I heard recently that 38 states require some sort of yearly auto inspection. Whether that’s a safety inspection or a safety and emissions inspection will vary depending on where you live, but one thing seems to be true regardless of where you look: Lies abound.
It seems that when an individual is forced to buy something by the government, the person selling does everything they can to take advantage of the situation. In this case, people are forced to buy inspections and the people providing the inspections seem to overwhelmingly take advantage of that.
How? Well, inspections require the car to go up on a lift. The only facilities that have lifts are ones that also do auto repairs. From my experience, a good majority of those facilities will tell you something needs to be fixed in hopes that you’ll just get it done at their facility. For example, a friend recently had her car fail because 2 of the tires didn’t have enough tread. The shop offered to replace the tires at a reasonable rate on the spot so she could pass the inspection and get on her way. She didn’t think her tires were bad, but having zero power to question the authority of the shop without getting tagged with a no-drive sticker and paying the inspection fee again, she just agreed to getting the new tires. After all, she couldn’t afford to take a day off of work. Once the new tires were on, she asked to take the old tires home and the shop claimed they had already disposed of them. What? You can’t burn tires or toss them in a trash compactor, so that was just a bold-faced lie and proof that the shop had lied during the inspection to make a quick buck.
This isn’t an unusual story. The state that I live in now has cameras in the shops that are doing the inspections, but a camera on the corner of the wall can’t tell if the tech doing the inspection is lying about the tread left on a tire or whether or not he hears an exhaust leak. Sure, a shop could lose their license if a state inspector goes undercover and brings a perfectly good car in that fails, but the odds of that happening are pretty low. Furthermore, if you get your inspection done at the same place year after year or have kids with you, the inspector can probably figure out that it’s not a random spot check.
Switching to a state-run system, eliminating the no-drive stickers and giving people a more reasonable buffer to get repairs done is usually scoffed at because of the cost. So here’s my plan: Eliminate inspections in every state. It’s much too subjective and puts repair shops in a position to take advantage of low-income families that drive older vehicles. Inspections are not effective at removing truly unsafe vehicles from the roadways, so eliminating them shouldn’t have an impact on the number of accidents. It will, however, boost sales of pre-owned vehicles and help low-income families maintain employment. A win-win for everyone.