Texas vehicle inspection: What you need to know about Texas state inspection rules

October 14, 2022

Find out what you need to know about Texas vehicle inspections.


Performing a Texas state vehicle inspection

Whether you’ve just moved to Texas or you’re a long-time resident, you’ll need a Texas vehicle inspection if you plan on driving in the Lone Star state. If you don’t, you might find yourself getting a ticket.

But what are the Texas car inspection requirements? And what happens if you fail? Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of Texas vehicle inspections so you can be informed as a Texas driver.

What are the Texas vehicle inspection requirements?


If you want to register your vehicle in the state of Texas, you are required to get a vehicle inspection. Vehicle inspections are good for one year unless you’re buying a new vehicle from the dealership; then, the inspection is valid for two years.

As a Texas driver, you’ll need to visit an inspection center that’s been approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety. These are typically auto repair shops. Use the Texas DPS Inspection Station Locator to find a station near you.

There are a few things that you’ll need to bring with you to the inspection:
  • Photo ID: You must have a current and valid photo ID. Most inspection stations will accept both Texas and out-of-state IDs.
  • Proof of Insurance: You will be required to show proof of a current auto insurance policy at the time of your inspection.
  • Form of Payment: Texas law requires you to make a payment for your inspection regardless of whether your vehicle passes inspection or not. Most inspection locations accept cash, debit, or credit card, but it's a good idea to check beforehand. 
In Texas, vehicle inspections are required before vehicle registration can be complete. This means you have to have passed your inspection 90 days prior to attempting to renew the registration. When you get your vehicle registration renewed, your county will confirm that you’ve passed the inspection electronically.

If you have a citation for an expired registration, if your registration has expired (i.e. if you haven't renewed within 12 months of the last expiration date), or if there is a hold on your registration, you'll have to go to a county tax office in person to renew. Otherwise, you are able to do so online, at the county tax office, or even at some grocery stores depending on the county. If you do renew online, you'll receive your new sticker in the mail (usually within two weeks) but you'll be sent an email with a temporary registration you can print and keep in your car until then.

While there used to be an inspection sticker that you had to put on your car, the state has recently revised this. Now, you get one registration sticker after passing the inspection and renewing your registration.

What is checked in a Texas state vehicle inspection?


The Texas state vehicle inspection is a basic safety inspection that helps determine if your car is safe enough to be on the road. The inspection only takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Inspectors examine the following areas of your vehicle:
  • Headlights
  • Tail lights
  • Stop lights
  • Turn signals
  • License plate lamp
  • Side and rearview mirrors
  • Seatbelts
  • Airbag system
  • Steering wheel and components
  • Wheel assembly
  • Tires including tire tread depth
  • Braking system including parking brake
  • Windshield wipers
  • Horn
  • Exhaust system
  • Gas cap
  • Serial number
  • Window tint and coating
All of these areas will need to be in proper working order if you want to pass. If one thing fails, then you will need to get it repaired in order to pass inspection.

Texas counties that require emissions testing


Not all Texans will need to get an emissions test as part of their annual safety inspection. Gas-powered vehicles that are between 2 and 24 years old will require an emissions inspection if the vehicle is registered in one of the following Texas counties:
  • Brazoria
  • Collin
  • Dallas
  • Denton
  • Ellis
  • El Paso
  • Fort Bend
  • Galveston
  • Harris
  • Johnson
  • Kaufman
  • Montgomery
  • Parker
  • Rockwell
  • Tarrant
  • Travis
  • Williamson
If you have just purchased your vehicle in the last two years, you are exempt from an emissions system test. You are also exempt from an emissions test if you drive a diesel-powered vehicle or a motorcycle.

Safety inspection fee


There are two parts to the safety inspection fee for Texas motor vehicles. The first portion of the fee is collected at the inspection station. You will pay this fee when you go to get your vehicle inspected.

The second portion of the fee is collected at your county tax office when you renew your registration. The inspections are verified electronically, which means the inspection station cannot charge you more than their portion of the fee.

