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We've got your back: The Annual Vehicle Safety Inspection in Virginia

(The annual panic you feel when you realize it's the last day of the month, and your sticker is expiring!)

The great Commonwealth of Virginia takes vehicle safety very seriously, and we've all got to show proof that we do too. The big sticker plastered on our windshields with the HUGE number (denoting the month when it expires, for you newbies) is a not-so-gentle reminder that the clock is always ticking toward expiration day!

However, with a little planning and forethought, you can eliminate both panic and a day-long wait in line to get your car, motorcycle, rv, trailer, or commercial vehicle inspected. Yes, you read correctly – every vehicle with wheels on the road must pass an annual safety inspection.

Furthermore, it's important to note that when you register a vehicle in Virginia (whether it's new, used, or from out of state), there is no grace period to get it inspected. It's actually recommended to have the inspection performed before registering the vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Otherwise, you'll have to get it inspected immediately upon registration.

Preparation & Knowledge Are Key

Here are the important things to know and do before you pull up to an inspection site.

  1. Don't wait until the last minute. More than 50% of us wait until the last 10 days of the month before getting our cars inspected. That's a LOT of cars! Plan to take your car for inspection at the beginning of your expiration month. Chances are you'll be the only one in line.
  2. You cannot schedule a time for your inspection – anywhere. The law mandates that every inspection be done on a first-come, first-served basis. So don't waste your time calling around to try to schedule an appointment.
  3. Fix all obvious items that need attention or repair before getting your inspection. Surprisingly (or not) 1 in 10 cars fails inspection. Read below for details of what the inspectors check.
  4. The inspection has 24 points and should take around 25 minutes to complete once the vehicle is pulled into the bay.
  5. Your vehicle has to pass every point of the inspection. If it fails any of them, you have 15 days to fix all defects and have the vehicle re-inspected.
  6. The cost of inspections is set by the state. Currently it's $16 for automobiles, trailers, and motorhomes; $12 for motorcycles; and $51 for tractor trucks, trucks with gross weight rating of 26,000 pounds and more, or transport vehicle with seating capacity of more than 15 passengers including the driver.

Craftsman's Super-Secret, Really Valuable Advice  (Well, maybe not actually secret, since we are putting it on the internet after all!)

  • If you're concerned that your vehicle might not pass inspection, bring it to Craftsman first. Older vehicles or ones with a lot of wear and tear could fail. Because most of the items inspected aren't obvious or easily assessed, we're happy to have one of our trained technicians look things over and let you know what we find.
  • Craftsman is an authorized inspection station. On inspection day, try to arrive in the morning. The wait times tend to be shorter then, and while you can't schedule an inspection time, you can call Craftsman ahead to see how long the wait is.

The Nitty Gritty Details

You can find everything you need to know (In detail) on the Virginia State Police vehicle safety inspection webpage, but we've included an outline of the points checked here for your convenience.

  1. Brakes
  2. Parking Brake
  3. Headlights
  4. Other Lights – including fog lights, driving lamps, & rear red brake lights
  5. Turn Signals
  6. Steering and Suspension
  7. Tires, Wheels, and Rims
  8. Mirrors
  9. Horn
  10. Windshield and Other Glass
  11. Windshield Wipers and Defroster
  12. Exhaust System
  13. Rear License Plate Light
  14. Hood and Area Under the Hood – including emission system, all fluids, & all belts
  15. Air Pollution Control System
  16. Driver's Seat
  17. Seat Belts
  18. Airbags and Airbag Readiness Light
  19. Doors
  20. Fuel System
  21. Floor Pan

That's a lot of stuff!

It's All About Safety  (and saving a little cash on escalating repairs)

Requiring an annual inspection is honestly a really good move by Virginia because it does help keep everybody safer on the roads. Without having these things checked by a trained inspector, most of us would never know if we have a problem before it becomes a serious safety issue.

These annual inspections can also help you save money on repair costs. If something in your vehicle fails, you'll have to get it fixed right away, often before it can get worse and cost you even more down the road (or on the road).

On a final note, the police will actually pull you over and give you a ticket for an expired sticker on your windshield. So stay safe, avoid the fine, and always feel free to contact Craftsman with all your auto care questions and concerns.

If You Are Using A Screen Reader And Are Having Problems Using This Website, please call Craftsman Auto Care - Alexandria (703) 719-7606, Craftsman Auto Care - Fairfax (703) 272-3216, Craftsman Auto Care - Chantilly (703) 646-8260 For Assistance.