Car roadworthyness legal requirement in US

New Jersey has mandatory inspections for lights, including alignment, tires, steering, brakes, horn, exhaust noise or smoke, emissions, liability insurance, and probably more I am forgetting. If you cancel your insurance, the insurance company is required to notify the state dept. of motor vehicles. In addition, if you are observed to be driving a car with a light out, or emitting noticable smoke or excessive noise, or anything else that is deemed unsafe, you can be ticketed. If it’s really bad, your car can be impounded, IIRC. Having a taillight out is an excuse sometimes used to stop a car and do a quick visual check for drugs, intoxication, driving while black, or anything else they feel like laying on you.

In Memphis, TN they have an inspection process to check lights, wipers, turn signals and emissions. But that is just for MEMPHIS - as far as I know, there is NO state requirement for anything to get tags/registration. You are required to carry proof of insurance in the car BUT you do not have to show proof of insurance to get tags/registration.

In Pennsylvania the test is pretty rigorous & they’re serious about it, you can’t get your plates until everything’s AOK. Including rust spots. But OTOH, you almost never see a broken down abandoned car by the side of the road (good thing, given those mountains). Whereas in Illinois…

I don’t know why they bother, really. It was only ten dollars, so it’s not like they’re making much off of each car.

I have no problem with the idea of inspections, especially after some of the cars I saw around Augusta, but in a weird way I’d be a lot happier if it was a REAL inspection. My car ought to pass anything just fine, it’s in good shape. I resent being asked to pay ten bucks for, essentially, nothing.

Same here, whiterabbit, and the inspection station used to not even be air conditioned, it was just a cinderblock…well, shed. So you’d have to pull up and turn your car off, then sit and cook in the Louisiana heat until they could get around to it. And you know Louisiana officials when it comes to speed.

And, seriously, make an effort inspector guys. I know driving is in the Bill of Rights, but still…

The real problem occurs when there is an accident with an assessment of liability. If someone’s car is not road worthy, and they cause an accident, then the driver could be sued for negligence.

Also found an older article that shows that since 1996, “On Board Diagnostics (OBD) is mandatory for all new cars in the USA.” The article was arguing against this for the EU:

BTW, that’s only in metro areas (Dallas, Austin, etc.). Out here in the middle of nowhere (which happens to be one of the most polluted counties in the US…), it’s just the lights/horn/brakes bit.

I’d forgotten that. And it seems I remember now some bit about Houstonians wanting to register their cars in adjacent counties.

Just seconding GaryM here in that both of our cars failed this year’s safety inspection due to inadequate wiper blades. They check everything here, which is something that I had never heard of, coming from MN and then CA. Lights, tires, signals, brake linings, wipers, horn, belts, windows, etc… then you have to go through emissions.

As per my location, I’m from PA and currently live in Wisconsin.

Back in Pennsylvania, there was pretty much a full inspection of the vehicle, like Turbo Dog says above.

In Wisconsin, the only requirements are that the car rolls into inspection on its own and that it passes an emissions test. My mother has an '84 Cavalier that she paid 25 bucks for, its got more rust than paint, and we avoid driving it except when we have to because the brakes suck and it truly is an unsafe car. It does, however, get where its going and pass an emissions test, so its perfectly safe here.

I personally find that to be very negligent of the WDMV, myself.

I happen to live in Pennsylvania. The yearly inspections are a good idea (IMHO) but they are rather nitpicky, at least around here. When I lived in West Virginia the yearly inspections there were much more oriented towards what was safe for the vehicle. PA, in contrast, will fail a car for something as simple as having its dome light out, and the dome light is hardly necessary for safe operation of the vehicle.

In Maryland they only have an inspection when the car is sold. They do have emissions inspections which I think are every 2 years.

The only state requirement for vehicle inspections in TN if you bring the car here from another state and register it here, or if it’s a kit car. Any other inspections are strictly local.