What Happens During Your Texas State Vehicle Inspection?

Texas is steering its vehicle regulations in a new direction, and understanding the intricacies of the Texas State vehicle inspection process has never been more crucial. With the recent decision to eliminate safety inspections for vehicles in Texas, there's a shift in focus toward what happens during these inspections.

However, it's important to note that this legislative change doesn't come into effect until 2025, which means vehicle owners in Texas still have mandatory safety inspections ahead. Moreover, emissions testing continues to be a vital component, especially in certain larger counties and densely populated regions.

In this article, we embark on a journey to unravel what happens during your Texas State vehicle inspection, clarifying the examination process, the significance of each step, and why it matters for road safety and environmental stewardship.

What is the Texas State Vehicle Inspection?

The Texas state vehicle inspection is an annually-recurring safety inspection that all vehicles must undergo within 90 days after their registration expires. Residents new to Texas are required to complete a safety inspection within 30 days of moving to Texas.

Here are a few key points to understand.

History and Purpose

The “Two Steps, One Sticker” vehicle and registration system was implemented on March 1, 2015, and is the current program in effect. The program streamlines the vehicle inspection and registration processes into a single system, requiring vehicle owners to pass a safety inspection before renewing their vehicle registration. A single sticker represents a successful inspection and registration renewal of a vehicle. Inspections also give owners a clear bill of health for the vehicle, allowing them to identify and address potential areas of concern before they become serious problems.

Vehicle safety inspections are an effective and thorough way to detect potentially dangerous issues before they become a threat on the road. Pre-registration vehicle safety inspections ensure compliance with state safety standards and regulations. By extension, the state inspection helps make roads safer for all motorists and pedestrians because it makes the statewide inspection and repair of safety issues mandatory.

The vehicle safety inspection requirement has been in effect in Texas since 1951, while May 1, 2002, marked the day Texas began to require enhanced emissions inspections for the following counties:

  • Collin
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Harris
  • Tarrant

On May 1, 2003, the following were added to the list of counties requiring enhanced emissions testing:

  • Brazoria
  • Ellis
  • Fort Bend
  • Galveston
  • Johnson
  • Kaufman
  • Montgomery
  • Parker
  • Rockwall

Enhanced emissions testing for the Travis and Williamson Counties was implemented on September 1, 2005, while testing for El Paso County was implemented on January 1, 2007.

Laws and Regulations

The Texas Transportation Code promotes road safety by ensuring all registered vehicles meet minimum safety standards. Foregoing your safety inspection and vehicle registration can yield substantial legal and financial repercussions, especially if you are involved in an accident.

Impact on Insurance Claims - Driving without a valid inspection and registration sticker could significantly hurt the chances of your insurance claim. Your insurance provider may even refuse to cover the accident because your vehicle may not have been roadworthy at the time of the accident.

Fines and Penalties - Texas imposes steep fines and penalties for driving a vehicle that does not bear a valid inspection/registration sticker. Driving without a valid inspection can lead to fines of up to $200, while those driving without a valid registration can get fined up to $350. These fines do not include court fees and other relevant fees.

Note: The only instance when you’re allowed to drive an unregistered vehicle is if you’re heading to a station to have it registered or heading home after failing a safety inspection.

Potential Criminal Charges - In some cases, driving an unregistered vehicle can also lead to criminal charges, especially if you knowingly drove an unsafe vehicle and caused an accident. Doing so can lead to reckless driving charges. You could also be charged with vehicular manslaughter if your unsafe vehicle is involved in a fatal accident. Criminal charges carry a significant and lasting weight that could affect other aspects of your life, such as future employment and finances.

Vehicles Required to Undergo Inspection

All vehicles registered in any of the 254 Texas counties are required to undergo a safety vehicle inspection. However, only vehicles registered in designated counties must undergo enhanced emissions testing. Selected counties include:

  • Brazoria
  • Collin
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • El Paso
  • Ellis
  • Fort Bend
  • Galveston
  • Harris
  • Johnson
  • Kaufman
  • Montgomery
  • Parker
  • Rockwall
  • Tarrant
  • Travis
  • Williamson

Additionally, only gas-powered vehicles between 2 and 24 model years old must undergo enhanced emissions testing.

Inspection Criteria

Inspectors check specific vehicle parts for functionality, secure mounting, correct location, and whether they meet performance standards recommended by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Inspection criteria vary between vehicle classes. Certain inspection items can have different pass or fail conditions. This guide on understanding Texas vehicle inspection requirements includes a detailed explanation of all inspection criteria and their conditions for passing.

Ending the Annual Vehicle Inspection Requirement

On June 13, 2023, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that will eliminate the requirement for annual vehicle inspections for most vehicles. This change, set to take effect in 2025, will replace inspections with a straightforward $7.50 annual fee, matching the current inspection cost.

The upside is undeniable — no more hassle with shop appointments. However, there's a catch. New vehicle owners who haven't registered their vehicles previously will see a slightly higher price tag of $16.75 upon registration.

