state laws and vehicle inspection requirements with having different levels of roadworthiness. Do some states care less about emissions and the safety of their residents?

Or do they trust their residents enough to get their car serviced regularly without having been made to? I don’t know if we’ll ever know those answers sorry!

Arkansas, as an example, encourages its residents to have their vehicles assessed for pollutants but does not have any timeframe requirements or laws in place.

So, while it’s not a legal requirement to have your car serviced, many states still have the emissions inspection law that must be carried out either annually, biannually, or at other specified times depending on the state you live in.

Confused yet? Let’s see if we can help make it a little clearer for you with a quick recap:

  • It is not a legal requirement to have a car serviced in America
  • Annual car servicing is recommended by vehicle manufacturers and mechanics
  • Each American state has its own law in place regarding vehicle emissions inspections
  • Some American states require vehicle inspection for pollutants as a lawful requirement
  • The American states which require vehicle inspection checks have different timeframe legalities

It is not illegal not to service your car, but you might find it costs you more in car maintenance when your car stops performing its best.

What is an American Vehicle Inspection?

A vehicle inspection is a mandated law required in some countries, or in the case of the US in some states, to ensure the safety of passengers and residents and also to prevent excessive carbon emissions.

Proof of inspection is required in many states for drivers to be able to continue driving their car legally. When the vehicle passes its inspection a decal (sticker) is attached to the front windscreen so that the local authority can see the inspection has been done and had been passed.

What happens if you don’t do a vehicle inspection?

If you don’t do a vehicle inspection, or if you forget to have your vehicle inspection, you could receive a fine.

Fines for expired inspection tickets can be in the form of financial punishments, such as a US$100 – US$200 fine, or imprisonment up to 30 days.

If an officer spots your expired inspection while parked, he or she can legally have your car towed and charge the owner for having an unsafe vehicle in public.

If you take your car for an inspection and it does not pass the adequate requirements you will have up to 60 days to repair the issues and have your vehicle re-tested. It is illegal to drive your vehicle without having the necessary safety repairs made.

  • You should not drive your vehicle if it has failed its safety inspection
  • When safety defects have been fixed you will receive a “Certificate of rejection” which gives you a grace period of up to 60 days to have your vehicle re-tested. You can drive your vehicle in this time.
  • If your vehicle does not pass after the re-test you can apply for an extension or a waiver through economic hardship
  • Drivers are entitled to one free re-test only if they take their vehicle to the same center and within 60 days of the failed test

Which American States Require Yearly Vehicle Inspections by Law?

Because each state is different, we’ve divided them up into a table of which states require emissions checks by law and which states do not.

Keep in mind there are three types of servicing, VIN inspection, emissions inspection, and safety inspections, not all of which require a service for your vehicle.

Vehicle Inspection Required by Law AnnuallyVehicle Inspection Required by Law Bi-AnnuallyOther Vehicle Inspection by LawNo Vehicle Inspection or Servicing Required
Georgia – required annually for some metro areas, cars 3 years and younger are exemptArizona – only for Phoenix and Tucson metro areasAlabama – inspection is required before to sale or transfer of vehicleAlaska
HawaiiDelaware – excluding cars five years or youngerKansas – VIN inspection required when registering as out-of-stateArkansas
Louisiana – Full safety inspections are required in every county whereas emissions testing is only required in Baton Rouge metro areasIdaho – required for Ada and Canyon areasKentucky – VIN inspection required when registering as out-of-stateFlorida – Unless being registered as an out of state vehicle
Maine – needs annual safety inspections for all vehicles and emissions inspections in Cumberland County onlyIllinois – required bi-annual safety, VIN, and emissions inspection in some countiesMaryland – Safety inspections must be carried out before sale or transfer of a vehicle and emissions testing is required bi-annually in most counties in Maine with some exceptionsIowa
MassachusettsIndiana – Only for Lake and Porter counties for vehicles manufactured after 1976Nebraska – Out of state registered vehicles must have a VIN and safety checkMichigan
New Hampshire – cars manufactured before 1996 are exempt and all other vehicles will be inspected the month of your birthdayMissouri – cars less than 5 years old are exempt and emissions testing is only required in 5 countiesNevada – emissions checks are required in Las Vegas and Reno and cars manufactured before 1968 or are less than two-years-old are exemptMinnesota
New York – cars younger than two are exemptNew Jersey – Safety inspections are only for commercial vehicles; all other vehicles must have emissions tests bi-annually with some exemptionsNew Mexico – Emissions testing is only required for Bernalillo County and VIN checks are required when registering out-of-stateMississippi
North Carolina – cars with less than 70,000 miles might be exemptOregon – Emissions tests required in Portland and Medford areasOhio – Only needed in Cleveland metroMontana
Pennsylvania – Diesel-powered vehicles are exemptRhode Island – requires both safety and emissions bi-annual inspectionsOklahoma – only require VIN when registering out of stateNorth Dakota
Tennessee – Emissions only Wisconsin – Emissions onlyUtah – Safety inspections are completed in intervals while emissions tests are only required in 5 countiesSouth Carolina
Texas – Cars under two are exempt from both safety and emissions testing Washington – does not require safety inspections but has emissions inspections in some areasSouth Dakota
Vermont – Safety and emissions though emissions tests won’t be carried out on vehicles older than 1996  Wyoming – requires a VIN car inspection when registering out-of-state 
Virginia – Annual safety inspections but only bi-annual emission inspections in some regions   
West Virginia 

Canada, Colorado, and Connecticut have fairly confusing rules so we recommend looking them up here to familiarize yourself with them.

For further information, you can also check on legal requirements for servicing/inspecting your vehicle here.


While it is not illegal to forgo your car servicing, it is highly recommended that you have your car serviced at least once a year. Servicing your car will enhance its performance, reduce emissions, handle better on the road, and improve fuel efficiency among other benefits.

As per the table above, some states in America do require annual or biannual emissions or safety inspections which may require servicing of your car to pass the test.