Getting Your Vehicle’s North Carolina Safety Inspection
In the state of North Carolina, vehicles go through an annual safety inspection to make sure they’re fit to stay on the road. While you can skip this inspection when you first register a car bought from a dealership, you have to undergo one every year after that when the time comes to renew your registration.
What Does a Safety Inspection Cover?
A safety inspection looks at all the most basic safety features on your road vehicle to make sure they’re operating well and not a significant danger. This includes headlights, brake lights, accessory lights, turn signals, brakes, steering, and the windshield wipers. The inspection doesn’t check whether your car has an open recall, but scheduling your inspection is a good excuse to check.
Also, you have to pay the inspection fee whether you pass or fail, so it’s a good idea to do a quick inspection of your own and get the repairs out of the way before the official state inspection.
What About the Emissions Test?
If you live in one of 48 North Carolina counties, your vehicle has to go through an emissions test along with a safety inspection. This bumps up the cost from $13.60 to $30. Performing this inspection is also fairly quick and painless because it uses onboard computer equipment to test the emissions levels, equipment that’s been on every car sold in America since 1996. Cars older than this are exempt from this inspection.
What Else Is Exempt?
State law allows for several exemptions to both the safety and the emissions inspections. For the safety inspection, any car 35 years or older can skip the process. For the emissions test, the following vehicles can skip it:
- Cars from the 1995 model year or older
- Diesel vehicles
- Farmer rate vehicles
You can also get an exemption for cars recently bought or brought in from another state. When you first bring a vehicle into North Carolina, you can wait until you re-register to do your first inspection. If you buy a car from a private seller who has a receipt from its last inspection, you don’t need to do a new one until 12 months after that.
What if the Vehicle Fails?
You can’t re-register your vehicle until it passes its inspections, so if it fails you’ll have to pay the fee, go do the repairs, and then schedule another inspection. On the bright side, if your vehicle fails an emissions test twice, you can get a waiver if you spent over $200 on repairs trying to fix it.
Fortunately, one nice thing about the annual safety inspection is that many local dealerships are certified to handle it. This means you won’t have to wait at DMV speeds to get your inspection over and done with, plus a dealership has the parts and the facilities to fix your vehicle if needed. The NCDOT has a list of all certified inspection locations in the state, so it’s easy to find a shop or garage near you.
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