Safety Certificates: what you need to know about proving your vehicle is roadworthy

Whether you’re selling or re-registering your vehicle, you’ve probably started worrying about whether it will pass its safety certificate (or roadworthy certificate) inspection. And if you need it urgently, you’re probably even more stressed.

While a safety certificate inspection isn’t a comprehensive mechanical inspection, it still covers a lot of important things that could prevent you from getting certified—and those things can cost you a fair bit of money in repairs or leave you without transport for some time.

Whether your vehicle is a car, a motorbike, or a caravan, trusting your vehicle to a reputable service provider won’t just ensure that you get the certification you need to operate or sell it. It will guarantee the safety of the people operating it—and prevent the risks of harm that are beyond measure.

What a safety certificate inspection covers

Getting your vehicle approval for a safety certificate will depend on meeting the minimum safety requirements on a number of measures. Some of the things that the safety inspector will look at in your vehicle include:

  • Wheels and tyres: which should be balanced; free from dents, cracks, and buckling; attached with the correct number of studs or nuts according to the vehicle’s specifications; and meet a minimum tread depth requirement
  • Steering and suspension: which should allow your vehicle to drive straight and not pull to either side; your power steering to be free from leaks and not heavy; and all steering components (including joints, pivots, shock absorbers, bearings, and suspension elements) to be correctly secured and in good condition
  • Brakes: which should be free from wear; functioning correctly; capable of holding the car stationary on a hill; and have operational warning lights
  • Lights, indicators and reflectors: which should be the correct headlights, brake lights, front and rear position lights, number plate lights, reflectors and blinkers for your vehicle type, and in good working order
  • Seats and seatbelts: including baby or booster seats, seatbelts and seats, which should be structurally sound and free from damage or defects that could affect driving or safety, and secured correctly
  • Body and chassis: including the floors, doors, boot, bonnet, and latches, bumper bars and tow bars, which should be free from rust and damage; cracks; unauthorised modifications; or structural issues that could cause driving safety risks
  • Windscreen and windows: which should be free of damage, including cracks, chips, or scratches that could cause breakage and impair the driver’s view; not altered by tint or other modifications to the extent that they prevent clear vision; and include windscreen wipers and water jets that should be fitted properly and in working order

Only an experienced inspector will thoroughly understand the requirements on each of these measures. It’s always possible to end up with a dodgy safety certificate—whether the issuer is deliberately misleading, or just not qualified enough to perform the inspection—which is why it’s so important to choose a reputable service provider.

When you need (and don’t need) a safety certificate

All registered vehicles that are being driven in Queensland need a safety certificate. You’ll need to get a new safety certificate every time you’re selling a vehicle, and when you’re registering one.

From the moment you offer a registered vehicle for sale—whether you’re advertising online or in print, or on the vehicle itself—you need to display a safety certificate, and in an obvious area where it can be seen (like the windscreen or window). This is important, because you can be fined a lot if you don’t have a certificate, or display it clearly. You might also need a safety certificate if you’ve let your registration expire, and are re-registering it.


If you’re selling a vehicle for parts, you don’t need a safety certificate, but you must de-register the vehicle before you sell it. You also won’t need a safety certificate if you’re inheriting the vehicle form a deceased estate, you’re trading it between spouses, or you’re living in a remote or exempt location. It’s important to thoroughly check with the transport department if you think you meet any of these criteria, because safety certificates are important, and you could be fined a lot for not having one when you need one.

The only businesses in Queensland who can conduct vehicle inspections and issue safety certificates are the approved inspection stations (AIS). But even though there are strict criteria for registration as an AIS, not all businesses are the same: choose a service provider with broad experience and a strong reputation, and you’ll be certain of where your vehicle lies against the safety standards it’s bound by.

What happens if your vehicle doesn’t pass a safety inspection

There’s always a chance that your vehicle won’t pass a safety inspection, and it won’t be eligible for a safety certificate. But it’s not the end of the world, and you’ll have a few options.


If your AIS can’t do the repairs your vehicle needs in order to be approved for a safety certificate, but the vehicle is in a generally safe condition, you can get an unregistered vehicle permit and drive the vehicle directly to where it can be fixed. Otherwise, your vehicle must be towed (whether that’s to your home, or to a repairer).

You have 14 days to repair the problem, and you’ll have to have it re-inspected. You don’t need to go to the same inspector, but you’ll have to pay the fee again. If your vehicle can’t be repaired, you won’t be issued a safety certificate, and you will not be legally allowed to sell or drive it.

Full mechanical inspections

Even if your vehicle passes inspection and you get a safety certificate, it’s still not a full mechanical inspection. There might be quite significant mechanical issues with the vehicle, and it might need quite a lot of work to get beyond the bare minimum roadworthiness requirements. If you want your vehicle to be safer for you, or the person you’re selling it to, you should consider having a comprehensive inspection.

Having a full inspection, and the service and repairs you need to bring your vehicle up to a higher safety standard, will give you peace of mind that your vehicle is reliable and in good working order. It could also go a long way to helping you sell your vehicle, because many people won’t buy a used car without one—so it’s well worth considering.