By on May 7, 2017


The Lone Star State may be doing away with annual state vehicle inspections soon. On Thursday, a 27-4 vote in the Texas Senate approved a bill that would eliminate mandatory inspections for passenger vehicles. Although Senate Bill 1588 doesn’t change anything for commercial trucks, they’ll still be required to undergo a yearly safety inspection, and automobiles residing in seventeen counties will also have to pass emission tests for local air-quality laws.

For the rest of the state, it would be open season. “This is a tax cut that Texans will feel,” claimed Senator Don Huffines, a Dallas-based Republican who approved the bill. “It will save Texans $130 million they’re now having to pay for a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers.” 

The change follows a trend in the United States to rollback yearly inspections. While most states still require some sort of periodic emissions testing, just over a dozen mandate scheduled safety assessments. Mississippi passed a similar bill in 2015 and New Jersey abolished it’s safety inspections in 2010. Like Texas, the majority of supporters agreed that it was not in their state’s financial interests now that automobiles were becoming safer and more reliable.

According to the Houston Chronicle there were, however, a handful of senators that were not in agreement. “If this bill passes, I’m going to have trouble sleeping knowing that there will be thousands of dangerous vehicles on the road,” Democratic Senator Eddie Lucio said during the lengthy debate preceding the vote.

Senator Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, also opposed the bill. “What happens if people can’t maintain their cars at the level they should?” she asked. “I don’t think that’s good for everyday Texans … because you’re setting this up where even more people can get tickets.”

Fines for not having an inspection sticker displayed, or having one out of date, range between $100 and $150 in the state of Texas. If the House approves the bill, annual savings to drivers should average roughly seven dollars.

Even though Texas imposed its own statewide policy in 1951, the Department of Transportation created a national vehicle inspection program after Congress passed the Highway Safety Act in 1966. When Congress began permitting states to abandon their inspection programs in 1976, many did. The majority that have done so in the last decade have cited single digit savings to drivers and minor losses in revenue. Although, you can’t really place an all-inclusive price on the time and energy it takes to get a vehicle certified.

As for concerns over public safety, Huffines said they were unfounded. “I look at this as an unnecessary procedure that should be eliminated,” said Huffines, adding that the repealing of inspection programs in other states haven’t seen any problems.


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40 Comments on “Texas May be the Next State to Eliminate Annual Vehicle Inspections...”

  • avatar

    It was about $10 a year (no smog check in my county) so hardly a tax cut I would of noticed. But that’s the Texas legislature for you.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it was more because of the outrage that Americans along the border had because the pollution and rolling junk brought from Mexico into the US daily far exceeded any good the rest of the State of Texas was doing with Vehicle Inspections.

      Why should any American have to pay for vehicle inspections when daily traffic across the border results in more unsafe vehicles being on the road?

      Most people waste more than $10/yr on less important things, but not wasting it on inconsequential vehicle inspections is better.

      • 0 avatar

        How about instituting an inspection at the border? I live far away from Texas and have no idea what kind of vehicles are allowed through from the south. But if American drivers are subject to emissions and safety regulations shouldn’t Mexicans coming across be too?

        • 0 avatar

          “shouldn’t Mexicans coming across be too?”

          No. They come across in the early morning, do their business on the American side, and go back into Mexico late at night. But many do a great deal of driving while on the US side, like delivery services, labor, housekeepers, nannies, errand runners, etc etc etc.

          To get an idea of how much traffic comes across each day, Google pictures of the Brownsville, TX, El Paso, TX, Nogales, AZ, and San Diego, CA crossings.

          These are the busiest, but there are crossings all along the entire border with Mexico, many of them not legal and wide open, like with Canada.

