Regulations for Massachusetts Car Inspection

by Nicholas Pell
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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has stringent regulations for car inspections in the state. Every car must undergo an inspection for safety once a year, and all systems on the vehicle must be in working order for the car to pass. Before you bring your vehicle into the local garage or gas station, you should know what to expect.

General Regulations

All vehicles must be inspected once a year for safety as well as emissions, depending upon model and year. If your car has already been inspected in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it must be inspected again no later than the last day of the numbered month on the inspection sticker in your window. For cars that are newly registered in the state, an inspection must occur within seven days of registering the car. Failure to do so can result in fines of $50 each time you are cited as of 2010. The inspection costs $29 and can be done at most gas stations and garages. Look for a sign resembling a Massachusetts inspection sticker on a garage or gas station for an inspection facility.


Only certain vehicles are required to get emissions testing. Newer cars are primarily affected. Cars, SUVs and light trucks with a model year of 1996 or later, diesel trucks under 8,500 pounds from 1997 or later, vehicles between 8,501 and 14,000 pounds with a model year of 2007 or later, and diesel vehicles weighing between 8,501 and 14,000 pounds from 2008 or later are required to undergo emissions testing. Vehicles are tested for pollutants, including nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. The test takes about three minutes to complete.


All vehicles must pass a safety inspection. Items that will be checked include the license plate, which must be clearly visible, all brakes, which must be in working order, as well as the exhaust system, steering, horn, and all lights and reflectors on the car. Your vehicle must also have all windows in place, all tires and wheels ("doughnut" style spares will not pass inspection), airbags (if your vehicle is equipped with them), bumpers, rear and side mirrors, fenders and the gas tank cap. Window tinting is allowed up to a 35 percent tint on the sides as well as the back if you have two sideview mirrors. Windows cannot have any broken glass or cracks greater than 1 inch in the windshield wiper area, no cracks greater than 2 inches outside of it or any cracks longer than 3 inches that extend into this area. Circular cracks cannot be larger than 1 inch in diameter. Multiple cracks in the windshield wiper area or windshields in general disrepair will not pass.


If your vehicle fails for safety reasons, you cannot drive the vehicle until you have addressed the problem(s). Subsequent inspections are free of charge, provided that they are performed within 60 days. Failure of an emissions-based inspection is addressed in a brochure given to you by the inspector at the time of the test. Subsequent inspections are also free of charge in the 60 day window.

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