Safety and Emissions Inspection Requirements

Safety Inspections

Most states require dealers to sell vehicles that are safe to be driven on the road. You may be required to provide your customer your state’s Vehicle Safety Inspection Certificate at the time of the sale to assure the vehicle is road worthy. This certificate of inspection will be normally be required before your customer can license the vehicle.

Procedures vary from state to state but you are usually allowed to provide a safety inspection certificate that is no more than 30 days old at the time of the sale. When selling a vehicle to out of state residents many states require you to provide a safety inspection from your state while the customer must have the vehicle inspected in their home state as well. Some states even allow the dealer to give the customer the fee to have the vehicle inspected, such as twelve dollars and fifty cents, so the customer can pay for the inspection immediately following the sale.

Be sure to check with your states dealer license bureau to find out your exact procedure for safety inspections as the requirements vary greatly from state to state.

When I have a vehicle that has been cleaned up with all mechanical malfunctions corrected, I take the vehicle to an automotive repair shop located about a mile from my dealership. They do a state inspection to make sure the vehicle is safe and sellable. At the time of the sale I am able to provide this required inspection certificate that most local license bureaus require before your customer can obtain their vehicle license plates.

Most states allow several exemptions to providing a safety inspection at the time of the sale. Dealer to dealer sales are usually exempt from the inspection requirement but be sure to check with your dealer license bureau. You can normally sell vehicles at your local wholesale motor vehicle auction without providing certificates of inspections. However, the dealer that purchases the vehicles at the auction will normally be required to provide safety inspections for the vehicles before they can be sold to customers. You will usually be exempt from the safety inspection requirement if you are selling a vehicle for junk or salvage. Some states have special “Junking Certificate” that you will be required to complete when you are selling a vehicle for junk or salvage. Be sure to never allow a customer that has purchased a vehicle for
junk or salvage to drive the vehicle off the lot. It will need to be towed or placed on a flat bed for transport. If a law enforcement agent observes you selling a vehicle for junk then allowing the customer to drive it off the lot, you may be subject to a suspension of your dealer license. Most historic vehicles that are at least twenty-five years of age are also exempt from the inspection requirement.

You must check with your state dealer license bureau to find out your exact safety inspection requirements.

Emissions Inspections

Emissions inspections are required by several states and most large metropolitan areas. Any vehicle that is 1996 or newer has a computer attachment located just behind the fuse box under the left side of the steering wheel. An emissions inspection is conducted when a special electrode is connected to this computer attachment and allows emissions equipment to register the amount of carbon monoxide the vehicle is emitting.

Most vehicles easily pass this test but if you sell a vehicle that does not pass the emissions check, you will be required to pay for the mechanical repairs to bring the vehicle back up to the required emissions standards or buy the vehicle back. In fact, if your state does not require any type vehicle emissions inspections and you sell a vehicle to a person that lives in a state with strict emissions standards, it must pass the purchasers home state emissions testing as well.

You should be very aware of this requirement if you are selling vehicles on eBay, Craigslist, or your dealership website. If a customer from another state purchases a vehicle, ships the vehicle back to their home state and the vehicle does not pass the emissions inspections, it could still be the selling dealers responsibility to pay for the repairs to bring it up to emissions standards or buy back the vehicle. If you live in Virginia and your customer lives in California you could face a very large shipping bill to have the vehicle transported back to your dealership after failing a California emission inspection.

When I sell a vehicle to a person that resides in a state with strict emissions requirements, such as California, Texas, or Florida, I have the customer sign a form that states they will pay for all shipping charges back to my dealership if the vehicle fails the emissions inspection. If the customer chooses to have you buy back the vehicle after failing an emissions test, you won’t be stuck with buying the vehicle back AND paying for the transportation of the vehicle back to your dealership.

Most states have many exemptions from the emissions inspection rules. Historic vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, and most diesel vehicles are exempt from emissions inspections. Trailers are usually exempt from emissions inspections since they do not emit any type of emissions.

Safety and Emissions Requirements

•It is Usually the Dealer’s Responsibility to Provide a Current Safety Inspection at the Time of Sale
•Any Vehicle Sold to an Out of State Resident Must Usually Include these Inspections
•If the Vehicle Fails the Inspection the Dealer Must Usually Pay for the Repairs of Buy the Vehicle Back

Be sure to check with your states dealer license bureau to find out your state’s exact emission inspection requirements.


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Delus Johnson-Lead Instructor
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