New York State Exposed Follow-up: Repair shop rip-offs?

Posted at: 11/21/2013 7:28 AM
Updated at: 11/21/2013 6:36 PM
By: Nikki Rudd

Last month, News10NBC looked into annual car inspections. We found out that New York is one of just 13 states in the country that requires passenger vehicle safety inspections each year. Thirty states don't require them at all. Many people are against the inspections, but some say it is necessary for safety.

While digging into it more, another issue came up. Some drivers are afraid they're being taken advantage of at repair shops. A lot of drivers get nervous when it is time for their annual car inspection. 

Sometimes you don't know what could be hiding under the hood or if you're getting the truth from the repair shop. 

Lou Bellomio says his daughter-in-law took in her 2005 Dodge Stratus for an inspection at a local auto shop. It failed. The cost for repairs were more than $1,000. The bill listed a number of different things that needed to be repaired. Lou, being a backyard mechanic, went over the ar himself.

Lou Bellomio said, “The only thing I found wrong was the outer tie rod on the right side. So I changed that out.”

He says that cost him $15 for the part and about a half hour of his time. Then he took the car to another local auto shop. 

Bellomio said, “There's nothing wrong with her car.  They saw I put the new tie rod in and that was it. They passed her inspection.”

The question this raises is why is there such a huge difference in price and results from some shops to others.

Bill Adams, New York State Service Stations and Repair Shops, said, “Some people, some owners, do take advantage of it.”

In a previous New York State Exposed report, we spoke with Bill Adams, who represents service stations and repair shops across the state. Adams says auto shops actually lose money doing car inspections if no repairs are needed.

Adams said, “The $21 fee doesn't cover our costs to do it labor wise, it's the repairs that come from inspections. If the car passes inspection, there is no revenue for us.”

So, what if inspections were not required by the state? Adams says without it, jobs could be lost and some shops would be forced to shut down.

News10NBC took concerns about the potential for rip-offs to Assemblyman Bill Reilich.

Assemblyman Bill Reilich, (R) 134th Assembly District, said, “There's certain amount of honest mistakes that could occur and there's a certain amount of unscrupulous people too.”

Reilich says anyone can become a victim.

Reilich said, “You have to know your repair facility and whether it's through a state inspection or routine maintenance that you're having done on a car. There's always a chance you could be misled.”

Adams says about 40 percent of auto shop revenue comes from repairs needed due to car inspections, something you're required to do every year in New York State.

Paul Marone from East Avenue Auto says you need to be aware and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Paul Marone, East Avenue Auto, said, “They need to be careful and find a mechanic you're happy with. Find a garage where sometimes you can talk to the mechanic or even in dealership if you get a real comfy feel with a service writer, that's your place to stay.”

What can you do?

The Department of Motor Vehicles says there are automotive facility inspectors and a complaint unit where you can call. The number is 518-474-8943. You can also fill out a form online.