New HampshireDepartment of JusticeOffice of the Attorney General

Consumer Protection BureauConsumer Sourcebook – Auto Inspections

New Hampshire requires motor vehicles to be inspected on an annual basis so that they are kept in safe operating condition.

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New Hampshire requires motor vehicles to be inspected on an annual basis so that they are kept in safe operating condition. At times, service stations and auto repair shops have been found to engage in activities that place the consumer at a disadvantage. Some repair shops use safety inspections to sell unneeded repairs and some dealers sell "unsafe" vehicles thereby triggering the laws governing the sale of unsafe cars. (For more information on auto repairs, refer to Auto Repairs, and for information on unsafe motor vehicles refer to Autos: Used)

The Law

Chapter Saf-C 3200 of the New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules contains the rules that apply to car and motorcycle inspections. The rules govern a variety of practices at inspection stations including the hours that they must be open, the signs and certificates that must be displayed, and the procedures that are used to reject a vehicle.

The New Hampshire Department of Safety requires inspection stations to inspect the following equipment on motor vehicles:

  • Wheels and tires
  • Brakes
  • Instruments (odometer, speedometer, reverse gear)
  • Electrical system (horn, neutral starter safety switch Lights and headlamp aim)
  • Glass and mirrors
  • Exhaust system
  • Fuel system
  • Body and chassis

Note: The inspection is geared to the safety of the vehicle, not to its operation, so items like the engine, clutch, and transmission are not included in the inspection.

Example: John Karoner takes his car to Jane's Filling Station for its annual safety inspection. Jane tells John that he needs to replace a front headlamp. He pays for the repair and Jane applies the inspection sticker to the front windshield of John's car. As John is driving home, his transmission fails and must be replaced. Jane has properly performed the safety inspection because the inspection does not include a prediction and diagnosis of a transmission's useful life.

If your vehicle fails the safety inspection, get a written list of what needs to be repaired or replaced in order to pass inspection. You will also want to have the inspection station provide you with an invoice estimating the cost of parts and labor for the needed repairs (for more information on repair shops, refer to Auto Repairs). Have the mechanic show you the problems which caused your vehicle to fail the inspection.

The necessary repairs do not have to be done at the inspection station. In fact, having your vehicle fixed at another repair shop may be advantageous because the defects diagnosed at the inspection station will be verified by a second mechanic. After the repairs are made, return the vehicle to the shop where the inspection was done to get the inspection sticker for your vehicle.

Points To Remember

  • The purpose of vehicle inspection is to ensure that your vehicle is in safe operating condition.
  • If your vehicle fails inspection, get a list of what needs to be repaired or replaced and an estimate of the cost of repairs.
  • You are under no obligation to have the repairs done at the service shop that inspected your vehicle.

Where To Go If You Have A Problem

Complaints regarding practices of inspection stations may be referred to the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

NH Motor Vehicle Division
Department of Safety
23 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03305

Complaints about a used car that involves possible mechanical defects may indicate a violation of the laws regulating sales of "unsafe" motor vehicles. Refer to the section on Autos: Used for further information.

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New Hampshire Department of Justice
33 Capitol Street | Concord, NH | 03301
Telephone: 603-271-3658