A Closer Look at the Vehicle Inspection Process

Alissa Machin |

A vehicle inspection, also known as an autoinspection, is an essential procedure in the vehicle assessment process. A variety of companies and organisations can implement vehicle inspection, through periodic safety inspection checks, whose purpose is to undertake a mechanical inspection and ensure adequate vehicle maintenance for compliance with legal and safety regulations.

The autoinspection process encompasses different aspects of Business-to-Consumer (B2C) commerce. In the case of focalx, damage detection for the consumer is the primary purpose of vehicle inspection.

The Case for Vehicle Inspection

According to the Auto Care Association, the average age of vehicles has sustained an increase of 11.8%, which impacts the relevance of regular vehicle inspection. Moreover, with 288.4 million vehicles on the road recorded in the US, and an estimated 1.5 billion vehicles on the road around the world by the end of 2024, vehicle inspection continues to be a priority in the automotive sector.

Ensuring transparency in the B2C services process is paramount, whether customers require autoinspection for pre-owned models in the private cars market, or fleet managers need to implement a mechanical inspection of their vehicles for the end-of-lease process. In any case, a vehicle inspection ensures peace of mind for both dealer and customer before vehicle handover. 

Typically, customers choose to schedule a vehicle inspection at the pre-purchase stage. After the seller approves the autoinspection, a qualified engineer will perform a detailed mechanical inspection of the vehicle, including checking a vehicle’s structural integrity and reviewing a log of its maintenance history. The engineer will also recommend any further work which they may need to perform on the vehicle. The prospective buyer can then make an informed decision about a potential vehicle purchase. 

The Purpose and Importance of a Vehicle Inspection 

A vehicle inspection prevents undetected faults and inaccuracies in the vehicle’s history log from causing future issues and roadworthiness concerns for the future end user. Moreover, sellers may not list details of past vehicle issues.

In the context of the pre-purchase process, choosing a vehicle inspection with a qualified engineer ensures that a future buyer can act on accurate, objective, and quantifiable information from a third-party expert. In this way, potential buyers can obtain information about vehicle condition to negotiate the best price for the vehicle with a car dealer. A vehicle inspection also minimises the risk of purchasing a faulty car from a private seller. 

Methods of Vehicle Inspection 

Methods of vehicle inspection comprise manual vehicle inspection and automated vehicle inspection. Automated vehicle inspection will increasingly become the mainstay of autoinspection in the future, thanks to the contribution of Machine Learning algorithms and companies like focalx, who invest in a future of AI-powered damage detection technology. 

Manual Vehicle Inspection

As the mainstay method of vehicle inspection approaches before recent technological developments in the realm of AI emerged in the landscape, manual vehicle inspection continues as a legacy vehicle assessment method in some companies. The typical process of a manual vehicle inspection is where a qualified inspector visits the vehicle owner and performs a thorough physical vehicle inspection, provides a report of damages from these checks, and makes a recommendation based on this damage assessment. 

Due to the cost of a manual vehicle inspection, whose range Inspektlabs has estimated is between $50- $200 dollars in the US market, many companies are turning towards automated inspection modalities. Moreover, the manual vehicle inspection process is often slow and time-consuming, lasting an average of 3-5 hours. The additional issue of scheduling and coordinating manual inspections also adds to this disadvantage.

Due to these two factors of time and cost inefficiency, companies and customers alike lose value which they could use elsewhere on multiple inspections. As a result, automated vehicle inspection practices are becoming the smartest choice for an increasing number of companies and their clients. 

Automated Vehicle Inspection 

Automated vehicle inspection methods, by way of contrast, solve the problems of time and cost inefficiency for fleet managers and clients, whilst also offering a range of benefits. The primary advantage of automated autoinspection processes is that they empower the customer to capture their vehicle’s health and perform a damage detection check at the touch of an app. The AI-powered vehicle damage assessment technology then generates a detailed report in under 2 minutes, forming a vehicle condition log. 

In the case of a vehicle inspection taking place at a car dealership, the potential buyer at the pre-purchase stage can then make an informed decision on a future purchase, while the dealership can cut labour costs and paperwork inefficiencies by adopting AI damage detection software.  In the case of fleet management systems, fleet managers can enter into a synergy with other companies and stakeholders when passing on vehicles after the off-lease stage, enabling transparency across interfaces. 

Types of Vehicle Inspection 

We will now review the following types of vehicle inspection as categories within the overall end-to-end autoinspection process: 

Pre-purchase Inspection

As we have previously explored in this article, a pre-purchase inspection occurs when a customer requests a vehicle inspection with a qualified engineer to make an informed decision about a used vehicle for sale.

By performing a comprehensive assessment of components which affect vehicle condition, from engine functioning, to transmission and brakes, inspectors can build customer confidence and loyalty whilst guaranteeing roadworthiness for pre-purchase vehicles. A pre-purchase inspection safeguards a vehicle’s future health status, ensures accurate valuation, and saves money and time for the customer in the long term. 

Maintenance Inspection

Maintenance inspection protocols are country and location specific. A typical example of a mandatory maintenance inspection in the UK is a Ministry of Transport (MOT) vehicle maintenance inspection, introduced in 1960 as a nationally recognised guarantee of roadworthiness. An MOT is an annual vehicle inspection, and the first MOT must occur from the third anniversary of a vehicle’s registration. The European equivalent of an MOT is a Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI).

In both cases, car owners must have a valid MOT or PTI permit in order to ensure that they comply with legal and safety regulations. Both types of maintenance inspection include checks of maintenance components, ranging from fluid levels to filters and belts. Mandatory routine inspections are paramount in the prevention of vehicle breakdown and accidents on the road. 

Mechanical Inspection 

Mechanical inspection procedures involve an expert mechanic who performs in-depth checks on the vehicle. The mechanical inspection process involves examining the vehicle’s interior and exterior, wheels and tyres, engine, transmission and drivetrain, suspension, steering and brakes, and electrical components. These mechanical checks are relevant and useful for both private sale vehicles and customer dealership vehicles.

Furthermore, the mechanical inspection process is an essential part of assessing the state of a vehicle before and after a collision. This application has useful implications for legal and claim handling reasons. In the evaluation of a vehicle’s lighting or braking conditions at the time of an accident, a mechanical inspection can generate a report of the electrical malfunction and likely behaviour which resulted at the point of impact. 

Safety Inspection 

Safety inspection processes are an important part of compliance with safety regulations within a state or country. A safety inspection provides a detailed assessment of the brake, tyre, suspension, lights, and other vehicle components.

The difference between a safety inspection and an MOT or PTI is that the latter two are legal requirements which providers perform annually, while a general safety inspection is not necessarily mandatory yet highly advisable. A safety inspection will prevent accidents and ensure peace of mind for drivers and passengers. 

Emissions Inspection

Emissions inspection requirements usually align with the overall specifications of an MOT, with emissions checks featuring as a supporting factor in the verification of a car’s roadworthy status. Indeed, most MOT service providers check a vehicle’s exhaust emissions as part of awarding an MOT. Moreover, a car owner cannot receive an MOT certificate if their exhaust emissions are too high. An emissions inspection may also feature in roadside checks. 


Conducting a vehicle inspection is a mandatory annual requirement for car owners around the world throughout the vehicle lifecycle, usually three years after a new car’s registration date.

Meanwhile, for fleet owners and car dealers who use focalx’s AI-powered technology, autoinspection is essential for ensuring that each stage of the end-to-end vehicle off-lease process guarantees roadworthiness, transparency, and compliance with safety standards. An increasing tendency to rely on the speed and accuracy of Machine Learning-derived vehicle inspection technologies reflects the effectiveness of such tools in the prevention of operational deficiencies and mechanical failures, whilst delivering an unparalleled customer experience at vehicle handover.