2015 — the transition year to move toward having one window sticker for both auto registration and inspection — is almost 3/4s over. But the questions we’re getting in our defensive driving classes show there’s still some confusion over how this works.

If you’re one of the people who still have questions, this is for you.


Starting in March of this year, Texas cars have no longer had to have one window sticker to prove it is registered and one to prove it passed inspection. Instead, this year we’re moving toward having one window sticker for both things.

By March 1, 2016 every car in the state should be sporting just one window sticker.

But this has not been totally without confusion – The chair of the House Transportation Committee, Joe Picket of El Paso, even said he believed “it’s going to be chaos for a little while.” – so it’s worth going over again, if you still have questions.


Here’s how it works

  1. Driver gets car inspected. Afterward, instead of a window sticker, the driver will get a written report of the inspection, showing what was checked and how the car performed on each item.
  2. The cost of inspection should now be $25.50 instead of the customary $39.75. Don’t get too excited about this, though: the state will hit you up for the $14.25 difference when you renew your registration.
  3. This inspection data also goes into an online database.
  4. When the car’s registration has to be renewed, the database will be checked to confirm that the car passed inspection. You’ll pay the $14.25 plus the usual costs of registering the vehicle.
  5. The DMV people will give you one window sticker to confirm both that your car is registered and that it passed inspection.

The state hopes that this will improve compliance with the inspection laws and get more unsafe cars off of Texas roads.

For drivers whose budgets are especially tight, the idea of paying for the inspection and the registration out of the same paycheck may be annoying, but that’s not necessarily the case. You have to the get car inspected within 90 days of the registration. If your auto registration expires at the end of December, for example, you can get the inspection in October or November, to spread out the expense.


The Inevitable Questions

Somebody in the government was so sure that this would go so smoothly that they compared it to dancing, calling it “The Texas Two-step.” And after March 2016, it should be smooth. But for this transition year people have questions, mostly arising from two stickers that don’t expire at the same time.

Here’s what you really need to know:


If your auto registration expires
BEFORE your inspection

  • Get the vehicle registered before the date on your current window sticker. Next year, this will be the deadline for both your auto registration AND your inspection.
  • After that, your inspection sticker is meaningless, and you can throw it away.
  • There have been reports of people going to renew their registration when their current inspection still had months to go AND being told by DMV personnel that they had to get a new inspection sticker first.

    According to the state, “if your inspection sticker is current, you can register your vehicle even if that means that someone from the DMV has to go outside…to physically look at your sticker. Your best bet is to talk to a supervisor.” – Officer Marcus Trujillo, speaking on San Antonio’s KSAT News.


If your inspection expires
BEFORE your auto registration

  • Get the vehicle inspected by the end of the month indicated. Instead of a sticker, you’ll get a printed report. Put that in a safe place for now. (I have a copy filed with my auto repair records and a copy in the glove compartment with my proof of insurance, but then I’m very German about paperwork.)
  • Later this year, when you get the car registered, both the inspection and the auto registration will expire one year after the date of that registration.

Yes, this may mean that you go more than twelve months between inspections, but the state is okay with that FOR THIS YEAR ONLY.

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