          • 0 avatar

            Seems like their local economy is highly dependent on daily workers from Mexico. Of course safety and air pollution take the second stage when cheap labor is concerned. Seems like another double standard practiced by powers that may be. Responsibility, and time and money it requires is purely the domain of the Americans. Would requiring Mexican cars to pass inspection upon entry be “racist”? What about the clean air? Road safety? Good questions to pick the liberals brain…

          • 0 avatar

            Sceptic, many of the American cars deemed “totaled” or “not economically feasible to fix” in the US are towed off into Old Mexico, fixed there, and put back on the road with Mexican tags, owned by Mexicans.

            Mexican trucks, 18-wheeler Tractors, have to be inspected annually at the border and get a US inspection sticker so they can easily cross the border hauling stuff back and forth, even on a daily basis.

            Many of the Mexican Tractors have been deemed too old for US operators’ over-the-road-use, but can still be used in Mexico and the US, as long as they pass inspection in the US.

            A couple of years ago, I was hauling a load of cattle for my son’s cattle business and was passed my an old, old, old, old, Mexican-tagged Diamond Reo, accelerating out of Dalhart, TX with a heavy load.

            What a magnificent machine that was! Maybe 1960’s vintage. Painted Fire-engine Red!

            All-engine, short cab, Bob-cat tail, dual- double rear axles, twin cab-high exhausts billowing black smoke under load, hauling a Flatbed with oil-drilling gear.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe you would OF noticed it if you include what money is spent on the system aside from the direct out-of-pocket expense. I have no idea what it was, but I’m sure it was something.

      “Although, you can’t really place an all-inclusive price on the time and energy it takes to get a vehicle certified.”

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Fred, the primary savings is in time, not money. The people doing vehicle inspections work with all the speed and urgency of postal workers as they carefully look for stuff they can sell to you.

      • 0 avatar

        Man I think you guys are really freaking out about this. It’s such a minor inconvience. OK the old Elan was a hassle, but then everything with that car is a hassle. For daily drivers, as long as it stops and steers, horn and lights work you pass. Compared with what the British go thru with their MOT it’s nothing.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not sure where you live, but it isn’t Virginia, or your inspection station is crooked. Play in steering or suspension components, steering rack leaks, cracked accessory belts, below spec thickness of brake rotors, SRS warning lights, lack of mirror, window and door functions are all causes to fail state inspection on top of the obvious things like tread depth, all lights working and DOT approved, brake pads above minimum and a functioning horn. Many cars are condemned because their original factory service parts are no longer available. The result of all this regulation is…nothing. Every study shows zero correlation between state safety inspections and actual safety or insurance claim frequency and value. Even states that had state inspections and stopped have seen no uptick in accidents, injuries or insurance claims. People in favor of them are either ignorant, on the take, or misanthropes.

  • avatar

    Just think of how much crime will be reduced. The broken taillight is probably responsible for half of the criminal apprehensions in this country.

    • 0 avatar

      The number of people who get pulled over for a broken tail light and are then arrested for some egregious crime they are committing/committed is staggering.

    • 0 avatar

      Police don’t even need a broken taillight. Any driver will break some law pretty soon if followed and watched for 5 minutes. There is always something. Low tire pressure, safety issue, blocked view if anything is stuck to windshield, dirty/tinted glass, poor visibility, you name it. Cops freely admit this and rely on all kinds of obscure local laws in their daily work.

    • 0 avatar

      I would think the opposite is true. If anything, it will lead to more people with an out/broken tail light, since there was no inspection causing it to get fixed or not passed.

      • 0 avatar

        Exactly. Nobody said anything about doing away with requirements to maintain safe cars. This is about eliminating the assumption that people are guilty of not maintaining their cars. If an officer sees someone operating an unsafe vehicle, they are still free to intervene.

  • avatar

    We have an easy way to determine if the inspections actually make for safer driving. What are the safety statistics in the states with vehicle inspections vs the states with no inspections?

    Michigan has never had vehicle inspections in my lifetime beyond the period when you had to have the emissions system checked. While perhaps there are cars here on the road that shouldn’t be, my impression with the states that have inspections is they force drivers to do repairs that have little to do with the functional reliability of the car. Should you be forced to fix a rust hole that’s not structural? There is also a certain amount of rent-seeking and/or crony capitalism involved in the inspection process. You’re either paying a public employee or a private business to do the inspection.

