New York State Exposed: The cost of car inspections

Posted at: 10/31/2013 7:12 AM
Updated at: 10/31/2013 8:21 PM
By: Nikki Rudd

If you have a car and you drive, car inspections is something you do every year and probably don't even think about it. But, are car inspections necessary?

News10NBC found out the majority of states don't require them. But New York State does. 

Gregg Thompson said, “It's like one of those things you don't really think about it much. You just know it comes up every year  and you know you have to do it to keep the car on the road.

Most drivers agree it is second nature and you just pay for it. But did you know New York is one of 13 states that requires annual passenger vehicle safety inspections. Eight states and Washington D.C. require them every other year or in certain situations. Thirty states do not, including California, Michigan and New Jersey, which ended its inspections just a few years ago. Some states don't think they're necessary.     

News10NBC's Nikki Rudd asked, “Do you feel like this is another way the state is getting more money from you? 

Rose Rossi-Williams said, “Oh the state will always find ways to get more money.”

But when News10NBC asked officials at the DMW in Albany how much the state makes from inspections, they said in an email, “The state does not collect any fees from the inspection itself."

Paul Marrone, East Avenue Auto, said, “The state definitely makes money on inspections, that is dead wrong.”

Paul Marrone, the owner of East Avenue Auto in Rochester, put it bluntly.

Marrone said, “The state makes a little bit more money than the actually garage does.”

What the DMV didn't tell News10NBC until we asked again is that the state actually does make money on the inspections stickers. It costs repair shops anywhere from $2 to $6. Usually, our cars need the $6 stickers. That adds up to $55 million each year for the state of New York.

Thompson said, “It just makes me wonder more where does that money go? And is it being used for what we're paying for?”

The DMV says $33 million of the $55 million goes to the oversight of the vehicle emissions programs.     

Those are federally mandated. News10NBC found out the other $22 million go into the bridge and highway trust fund, the same fund part of your gas taxes go. But where are the results?

Rose Rossi-Williams said, “Well, we'll have to take their word for that, but I've seen some bridges in really bad shape.”

Thompson said, “So roads should be better than they are or you should see more work being done on them.”

So what do our state lawmakers think of all this?

Rudd asked, “Why am I forced to do this in New York State? 

Assemblyman Bill Reilich (R),134th Assembly District, said, “Well, there are many fees that the state imposes on its residents that I certaintly don't support just as a revenue stream, but some of them make sense.”

He supports car inspections and says it's about safety. 

Reilich said, “ I think it's in everyone's best interest. Quite frankly, even though it can depend upon the age of your car if it's a $10 or $20 fee, it's not exorbitant.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic New York State Senator Ted O'Brien agrees. 

Ted O'Brien (D), 55th State Senate District, said, “My philosophy as senator has been one of my highest priorities has to be the safety of families and doing away with inspections would run counter to that.”

But when you're the one footing the bill....

Thompson said, “I can understand a little bit the process that you want have people driving vehicles that are safe on the road but if it's just another money making scheme that's not right.”

The cost of inspections

The average inspection costs you $21 dollars every year. With 10 million cars being inspected annually in New York that money adds up. 

Bill Adams who represents hundreds of gas stations says car inspections are all about safety. 

The state gets about six dollars from every inspection and that's from the sticker that goes on your car. It's not a small chunk of change. Those stickers add up to $55 million a year for the state. You may be wondering where the rest of the inspection cost goes. It goes to repair shops.

News10NBC's Nikki Rudd asked, “I know you're saying this is about safety, but some people would say this is about money.”

Bill Adams said, “It is a revenue stream for the dealers the repairs that come from inspections are very important to our members.”

Adams says car inspections account for about 40 percent of annual revenue for repair shops. Without it,  he says jobs could be lost and some shops would be forced to shut down. But for many drivers, the cost of the repairs required to pass inspection are sometimes questionable.

Gregg Thompson said, “If it's a regular inspection, you only pay $20 to $30 to get it inspected, which is good. But often times you're told there's something going on or you need this to pass inspection, so sometimes it costs a little more.”

Some drivers said they've been ripped-off, scammed. Adams says it can happen. 

Adams said, “There are some places yes that do perform unauthorized inspections and they take advantage of customers.”

So what can be done to save your hard-earned money? For answers, News10NBC went to several of your lawmakers. First, Democratic Assemblyman David Gantt. He is the chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Transportation. After weeks of calling and leaving messages with no response,  

News10NBC went to his district office on University Avenue. We never got a call back. 

So News10NBC moved on to Democratic Senator Ted O'Brien. 

Ted o'Brien said, “There might be some way to tweek the system that folks in Albany would be interested in looking at, myself included.”

While he agrees, car inspections are about safety. O'Brien understands it is another fee New Yorkers have to pay each year. News10NBC took the same question to Republican Assemblyman Bill Relich. 

Rudd asked, “So is there anything that can be done by nys that can lessen the burden on residents?”

Bill Reilich said, “I think if we did an analysis of it or cars in first three years, you'd find very little need for any further need for work to be done on those cars overwhelming majority. That's something that could be reasonable.”

O'Brien agrees and suggests a one or two year exemption or waiver for new cars or requiring inspections every 18 months or two years. But he says the state needs to be careful. 

O'Brien said, “We don't want to take the wrong step and make our highways less safe.”

Bill Adams says $21 a year is a small price to pay for peace of mind. 

To read the highway report, click here.