Fighting For Boston Families For More Than A Decade

Personal Injury 2022
Better Business Bureau Accreditation
Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys
Medical Malpractice 2022
Massachusetts Bar Association
Best Lawyers
American Association for Justice
The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40

Car Inspection Laws in Massachusetts

Key Takeaways About Car Inspection Laws in Massachusetts

  • Following Massachusetts car inspection laws is crucial for avoiding fines and staying safe on the road. The state requires annual inspections for all vehicles. Not following these laws can result in penalties and risks for drivers and pedestrians.
  • In Massachusetts, all vehicles must undergo an annual safety inspection, with some also needing emissions testing. This ensures compliance with strict regulations for road safety and environmental standards.
  • Emissions testing, lasting about three minutes, checks for pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. With over 1,900 testing locations statewide, inspections ensure vehicles meet standards, promoting road safety and environmental protection.
  • In Massachusetts, car inspection includes providing valid registration with VIN, paying $35, and undergoing visual, emissions, and safety checks. Failed safety inspections get a free recheck within 60 days; emissions tests are also free during this time.
  • In Massachusetts, failing a vehicle inspection means it cannot be driven until issues are fixed.

Car inspections in Massachusetts are commonly called inspection “stickers.” This yearly inspection ensures that vehicles are safe to drive on the roadways. Every motor vehicle in the state is required to undergo this annual safety inspection. It is important to understand the requirements of these car inspections before taking your vehicle out on the road.

Many motorists do not know car inspection laws in Massachusetts. It is vital to comply with these safety regulations in order to avoid the possibility of legal penalties. The inspection laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are some of the most stringent in the nation. If you have specific questions regarding the car inspection laws in Massachusetts following a car accident or other mishap, contact the trusted personal injury attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP by filling out our contact form or calling (617) 391-9001. A legal professional will review the facts of your case and determine how Massachusetts’ regulatory statutes apply.

General Safety Regulations to Know

Each year, every vehicle in the state must be inspected for safety. Some vehicles must also be inspected for emissions standards. The specific regulatory requirements will depend on both the model and the age of the vehicle in question.The sticker provides a month by which the vehicle must be inspected again. This ensures that all cars on the road have been checked at least once annually.

Cars that are newly registered in Massachusetts must have an inspection within seven days of the registration date. Failure to have a new vehicle inspected can result in a fine. As of 2010, each citation for failing to have the vehicle inspected will result in a $50 fine. Inspections cost $29 and are available through most garages and fueling stations.

What Are Emissions Requirements in Massachusetts?

Not every vehicle is required to have an emissions test. Typically, this requirement only applies to newer vehicles. The following vehicles must undergo emissions testing in Massachusetts:

  • Cars and light trucks manufactured in 1996 or later
  • Diesel trucks manufactured after 1997 and under 8,500 pounds
  • Vehicles that weigh between 8,501-14,000 pounds that were manufactured after 2007
  • Diesel vehicles that weigh between 8,501-14,000 pounds and were manufactured after 2008

This test checks vehicles for the following types of emissions:

  • Certain pollutants
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen oxide

The Massachusetts emissions inspection only takes around three minutes to complete. There are over 1,900 locations that offer emissions tests across the state of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) can administer ODBII tests on cars and trucks manufactured after the year 2000. This is a type of onboard diagnostic testing. Those vehicles made after the year 2000 are usually equipped with components that allow for a “monitor” test. This checks the vehicle’s components, subsystems, and primary emissions output.

The overseeing inspector will ensure that the key is in the vehicle’s ignition and have the motor turned off. They will also check to see that the vehicle’s data link connector (DLC) is in good working order. The DLC allows the inspector’s emissions testing equipment to communicate with the vehicle. When a system does not meet the required regulatory emissions levels, it will read “Not Ready.”If a certain number of systems return a “Not Ready” reading, the vehicle will not pass the inspection. Some diesel vehicles are not equipped with an OBDII system. In these cases, inspectors will use specialized equipment to measure the opacity of the vehicle’s exhaust. An opacity test will reveal the level of pollutants in the vehicle’s emissions. 

What Happens When You Take Your Car for an Inspection in Massachusetts?

All working vehicles in the state of Massachusetts must pass a safety inspection as well as emissions tests each year. Taking your vehicle for an inspection is important for your safety and the safety of those around you when you operate your vehicle on the roads. Whether you drive your vehicle for personal use or for work, having your inspection done can help ensure you get to your destinations safely. If you have scheduled your vehicle’s inspection at your local garage or gas station, you may be wondering what you should expect to happen throughout the process. 

On the date of your inspection, a state-licensed inspector will perform a brief visual inspection of the vehicle. They will be looking to ensure there are no conditions like a gasoline leak that would present an immediate danger to the inspector or the general public. If any of these conditions are discovered, they must be repaired before the inspection may proceed. After your vehicle has passed the visual inspection portion, the following will happen:

  • You will need to provide a current and active registration document with a valid vehicle identification number, also referred to as the VIN, that matches the one found on the left frontal side of the dashboard.
  • You will be prompted to pay the $35 inspection fee.

