OLR Research Report

October 1, 2003 98-R-0012


FROM: James Fazzalaro

RE: Safety Inspections

You asked how the states surrounding Connecticut handle motor vehicle safety inspections, in particular whether the inspections are performed at motor vehicle repair shops rather than at state-run facilities or through vendors. You also wanted to know the requirements for inspections in Connecticut.


Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island are among the nineteen jurisdictions in the United States that require all motor vehicles registered in the jurisdiction to undergo at least an annual safety inspection. Inspections in these three states are performed at authorized inspection facilities, most of which are motor vehicle repair shops, rather than at state facilities or through an inspection vendor.

Connecticut does not require periodic safety inspections for all vehicles. It requires certain types of vehicles, such as totaled vehicles rebuilt for highway use, used vehicles brought in from other states and not previously registered in Connecticut, and older vehicles changing ownership, to get safety inspections before they can be registered. Safety inspections can be performed either at certain Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) branches or at some of the emissions inspection contractor's facilities.


The majority of states do not require annual safety inspections for all motor vehicles. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia do require them. The jurisdictions requiring annual motor vehicle safety inspections are Arkansas, D.C., Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Delaware also requires safety inspections, but ties them to the registration cycle which in some cases is more than one year.

Surrounding States

Massachusetts. Massachusetts requires all registered motor vehicles and motorcycles to have annual safety and emissions inspections. Both inspections are conducted at licensed inspection stations which are state-approved service garages that display an official inspection station sign. Whenever someone purchases a motor vehicle or motorcycle, it must be inspected within seven days of registration, even if it already has a valid inspection sticker from the pervious owner. If the vehicle fails the safety inspection, the problem or problems that caused the failure must be fixed before the vehicle can be driven again. (Emissions failures must be fixed within 20 days and the vehicle resubmitted for inspection.)

The fee for emissions and safety inspection is $15 payable to the garage owner. A vehicle owner can get the locations of local inspection facilities, among other ways, by either calling a hotline maintained by the Registry of Motor Vehicles or from the agency's Internet web site. For example, the web site provides the name, addresses, and telephone numbers of 30 inspection locations in the city of Springfield.

New York. Every New York-registered vehicle must pass a safety inspection at least once each year and every time there is a change of New York State ownership or registration. Inspections are performed at state-authorized inspection facilities, usually garages or service shops. An inspection station must inspect any vehicle presented to it as long as it is licensed for that type of vehicle, or provide a written appointment within eight working days of the inspection request. Stations can require a deposit when appointments are made, but these cannot exceed the inspection fee. Safety inspections cost $10, but emissions inspections are required in some areas of the state and in these cases the fee is larger to accommodate the emissions inspection. Inspection stations are identified by official state inspection facility signs.

Items inspected include seat belts; brakes (including pulling of at least one wheel); steering, front end, suspension, chassis, frame, and wheel fasteners; tires (for tread depth and condition); emission control devices (checked even if emissions inspections are not required for the vehicle); all lights; windshield and other glass; windshield wipers and blades; horn; and mirrors. Penalties for not displaying a valid inspection sticker are $50-100 for a first offense and up to $200, 15 days in jail, or both for subsequent offenses.

Rhode Island. Rhode Island law requires the state's Director of Administration to require safety inspections for all vehicles at least once, but not more than twice per year. This includes vehicles on dealers' premises. Vehicles purchased outside the state by a state resident must get a certificate of inspection within five days of registration.

The director of administration must establish a staggered inspection cycle. Inspections are conducted at any facilities that get a state permit to conduct inspections. Inspection station permits must be renewed annually The inspection fee for private passenger vehicles and small commercial vehicles (8,000 pounds maximum) is $12 plus an additional $3 fee. The fee is $15 for larger commercial vehicles, $11 for motorcycles and electric-powered vehicles, and $13 for passenger vehicles used for-hire.

Rhode Island law also allows the director to establish a state inspection facility at which any vehicle can be reinspected for free.


Connecticut law does not require periodic safety inspections of all vehicles registered in the state. Instead three different laws establish inspection requirements for certain types of vehicles under certain conditions. Safety inspections prior to registration are required for: (1) vehicles that are at least 10 years old and changing ownership; (2) vehicles brought into Connecticut from other states that have never been registered here previously; (3) vehicles that have been declared a total loss by an insurance company and subsequently are rebuilt for highway use; (4) antique, rare, or special interest vehicles; (5) modified antique vehicles; (6) fire apparatus of special or historical interest; and (7) composite vehicles assembled from the parts of other vehicles whose appearance no longer resembles a particular make (CGS 14-12(g), -16a, -103a). New vehicles brought in from out-of-state or vehicles with valid inspection decals from states with DMV-approved inspection programs are exempt from the inspection requirement. Anyone can voluntarily put his vehicle through the state safety inspection.

State law also authorizes a police officer or DMV inspector to stop and examine any motor vehicle, its number, equipment, and identification. If he determines the vehicle's equipment violates any state law, the officer or inspector can issue a defective equipment warning to the driver. The vehicle's owner has 10 days to have the vehicle repaired and submit it for an inspection of the cited equipment. Failing to respond to the warning within established time limits can result in a civil penalty of $50 and a possible registration suspension (CGS 14-103).

Safety inspections can be performed at either a DMV office equipped for inspections or at designated emissions inspection stations run by the state's emissions inspection contractor. Inspections for out-of-state vehicles and vehicles that are 10 or more years old and changing ownership are performed at the DMV facilities in Danbury, Enfield, Hamden, Northwest (Winsted), Old Saybrook, Waterbury, Wethersfield, and Willimantic and at the emissions inspection stations in Bridgeport, Danbury, Darien, East Lyme, Manchester, North Haven, North Windham, Southington, Taftville, Thomaston, and Waterbury. Rebuilt totaled vehicles and composite vehicles can only be inspected at DMV facilities due to the more extensive inspection required for them. Rebuilt totaled vehicles can be inspected at the DMV offices in Danbury, Enfield, Hamden, Old Saybrook, Northwest, Wethersfield, and Willimantic. Composite vehicle inspections are done only by appointment at the Wethersfield office.

Inspection fees are $25 for out-of-state and 10-year old vehicles and $88 for salvage or composite vehicles.