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Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections and Title Transfer Requirements

November 23, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Tomy Granzier-Nakajima

Executive Summary

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that states implement a safety inspection program to prevent motor vehicles with defects from being on the road. According to Fatality Analysis Reporting System data, in 2019 about 2.1% of fatal crashes in the U.S. happened as a result of an identifiable pre-existing motor vehicle defect. When a vehicle is sold in Missouri, the vehicle must undergo a safety inspection. In addition, dealerships are required to transfer the certificate of title to the purchaser of a motor vehicle within thirty days, or else the sale is voidable by the purchaser. A purchaser is unable to register their motor vehicle in Missouri without a title or manufacturer’s statement of origin. 


  • As of 2015, 16 states required regular safety inspections. 
  • Safety inspections may reduce the number of motor vehicle safety complaints received by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 
  • Missouri requires a safety inspection certificate less than 60 days old when selling a motor vehicle. Most other states do not have a similar requirement.
  • Neighboring states to Missouri either have similar certificate of title transfer requirements during the sale of a motor vehicle, or are more strict, requiring the title to be transferred at the same time that the vehicle is delivered.


  • The research is inconclusive regarding whether or not safety inspections reduce motor vehicle accident rates or their intensity. 
  • Safety inspection program officers in different states have stated that difficulties in the oversight of inspection stations and unclear guidance on new safety technologies present challenges when operating these programs. These may affect the effectiveness of safety inspection programs.
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