Once you have completed these steps, your vehicle will undergo the next steps of the inspections process. 

What Happens After the Visual Inspection of a Vehicle in Massachusetts?

If your vehicle does not have any conditions that could pose an immediate threat, or after you have had these conditions fixed, it is time for the inspection to continue. After the visual inspection is complete, the state-licenses inspector will carry out the following steps:

  • Emissions Tests: Only certain vehicles must pass emissions tests in Massachusetts. If your car is a newer model, then you likely will need to undergo the emissions tests. These tests will generally take up to three minutes to complete. 
  • Safety Inspection: Under Massachusetts law, all vehicles must undergo, and pass, a safety inspection. 

If you fail the inspection for safety reasons, you will then be instructed that you may not drive the vehicle until the safety issues are rectified. Once you have repaired the safety issues that caused you to fail the first inspection, you will have 60 days to receive a subsequent inspection free of charge. If your failure was due to the emissions testing, you will be given a brochure that explains next steps by the inspector the day of the test. As with safety failures, if you failed due to emissions-based issues, you will have 60 days to complete another inspection free of charge. 

Understanding the process of vehicle inspection in Massachusetts can be overwhelming. If you are unsure of what to expect, have a question about the inspection process, or are unsure of what your next steps should be following an inspection failure, the trusted lawyers at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP may be able to help. 

What Is Checked During a Massachusetts Inspection of Motorcycles and Commercial Vehicles? 

All vehicles must receive an annual inspection in the state of Massachusetts. This law applies to motorcycles and commercial vehicles, as well. If you are the driver of a motorcycle or commercial vehicle, you may be wondering what to expect during the inspection process. It is important that you know what will be checked during the inspection of your motorcycle or commercial vehicle. 

What Is Checked During a Commercial Vehicle Inspection?

All commercial vehicles, including trailers and converter dollies, are subject to undergo the Massachusetts Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspection. The Massachusetts Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspection is approved by the The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as being equivalent to the annual FMCSA or US Department of Transportation’s DOT inspection. If your commercial vehicle passes the state inspection, you do not have to receive an additional FMCSA or DOT inspection for the year. The commercial vehicles that are subject to this requirement include:

  • Massachusetts-registered single, full, or semi-trailers used for commerce that have a gross vehicle weight rating of over 3,000 pounds
  • Commercial motor vehicle/trailer combinations that have gross combined vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds
  • All heavy duty motor vehicles and converter dollies
  • Any trailers and dollies in use past the date of January 1, 2009
  • A vehicle with five or more wheels on the ground

During the inspection, the following will be checked throughout the different phases:

  • Examination of driver’s license
  • Medical Examiner’s Certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate if applicable
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Driver’s record of duty status
  • Hours of service
  • Seat belt
  • Vehicle inspection report if applicable
  • Brake systems
  • Cargo securement
  • Coupling devices
  • Driveline/driveshaft
  • Exhaust systems
  • Frames
  • Fuel systems
  • Lighting devices such as headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps, or flags
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Suspensions
  • Tires 
  • Wheels
  • Rims and hubs 
  • Windshield wipers

While this is an extensive list, it may function in place of the FMCSA or DOT inspections for the year.

What Is Checked During a Motorcycle Inspection?

A motorcycle is considered to be any motorized vehicle with a saddle or seat for the rider that is designed to travel with no more than three wheels on the road. For inspection purposes, a bicycle that has a motor attached to it would be considered a motorcycle. Motorcycles must receive annual safety inspections from specially licensed motorcycle inspection stations in Massachusetts. During the inspection process, the following will be checked:

  • Brake pedal height and reserve
  • Wheel and master cylinder for leakage
  • Master cylinder fluid level
  • Brake hoses and rods or cables
  • Headlight(s)
  • Beam indicator 
  • Tail light(s) and reflectors
  • Stop light and turn signals 
  • Horn
  • Frame, fork, steering head bearing
  • Handlebars 
  • Front and rear wheel tracking
  • Wheel bearings and grease retainers
  • Front and rear shock absorbers
  • Tires, wheels, and rims
  • Exhaust system and muffler
  • Windshield 
  • Fuel tank, filler cap, and fuel line
  • Connections

If you are scheduled for an upcoming motorcycle or commercial vehicle inspection in Massachusetts, you may have questions as to what to expect when you arrive. After the inspection is complete, if you do not pass and are unsure of what to do next, our skilled lawyers can help. Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience regarding the Massachusetts inspection process for all vehicles.

What Do Safety Inspections in Massachusetts Entail?