That said, this legislative change doesn't come into effect until 2025. As a result, vehicle owners in Texas still have mandatory safety inspections ahead.

Key Points of the Inspection

Authorized inspectors assess vehicles thoroughly through four key inspection points.

Exterior Inspection

Exterior inspections involve visual checks to assess the vehicle for body damage and missing or broken parts. Exterior inspections focus on the items outside the vehicle, such as tires, cab lamps, clearance lamps, reflectors, headlamps, and brakes.

Interior Inspection

Interior inspections focus on the functionality of items found inside the vehicle’s cabin. Inspection items such as seatbelts, mirrors, gauges, warning lights, doors, windows, and the vehicle’s horn are classified under interior inspection because technicians inspect them from inside the cabin and from the driver’s point of view.

Emissions Inspection

Emissions inspections measure byproduct gasses produced by an engine’s combustion stroke and are performed in fulfillment of the Clean Air Act. Enhanced emissions inspections are required only on gas-powered vehicles that are 2 to 24 model years old and are registered in a designated county. The enhanced emissions test involves using an OBD-II scanner, which checks the vehicle’s internal computer for emissions system-related error codes.

Inspectors also check fuel system components, oxygen sensors, and the catalytic converter (for gasoline-powered vehicles) or diesel particulate filter and exhaust gas recirculation system (for diesel-powered vehicles) for missing or broken parts.

On-board Diagnostics (OBD) Test

An on-board diagnostics test involves using an On-board Diagnostics-II (OBD-II) scanner, which connects to your vehicle’s internal computer and scans for a check engine light, fault codes, and readiness monitors. OBD-II testing can be performed only on cars manufactured in 1996 and later — older models do not come with an internal computer the scanner can connect to.

Safety Equipment Checks

Safety equipment checks evaluate the operability and performance of parts related to vehicle control and visibility. Safety equipment checks relate to brakes, steering/suspension components, lighting, and windshield wipers and washers.

Preparing for Your Vehicle for Inspection

Before taking your vehicle in for a safety inspection, it’s important to make the necessary preparations to ensure a smooth process and secure your best chance of passing the inspection. Here are a few key steps to follow.

Get Your Documents

There are three key documents you must bring with you to the inspection station — your vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and previous vehicle inspection report. These documents are essential because inspecting technicians cannot legally assess your vehicle without them.

Perform Pre-inspection Checks and Perform Necessary Repairs

You don’t have to wait for the inspection station to detect the issues in your vehicle before performing repairs. Examining your vehicle before a safety inspection will save you much time and effort by ensuring you pass the inspection. Guests can drop by any Caliber Auto Care center, where our experienced technicians can perform thorough exterior, interior, emissions, safety equipment, and OBD-II checks. Additionally, every service comes with a complimentary digital vehicle inspection to give our guests a clear and convenient overview of their vehicle’s overall condition.

For your best chance of passing the safety inspection, address any safety-related issues found during your self-inspection before taking your vehicle to the inspection station.

The Inspection Process

The inspection process is straightforward and takes around 15 to 30 minutes, after which you may proceed to your county tax office to renew your vehicle registration.

  1. Schedule and pay inspection fees at the authorized station.
  2. Pass inspection and keep your vehicle inspection report (VIR) and registration in your vehicle.

What Happens if Your Vehicle Fails the Inspection?

It’s not uncommon for a vehicle to fail safety inspections. If your vehicle fails the safety inspection, the inspector will attach a “failed inspection” sticker to your windshield, and you will not be allowed to renew your vehicle’s registration. In addition, the penalties for driving an unregistered car will also apply.

Note: You may still drive a vehicle with a rejection sticker if you’re bringing it home or to an auto repair facility.

Below are the steps to take if you failed your vehicle inspection:

  1. Address the inspection remarks in your vehicle inspection report and schedule a re-inspection at the station that originally performed the inspection.
  2. Present your vehicle for reinspection within 15 days for a free retest. Remember to bring the documents required for inspection.
  3. If you return to the station past the 15-day period or bring your vehicle to a different inspection station, you will need to pay a reinspection fee.

Vehicle inspections are key to enforcing road safety standards. We understand our guests and value their time and convenience. It’s why all Caliber Auto Care facilities are authorized to perform safety inspections and offer various auto repair and maintenance services. Our service centers are designed to perform inspections, repairs, and reinspections all in one place.


Keeping your vehicle in top condition isn't just about maintaining its aesthetics or performance—it's also about ensuring the safety of you and others on the road. Texas State Vehicle Inspections serve as a checkpoint to ensure every vehicle meets the safety standards.

You can ensure a smooth inspection process by staying informed and prepared. Should you ever need assistance in pre-inspection checks, post-inspection repairs, or any automotive concerns, Caliber Auto Care is here to provide top-notch services for all your needs. Schedule an appointment online today for a hassle-free experience!