    • 0 avatar

      Have to agree with Ronnie seems a simple thing to figure out. Does it make people safer and how much does it cost to do.
      When I worked for insurance I went to a meeting with several of the actuaries and claims people once. An older somewhat disgruntled claim appraiser asked the actuaries why we didn’t lobby for a vehicle safety inspections. She told him there was not a statistical reason to do so. Equipment failures led to less then 10% of accidents and it was fairly consistent state to state so they did not think it was worthwhile to actually cutting claim costs. If I remember correctly she also said the accidents caused by equipment failure tended to cost less then most other types which would indicate they were less severe.

  • avatar

    I remember safety checks in the 1960s in Massachusetts. Every six months, you paid $2 to a garage to check that your horn, tail lights, turn signals, and brake lights worked, and that the headlights were properly aimed. They would also “notice” your tire tread and any other defect with a visual 10 second look-over.

    With the exception of the horn, every other defect would get you a fix it ticket from any police who saw it. That was a waste, since your front end could be out of alignment, the brakes nearly gone, and the engine and transmission operating badly enough that the car was dangerous above 30 mph. All it had to do was move into the service bay for the headlight inspection.

    Now in California, only the smog is checked, and my ancient cars always passed, except when one hose split during a fuel pressure test. Nothing safety related is checked at all. Cali requires that smog test after the first three years after manufacture, and every other year, and when the car changes hands.

    I don’t know how many cars fail the test, but my 20 year old Altima passed easily in 2015. You can make the argument that the smog test induces owners to keep their cars in shape, but there’s still nothing being tested for brakes, steering, signals, suspension, or other safety related conditions. That’s left to local police and the CHP, often after an accident.

    • 0 avatar

      Massachusetts still has its once-yearly safety inspection that you have to pass to be able to register your vehicle. It’s only $30. It is pretty stiff in terms of making sure equipment is in working order. Emissions on modern cars aren’t hard (Plug it in for OBDII, see if it pass/fails and check for visual out of the tailpipe), but the safety one looks for any disabled/malfunctioning safety systems (airbags, seatbelts, ABS) as well as brakes, tires, lights, and suspension faults.

      If your car can’t pass emissions, that’s pretty much obvious when you’re going in because you’ll have a Check engine on. You can’t just clear the CEL and go in either, it has to have OBD history in the ECU to do a check/pass. Safety for things without idiot lights (tires, suspensions, and sometimes brakes) is harder, but even a modest mechanic who knows what to look for can tell good front ends from bad front ends. Some shops take this more seriously than others, but any decent mechanic who does pre-sales checks on cars does the same kind of stuff when checking out a car for state inspection.

      Plus, for emissions, they give you plenty of time to get it fixed with reject stickers and don’t charge you again for an inspection to clear your reject sticker.

      I will say the only time I ever failed a safety (not emissions) inspection was due to a faulty tie-rod on my Trans Am; it was a quick $150 repair (alignment included!) later. The guys I know who do inspections are honest, though I’m sure there’s less-than-scrupulous shops. I’ve never failed an emissions test.

      • 0 avatar

        I was surprised to learn that MA requires annual inspection of even brand-new vehicles, which seems a bit ridiculous. (My former state, NJ, exempts new vehicles for five years.) Typically the dealer performs the initial inspection, but I purchased my car in RI and the dealer there presumably couldn’t supply a MA inspection sticker. No one said anything, and I thought nothing of it until I noticed the lack of sticker some days later. Found a local shop near my office to perform the inspection, but what a waste of time and $35.

        • 0 avatar

          All cars regardless of age registered in Massachusetts must be able to pass at least the safety inspection. New cars obviously will pass it (unless you bought a lemon) but them’s the rules. As part of that inspection they check for VIN validity and to make sure your registration matches up with the VIN on the car too. Most people never notice this because it’s done by the dealer and included in the car’s price, but if you buy from out-of-state or from a dealer that doesn’t do stickers (there are ones out there, cough, Wellesley Mazda) you’ll have to have someone else do it.