Every vehicle in the state must undergo a road safety inspection annually. The elements that are checked include:

  • License plates
  • Brake systems
  • Exhaust systems
  • Steering
  • All lights and reflectors
  • Bumpers and fenders
  • Side and rear mirrors

Additionally, every window on the vehicle must be intact and in the appropriate place. Tires and wheels will also be inspected. Vehicles that are driving on spare tires, also called donuts, will not pass the inspection. If your car or truck is equipped with airbags, they must be installed and in good working order. Vehicles that do not have airbags are exempt from this part of the inspection.

Window tinting is also an important element of the Massachusetts vehicular safety checks. Tinting is only allowed up to 35%. If your vehicle has a window tint of more than 35% on the sides or back, it will not pass the inspection. Windshields cannot have cracks or fractures measuring longer than one inch in the area covered by the wipers. Also, windows cannot have cracks or fractures longer than two inches in any location. Circular window cracks are not permitted to be larger than one inch in diameter. Vehicles with more than one crack in the windshield will not pass the safety inspection.

What Happens if You Fail Your Inspection?

When a vehicle fails the state’s safety inspection, the driver is not permitted to take the vehicle on the road. This will remain the case until the problems with the vehicle have been addressed. Drivers are only required to pay the $29 dollar price for the initial safety inspection. Following a failed safety inspection, subsequent checks are free within the first sixty days.

Failing an emissions test is a separate matter. If your vehicle fails a required emissions inspection, the inspector will provide you with an informative brochure. This document will detail the steps you should take to resolve the problem to pass subsequent tests. When you’ve failed an inspection once, further emissions tests will also be free for the sixty-day period following the initial test.

Contact a Knowledgeable Massachusetts Legal Representative

If you have been involved in a highway accident or other type of collision, it is vital to reach out to a skilled legal professional. The accomplished team at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, has a thorough understanding of the car inspection laws in Massachusetts. When you have been injured or sustained property damage as the result of another person’s negligence, you may be owed compensation. The attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP, understand the difficulties that accident victims face and can handle any type of personal injury case.

Our trusted legal team is led by our experienced co-managing partners, J. Tucker Merrigan and Peter M. Merrigan. J. Tucker Merrigan has been a co-managing partner of the firm for over a decade. He has been recognized for his work in the Massachusetts legal system with awards that include: Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2020-2021 Top Attorney Award. Our other co-managing partner, Peter M. Merrigan, has been recognized for his work helping the communities of Boston: 2018 Top 40 Under 40, National Trial Lawyers; 2021 Massachusetts “Super Lawyer.”

Give us a call today at (617) 391-9001 or fill out our contact form to discuss the facts of your case through a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Whether you were injured by a car that wasn’t road-safe or you simply want to know more about the laws that apply in your state, we may be able to help.

Frequently Asked Questions About Inspection Laws in Boston, MA

How long can I drive with an expired inspection sticker in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, driving with an expired inspection sticker is illegal. You can be subject to fines or penalties if caught driving with an expired sticker, and law enforcement may ticket or even tow your vehicle. It’s essential to renew your inspection sticker promptly to ensure compliance with state regulations and avoid potential legal consequences.

Can I pass the inspection with the check engine light on?

In Massachusetts, vehicles typically fail inspection if the check engine light is illuminated. The check engine light indicates that there may be issues with the vehicle’s emissions system, which could result in it not meeting state inspection requirements. It’s crucial to address any issues indicated by the check engine light before attempting to pass inspection to ensure compliance with Massachusetts regulations.

How old does a car have to be to not need inspection in MA?

According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, all vehicles that are registered in MA need to be inspected. If you are driving a motor vehicle without a valid inspection sticker, you will receive a traffic violation which can result in a fine and affect your insurance rate.

Can I get a ticket for an expired inspection sticker on a parked car?

Yes, in Massachusetts, you can receive a ticket for having an expired inspection sticker even if your car is parked. Law enforcement officers can issue tickets to vehicles with expired inspection stickers regardless of whether they are parked or in motion. It’s crucial to ensure your vehicle’s inspection sticker is up to date to avoid fines and potential legal consequences.

What happens if I get pulled over with an expired inspection in Massachusetts?

If you get pulled over with an expired inspection sticker in Massachusetts, you may receive a citation or ticket from law enforcement. Depending on the circumstances and the discretion of the officer, you may also be subject to additional penalties such as fines or having your vehicle towed. It’s essential to renew your inspection sticker promptly to comply with state regulations and avoid potential legal consequences.

Award-Winning Legal Team

Attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP have been recognized and honored by several of the top legal associations, including SuperLawyers, National Trial Lawyers Association, and Best Lawyers.

Over $500 Million Recovered

Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP is a highly successful personal injury law firm serving Massachusetts since 2011.

No Fee Until You Win

There are no fees or costs unless we win your case!

Meet the Personal Injury Attorneys at Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP