Requirements for a Car Inspection in Virginia

by Kristen Marquette
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To ensure your safety and the safety of other motorists, Virginia requires an annual vehicle safety inspection on all registered vehicles with only one exception. According to the Virginia State Police, the state has approximately 4,200 safety inspection stations as of 2010. If you fail to comply with inspection laws, you will receive a fine and a mark on your driving record.


A Virginia safety inspector must examine a vehicle's brakes, parking brakes, headlights, other lights, signal devices, steering and suspension, tires, mirrors, horn, windshield and other glass, windshield wipers and defroster, exhaust system, license tags, under the hood, fuel system and air pollution control system. He also examines the interior of the car, including the driver's seat, seat belts, airbags and airbag readiness light, doors and floor pan. To pass this inspection none of these systems can have any worn, broken, disconnected or missing pieces. No leaks can be present or any unauthorized parts attached, such as some headlight types. Certain enhancements such as window tinting extending more than 3 inches from the top of the windshield are prohibited. Also, a rear lamp must illuminate the license plate.

Pass or Fail

If the inspector determines that your car runs safely, he places an approval sticker on the inside of the windshield and hands you a pink certificate. This sticker remains valid for one year, expiring on the last day of the month. If the inspector has found broken, worn or missing parts, leaks or non-approved parts, he issues the car a rejection sticker. This sticker gives you 15 days to repair all defects and have the car re-inspected. It does not restrict your ability to drive the vehicle during those 15 days.


You must pay for your vehicle's safety inspection. As of 2010, a safety inspection for a motor vehicle or trailer costs $16; a motorcycle inspection costs $12; and a tractor-trailer inspection costs $51.


If you own an antique vehicle you do not have to submit it for safety inspection under certain circumstance. Virginia defines an antique car as any vehicle at least 25 years old that has been registered as an antique through the Department of Motor Vehicles. To avoid inspection, you cannot use your antique car for general transportation. This includes driving it to and from work on a daily basis. The law allows you to drive it on highways only during antique car club activities, exhibits, tours, parades or taking it in for maintenance or repairs. You also cannot drive it more than 250 miles from your home. If you plan on operating your antique car regularly or driving it long distances, it must pass a safety inspection.

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