          There are cars that could have real crappy tires that aren’t five years old yet, safety inspections would catch that. They also check for illegal tint, emission systems modifications, and so on.

          If your car is older than 15 years, it’s exempt from emissions testing, but it cannot produce visible smoke from the exhaust.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Most cars and trucks today are much safer than they were years ago, especially since the time when these laws were originally enacted. Even the smog tests are not effective in that vehicles from outside the areas that have required testing are not subject to tests especially when many of them are used as a commuter or regular use in the areas requiring testing. A few years ago Kentucky eliminated required smog tests in the major metropolitan areas and now require reformulated gasoline during the late Spring and Summer. There were old vehicles from rural areas that would be part of the metropolitan area traffic that were not subject to testing or regulation. There are also ways to get around mandatory testing. Today’s vehicles are cleaner, more efficient, and safer than when most of these regulations were enacted. The eventual replacement of old polluting and less safe vehicles with newer cleaner and safer vehicles is much more effective over the long run.

    The vehicles that are obviously unsafe and polluting are usually pulled over by law enforcement and given a ticket. I haven’t seen as many of those as in the past and many of those vehicles are either abandoned on the side of the road or junked. Even abandoned vehicles are much less than they were since most salvage yards offer to buy these vehicles and provide no cost towing. Many older donated vehicles are bought by salvage yards for their parts and eventually crushed for their metal.

  • avatar

    By chance, I’ve only lived in states with an annual inspection.

    In the states where the independent stations do an inspections or emissions test, it varied greatly as to how thorough it was, even within the same state. A few times, I got told about things that I know I had just replaced, and showed them the invoice, paid them their fee, and reported them to the state. Other times, I’d get shown something legitimately wrong, with a quote to repair it with the inspection cost waived/rolled into that so I could avoid the ‘fix it/re-inspect’ paperwork.

    And sometimes, there were places that pass everyone….in exchange for a ‘tip’. I was told about those places, but never went. Makes me nervous.

    In the one state where I lived where the inspection centers were run by the state (Delaware), its at the DMV centers, and it was a tall drive in bay with multiple lines. The state employees ask you to exit the vehicle and wait in a specific spot, and they walk around the vehicle with a list of things they are looking for, get in, check mileage and plug in an OBD scanner, the ask you to operate all the exterior lights, turning indicators, wipers, and windows in a specific order. Meanwhile, there is someone down below in a subterranean level look at your underneath stuff with a flashlight.

    Then you get in, and they tell you that when the light in front turns green, drive forward and when it turns red, stop as hard as you can. They come and take the OBD scanner out at that point, and if whatever measures your stopping distance/power is within whatever is a safe limit, assuming you have passed all the other stuff, you get a slip that says you passed.

    Then you drive up to a separate building bank drive thru style window, give them that slip plus form of payment, and in a about 3 minutes, they hand you your new registration and inspection stickers and your receipt with your VIN on it.

    It’s $40 a year for any car over 5 years old. You’d have to be sophisticated and dedicated enough to forge the holograph/reflective stickers to avoid this process just to save $40. Its consistent, and not really that hard to pass, but given the cameras and lack of independent shops you can go to get it done, I think that its a good way to make sure that its an ACTUAL inspection. The staff there get paid the same whether its a 100 car day or a 1000 car day.

    If a state is going to do it, I far prefer the latter where they actually run it. At least I know that everyone else (in theory) has to go through the same process to meet minimum standards.

    • 0 avatar

      What you describe (in DE) sounds fairly sensible.