The inspection fee is determined by the county where you’re registering your vehicle. Fees will also depend on what type of inspection is required. You can find the different fees on the Texas DPS website.

What happens if you fail your car inspection in Texas?


If you fail your vehicle safety inspection, you will not be able to get or renew your registration until you fix the issues and pass the inspection. When you go for the initial inspection, you’ll get a vehicle inspection report that will tell you what issues are holding you back from passing the inspection. You’ll need to get these issues fixed as soon as possible and do a re-test before getting or renewing your registration.

You are eligible for a free re-test if you have the issues repaired and take your vehicle back to the same inspection station within 15 days. If you wait longer than 15 days or go to a different station, then you will have to pay for a re-test.

How to make sure you pass Texas vehicle inspection


Keeping your vehicle well maintained is the best way to ensure that you pass the annual Texas vehicle inspection. That means bringing your vehicle in for regular oil changes and safety checks. When an issue comes up, getting it repaired as soon as possible will help you stay on top of things.

Life sometimes gets in the way of regular vehicle maintenance. If that’s the case for you, you can still pass the inspection by checking each area of your vehicle that will be inspected at the station before you go in.

Here are some tips for checking your car ahead of inspection day:

1. Check your tire tread.


Check your tire tread for wear and tear. To determine if your car tires have good tread, take a penny and stick it in the tread of the inside, middle, and outside of the tire. If you can see Lincoln’s head, your tread will not likely pass inspection.

The inspector will check many different spots on the tire and record the lowest tread. If your vehicle tire tread is too low, you will need to get new tires to pass inspection.

2. Check your interior lights.


The next area to check on your car before taking it for inspection is the interior lights. You’ll want to check the signal indicators, high beam lights, and parking brake lights on your dashboard to ensure everything is in working order.

Turn on your car and check the turn signals. You should see a green light indicator on the dashboard if they are working.

Then, flash your bright lights. If your high beam indicator is working, you should see a blue light on the dashboard.

Next, apply the parking brake. If your parking brake is working properly, a red light will pop up on the dashboard.

If there are any other lights on the dashboard, like your check engine light, airbag light, or anti-lock braking systems light, it's a good idea to get your vehicle checked out as these can be a sign of serious safety concerns and may cause you to fail your inspection. Many auto part stores can use a diagnostic tool to give you information about specific issues and most will do so free of charge.  

3. Check your rear lights.


Now, it’s time to check your exterior lights. Have someone else help you by applying the brakes while the car is on. You should see three lights light up on the back of the car. Then, have your friend turn the headlights on. You should be able to see the rear lights. Tell the person helping you to apply the brake and shift into reverse. Two white lights should turn on if your reverse indicators are working.

Then, have them turn on the turn signals. Both sides should flash on the rear of the car. If any of these rear lights are not working, try replacing the bulbs. Depending on your vehicle, these should be fairly easy to replace yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable changing the bulbs yourself, take your vehicle to a repair shop or dealership. Some local shops will replace them for the cost of the bulb.

4. Check your front lights.


After you’ve checked all the rear lights, you’ll now need to check the front lights. Confirm that your headlights work and that both turn signal lights are visible from the front of the car.

You should also check your high beams and hazard lights as well. When you hit the red triangle button to turn on your hazards, you should see all four turn signals flash at the same time if they’re working properly.

5. Check your engine.


Finally, you’ll want to visually inspect the engine. Open up the engine compartment and check the bay. There should not be any fluids leaking or cracked and frayed belts. If anything looks out of the ordinary, take your vehicle to a mechanic before your inspection.

The annual vehicle inspection is a regular part of being a Texas driver. While it may feel inconvenient to take your vehicle in for an inspection, it’s a great step in ensuring that it is safe to be on the road. When registration renewal time comes around, use this guide to prepare for your next inspection.

Performing a Texas state vehicle inspection 

To make sure you have the car insurance coverage you need to protect yourself as a Texas driver, request a free quote online or reach out to your local Germania Authorized Agent today!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.

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