What is a Vehicle Damage Inspection?

Ruperi Jadhav |

There isn’t a universal global standard for damage detection in vehicle inspections, but sectors in the automotive industry are gradually adopting inspection standards that remain similar for every process. In sectors like transportation, leasing, or car rentals – which are companies that need to keep a handle on costs derived from damages – it is becoming increasingly important to assess vehicle damage.

Although there is not yet a global standard, both the public and private sectors are working to harmonize the disparate rules and practices worldwide. However, legislation is mostly focused on mandatory periodic technical inspections (PTI or MOT), where damage detection plays a relatively smaller role since the focus here is on safety and environmental compliance.
In this article, the definition, purpose, and method of Vehicle damage detection is explored. Further, a reflection on the impact of new technologies, like AI and machine learning, in consolidating standards in vehicle damage reporting is also presented.

How are the Standards for Vehicle Damage Inspections defined?

Overall, standard procedures and best practices in vehicle inspections, damage detection included, are determined by national and international legal frameworks and industry recommendations.

Most countries have a legal requirement for vehicles to pass a Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI, also known as MOT) regularly; and therefore have created detailed checklists for inspectors to follow when they inspect the car. Damage is considered to be fatal when it jeopardizes the functionality of the component or the safety of the vehicle. In the past decades, international organizations like the UN and the EU have been taking steps towards creating legal frameworks to harmonize the diverse local legislations into a global standard. 

Industry Recommendations

In addition to the legal requirements, some industries have developed further regulations to assess and report the damage in higher detail during automotive inspections. The focus here is on the economic aspect, to assess the derived costs of the damage and trace it to the liable party. In particular, the logistics industry, led by ECG and AIAG —the two biggest organizations in Europe and the US—, has pooled efforts and created thorough guidelines in vehicle transport damage reporting, including a list of standardized damage codes translated into all major languages worldwide.

Read more about legal frameworks and industry standards in our article on Vehicle Inspection Best Practices across countries.

How to Assess the Damage in Vehicle Inspections?

Most Vehicle damage detection is conducted through a visual inspection. And with things like suspension damage caused by hitting a pothole or a curb that can’t be assessed visually, technology serves to be useful. Here, the inspector, assisted by technological aids, looks at all the surfaces and parts and identifies the type of damage, its location, and its severity.


The common damages visible on the car body are scratches, dents, chips, rust spots, or paint damage from weather or chemical exposure. Glass cracks, broken lights, and flat tires are also recurrent characters in any damage report worth its salt. Other usual suspects are tears and stains on the interior of the vehicle, as well as breaks, corrosion, leakage in the engine bay, and other undercarriage damage. These types of damages are accordingly categorized and assessed to determine the condition of the car.


An accurate description of the parts affected by each identified damage is essential for a proper assessment. The insurance company, the workshop, and all the parties involved need to know which and how many parts need work, which will have an impact on the time and cost of the eventual repairs. For example, if there’s a big dent on the driver’s door that also affects the fender, it needs to be noted down for both parts since both will have to be either repaired or replaced, doubling the costs.


Finally, a complete damage report needs to include the severity of the damage. A superficial scratch can be quickly and cheaply repaired with polish, while a deep scratch requires a more expensive fix and the part needs to be repainted. Minor damage can be overlooked depending on the purpose of the inspection (for example, PTIs focus on the internal workings of the car). Severe damage could mean unviable repair costs, or hard-to-find spare parts if the car is old or rare enough. Catastrophic damage could compromise the safety of the vehicle.

Overall, a detailed Vehicle Damage Inspection offers valuable insights for the parties involved in making decisions regarding one car. It is also a valuable asset for companies that depend on fleet management.

Why is Vehicle Damage Inspection Important?

Vehicle Damage Inspections are crucial to keep track of the condition of a vehicle, especially when it changes hands. The more handovers involved during a vehicle’s tenure, the higher the chance of losing track of damages and the company held responsibly. The main reason for damage inspections and reports is to answer the following factors:

Damage Appraisal

Vehicle Damage detection and reporting are integral in identifying all damages to the car that will result in a cost evaluation for repairs and/or replacement parts. For this purpose, it is imperative that the inspection is thorough to locate any damage suffered by the vehicle, identify it, and assess its gravity in as much detail as possible.

Insurance companies and the logistics industry have the most extensive damage reporting protocols. Here, every cent counts, and damages are appraised against the original value of the car and/or its parts. If a transport partner or a car rental customer damages a vehicle, they’re usually liable for paying for the repair to restore the part to as good as new. The car is expected to work and look as good as it did when acquired, banning reasonable wear and tear.


An assessment of the Vehicle’s ability to perform it’s tasks is a part of a Damage Inspection that ensures the driver’s safety. Whether it be for Periodic Technical Inspection (PTI or MOT) or private inspections, the aim of damage inspection is to assess whether the car is still safe to drive or not based on whether or not the vehicle has suffered any damage or stress that affects its structural integrity and functionality.


Determining the responsibility for vehicle damages and associated costs between two parties can prove to be a compex process. In some cases, such as failing a periodic technical inspection (PTI), the owner is clearly accountable for the necessary repairs. 

In other cases, however, assigning responsibility is not always straightforward. Especially when multiple parties are involved in handling the vehicle. To understand the number of stakeholders involved in managing a single vehicle, it is useful to examine the typical lifespan of a leased car. Vehicle damage inspections, hence, help in identifying and documenting damages accurately, ensuring that responsibility can be appropriately assigned and managed.

How can AI contribute to Standardize Vehicle Damage Inspections?

AI technology can contribute to standardizing car damage reporting by offering automated, adaptable, and efficient inspection processes that can be replicated and integrated in different systems and environments. Digital solutions like the one offered by focalx, based on machine learning algorithms, can conduct a full visual inspection of a vehicle from pictures; and generate a detailed damage report in seconds.

HIGHLIGHT: AI solutions for visual vehicle inspections speed up and standardize the process, making it fast and accessible for non-professionals.

With focalx’s AI-powered damage detection technology, the inspector can conduct an inspection following the guided process step by step. The AI performs the technical assessment of the damage, and the generated report is automatically processed to offer data insights into the state of the individual car and the fleet as a whole.

This is how AI can contribute to standardization:

– by making damage inspections a quick and easy process for any company to integrate into its particular workflow;
– giving back detailed feedback on the fleet conditions in different scenarios and industries that can be used to develop best practices based on actual data;
– and offering an inherently flexible framework to introduce wide-scale changes in a fast and consistent fashion.

To learn more about how focalx’s damage detection software works, head to: Digital Vehicle Inspections powered by FocalX.


Overall, the standards for vehicle damage inspections are shaped by a country’s legal requirements for road safety and industry differences according to the various sectors. These processes ensure a thorough assessment and reporting of damages. With the involvement of multiple stakeholders in managing vehicles, including owners, leasing companies, and insurance providers, the need for standardised inspection processes becomes evident. Furthermore, advancements in AI technology, exemplified by solutions like focalx’s AI-powered damage detection, offer efficient and standardised inspection processes that streamline workflows and provide valuable insights for fleet management. 

By leveraging this technology, the automotive industry can enhance their inspection capabilities and improve their overall efficiency by focusing on providing data-driven and detailed insights.