    • 0 avatar

      This seems like a logical way to do it. While there is no doubt real cost associated with such a system, it eliminates the ripoff potential of the repair shop looking for work by scamming unsuspecting motorists. In my state of NY the repair shop our family typically uses does not get my business anymore because they want to hold my station car to the same standards as a new one. There was always something “wrong”. Not on the emissions side, just the safety inspection. Things like superficial cracking in the rubber of the ball joint dust seal. CV joint boots with a bit of cracking. Not split, just some of the wear you find on old cars. Tires that were “too worn” even though I was not on the wear bars and wouldn’t be for another two years at the rate of mileage the car saw. Nothing was a hazard – I would fix stuff like that regardless, but the hand was always out.

      There may be inherent problems with the inspection system, but a lot of people for whom a car is merely an appliance often forget about maintenance and oil changes. My mom was a classic example. Such things as car care was not programmed into her way of thinking. I can only imagine what state of disrepair cars would be in if there was no yearly check up. The vast majority of those who post here don’t need an inspection because we are all way more car “aware” that the typical motorist. But the B&B is hardly a sample of the typical car owner.

      • 0 avatar

        golden this has been my experience with NY State inspections as well, even worse though: in highschool my brother had a shady shop slit his ’89 MPVs power steering rack boots and squirt some motor oil in and tell him his rack was leaking and would need to be replaced. The idiots sliced across the “accordion” of the boot rather than parallel which would actually realistically simulate a natural tear. It took my gruff heavily-Russian-accented going down there and threatening legal or other means before they owned up to it (Wilcox Tire in Ithaca NY if anyone’s wondering). Compensated for the boots, my brother replaced them himself.

        Our indie Honda-guy was solid, but would also always find small things that were still functioning to the tune of several hundred dollars, it was a reasonable compromise and it’s not like he was just making stuff up.

        Nowadays my parents take their cars (Hondas and other makes) to the local Honda dealer who if anything errs on the “lick em and stick em” type of operation. They passed our old ’98 MPV which at the time turned out to have frozen rear brake calipers.

        In NY anything OBD-2 will need to pass emissions and not throw any codes, I don’t really care for that aspect, when the same inspection won’t fail a car for a loose balljoint.

        I’m in Indiana now and while the freedom of not relying on a shop with potentially nefarious aims is awesome, I also see some scary stuff on the roads that I’d never see in NY. Cars with tires worn down to the belts, seriously wrecked looking cars that continue to be driven on the road, and critically rusty vehicles with rotted off suspension mounting points that sway strangely as they fly down the interstate at 70+ mph.

        • 0 avatar

          gtemnykh: Yeah I live in VA and travel to NJ often. We have yearly inspections here and I stay on top of my car’s maintenance. While they may say statistically that it may not prevent many accidents from poorly maintained vehicles, but when driving through MD and in NJ I’ve been behind many a car that had swaying broken exhaust or other problems where I’d change lanes to avoid.

  • avatar

    Washington state doesn’t have inspection and we don’t have red asphalt here from cars not being inspected, I don’t see this as a huge issue in Texas (and yes, go to eastern Washington there are a lot of poor Hispanics so spare me).

    Really the only place in the modern era where I could see annual inspections making sense anymore is in rust belt states where cars should be put on a lift and checked for dangerous levels of rot.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be putting a vehicle with a serious case of rot on a frame lift. Just google Tacoma frame rust and you’ll certainly find more than a couple images where the truck that drove into the shop literally fell in half when lifted.

      • 0 avatar

        On our family’s old MPVs, we only took them to particular shops where we knew the lift pads were of a certain type (lifting on the subframe or control arms, not on the rockers) as the front corners of the rocker-jack points were totally rotten on both cars. We also had a ’77 Corolla that started to bend in half when lifted for an inspection, sold it to the mechanic for $1 (what we had bought it for from a family friend). I agree, northern climates with more chewed up roads and more rust-prone vehicles (brake lines are a big worry) would on average benefit more from safety inspections that focused on body and suspension/brake integrity.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t really think it is necessary to inspect most modern vehicles for safety. Many of today’s vehicles do not rust like they did in the past so by the time most get to the point where there would be serious rust something else would have failed that would make a vehicle not worth repairing and that is even in the rust belt where I live. It doesn’t take much damage to a modern vehicle and just some bad electronics or air bags would be too costly to make many vehicles with some age on them not worth fixing. Sure there are some who do not replace airbags or rebuild a totaled vehicle but many states such as Kentucky now reissue titles showing that the vehicle was totaled.

