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Mechanics, drivers brace for possibility of annual car inspections ending with new Texas bill

Owner of Auto Lube in Vidor, Brandon Bearden says they do about 30 to 40 inspections a day. Annual check-ups are a huge part of his business.


Most Texas drivers will no longer be required to have their cars pass an annual safety exam after state lawmakers removed the rule from Texas code.

Texas is one of 13 states that mandate annual inspections for cars. That will change in about 18 months now that the Texas Legislature has given final approval to House Bill 3297.

Drivers will still be paying the annual $7.50 when they register their vehicles. The money will go toward the Texas mobility fund, general revenue fund and the clean air account.

For drivers with new cars — either the current model or preceding model year that has not been previously registered in Texas or another state — there will instead be an initial fee of $16.75 to cover two years.

Supporters say inspections are inconvenient for drivers, but others argue its inspections that help keep roads safe.

Owner of Auto Lube in Vidor Brandon Bearden, says they do about 30 to 40 inspections a day.

Annual check-ups are a huge part of his business.

"It'll hurt pretty good, because a lot of times they come in and get an inspection and look at their sticker on the windshield and say oh well I need an oil change. So, a lot of those people are going to push the oil change back, or just not come in," he said.   

Vidor resident Landon Barney thinks not requiring inspections is scary. 

"Cars need to be able to function properly to work, and if they are not functioning properly, there will be more accidents on the road," he said. 

Lawmakers behind the bill call state vehicle inspections a waste of time and an unnecessary burden.    

Representative Cody Harris of Palestine, who authored the bill, has faith in Texans to keep their cars and trucks safe on the road without a check-up.

Bearden says most cars pass. 

About one out of every seven has something wrong.

"It's not going to be as safe. Tires, that's probably one of the more important ones and one of the ones we see the most that are not as good. People don't know the inside of their tires are slick because they cant see them," Bearden said. 

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What did the Legislature change?

The Legislature repealed provisions in state law that mandate annual vehicle inspections. However, the $7.50 fee remains intact under a new name: the inspection program replacement fee.

The 17 Texas counties that require emissions inspections will still mandate annual tests regardless of the bill becoming law. These are Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson counties.

Who is affected? 

All Texas drivers outside of the exempted counties stand to be affected by the legislation. According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, there are 22 million registered cars in the state. Annual inspections are used to determine if certain features of a car, such as the tires, seat belts or brakes, are safe to drive with.

A study mandated by the Texas Legislature in 2017 shows that cars with defects, such as bald tires or bad brakes, were three years older than the average registered vehicle, which is nine years old.

Almost a quarter of the people surveyed in the study were asked by a mechanic to fix slick or defective tires during an inspection, potentially preventing more accidents. Another report found that defective cars in Texas were more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash that resulted in a fatality.

Texas highways are notoriously dangerous. At least one person dies on a Texas highway each day. According to the most recent state data, 4,489 people were killed in auto crashes in Texas during 2021, or about 1.56 deaths per 100,000 miles traveled by drivers. That’s up from 1.36 deaths per 100,000 in 2017.

Who influenced the bill’s outcome? 

Republican Rep. Cody Harris of Palestine and Sens. Mayes Middleton of Galveston and Bob Hall of Edgewood sponsored the bill to do away with annual vehicle inspections.

Other groups and businesses — such as former Texas Sen. Don Huffines’ Liberty Foundation, Continental Automotive Group, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Conservative Coalition and Tesla — were all witnesses in favor of the bill. Huffines, whose family owns a car dealership empire in North Texas, has been a vocal supporter of the bill.

Representatives with the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, the Dallas Police Association, the Houston Police Officers’ Union, the Texas State Inspection Association, Toyota Motor North America and more spoke against the bill.

What alternatives were considered? 

No alternatives were considered for the bill, but there was some pushback from other lawmakers. Sen. Nathan Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, spoke against the bill on the Senate floor before it passed.

“It’s really not going to take any time, and if they want to sell me a windshield wiper while I’m there, I’m OK,” Johnson said. “I would at least vote this bill down until one of you brings out a study that says they’re not effective. The evidence I’ve seen says they are.”

Johnson urged fellow members to vote the bill down, saying people’s lives are at stake.

The bill passed on a 109-32 vote in the House chamber and a 20-11 vote in the Senate.

What’s next? 

The bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk Monday after lawmakers approved a compromise version of the bill on Sunday. Pending the governor’s approval, the legislation goes into effect Jan. 1, 2025.

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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information. 

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