  • avatar

    “It will save Texans $130 million they’re now having to pay for a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers.”

    That’s crazy talk. Next thing you know, you’ll tell me that giving people speeding tickets doesn’t make us all safer.

  • avatar

    I have had two instances when repair shops (both dealerships, as I recall) have tried to get me to do unnecessary “repairs”, with a failed inspection as leverage. One said my front seat was unsafe and the second told me that my tilt steering had too much play. Both times I just took it to another place that didn’t do repairs, and it passed with no problem. Now, I just go to someplace that doesn’t do repairs habitually to get the inspection done.

    In line with other folks, I have lived in states that don’t require safety inspections, and saw no indications that things were unsafe. It’s a minor inconvenience now, but if I didn’t know anything about cars I would have had two major (and unnecessary) repair bills in past years.

  • avatar

    I’m torn on this, as in my current situation I have cars registered in MD and VA, and thereby deal with two different state inspection regimes.

    MD only requires emissions biannually, but has an extremely comprehensive inspection requirement upon title transfer of a vehicle. Assuming you pass emissions, there is no requirement outside of a potential encounter with law enforcement to keep your vehicle in good running condition. On the positive, outside of potential non-coding engine issues, it virtually guarantees you get a car that is in decent working order when you buy from a dealer. Cost is roughly $75. Checklist here:

    On the other hand, Virginia has a cursory annual safety inspection that hits the basics: tread depth, brake pad thickness, and do the lights and seat belts work. Emissions is optional and based on county. Cost is somewhere in the $10-15 range. VA checklist:

    The lists look similar, but in VA the station only takes about 15 minutes doing it, while the MD inspections take upwards of an hour, where you almost always get hit with something in a car over 75k (I had to do a wheel bearing and tie rod end last car I put through with that mileage). My daily driver has over that as well, and the only thing VA has ever made me do is replace worn brake pads that I was planning on anyway.

    If I were to choose between the 2 options, I’d rather do the MD one, as it basically forces you to get a PPI and is more consumer friendly in that respect. The VA one on the other hand is basically a cash grab, just like this texas one sounds like.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I think a happy medium would be best: biannual inspections on vehicles older than 5-7 years.

  • avatar

    I remember decades ago when FL did these tests and they seemed like a good idea. Now we have no testing requirements and there are some real POS vehicles out on the road. When parts are held on with duct tape and zip ties that is not safe at highway speeds despite what NASCAR has taught us. Vehicle less then 5 years old should be fine, but after that a yearly checkup make sense.

  • avatar

    I live in Texas, and have mixed feelings about this. Sure, it’ll be less hassle every year, but I see vehicles that are obviously unsafe to drive, like the late ’90s Explorer I saw on the way home from work one day. The thing oscillated in a crazy manner from corner to corner (all shocks blown?) every time it hit a bump or a dip, and once I was sure it was going to flip, but somehow it didn’t. But, it was wearing nice set of DUBs!

  • avatar

    Great news and a welcome relief to millions of people. Less government regulation is always good news. Besides, most people, are sane and are going to keep their vehicles in reasonably good working order. Time to move forward with this.

  • avatar

    Did Audi and VW lobby Texas or something? Can’t catch defeat devices if there’s no vehicle inspection…

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    As a Houstonian, the reality of it is if you don’t know a shop that’ll pass your car no questions asked then you ain’t a real Texan!

    That the emissions requirement remains is what intriques me – the east side of Houston is damn dangerous with the constant chemical releases from the plants…that worries me more. But Texas is pro-business, so the little guy doesn’t matter…

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