Maryland — the worst place for carowners

Maryland’s ridiculous vehicle safety inspection certificate requirement for new cars, newly purchased used cars, and cars new to Maryland is a perfect example of why the private sector’s greed makes it an awful choice as a regulator for the government.

A safety inspection certificate is not the Maryland version of an Ohio e-check — Maryland has its own separate vehicle emissions program which mimicks Ohio’s e-check. You see, you have to take your car (new/newly used/new to MD) to a registered safety inspection station so it can be deemed roadworthy. Although a good idea in practice, it leaves your car’s inspection most often in the hands of private mechanics.

The problem with trusting private mechanics to take care of a government requirement is that these mechanics hold a lot of power over consumers who must the inspection if their car is new to them or the state. An inspection can cost as little as $50 (if you have a coupon) and more than $75 depending on the station. The private mechanics regulate their own prices (although the Maryland State Police have put maximums on how much they can charge as a labor rate, I believe), which leaves the MD resident searching for the best value and crossing their fingers that the mechanic will be honest.

The finger-crossing is necessary because once the mechanics have your car, they make more money as they charge you more for repairs. My boyfriend’s car needed about $350 work and they (*cough*Rockville Service Center*cough*) wanted to charge him more than $1,000 to fix rotars, brake pads, and replace headlights and a brake light. Luckily we were able to find a local mechanic (*cough* Certified Auto Repair*cough*) who charged the proper price for the repairs (and told me that the claim the front brake pads needed to be replaced were bogus).

The problem was, though, that they already had our $80 inspection fee from the start — this puts the resident in quite a predicament. Do you get a second opinion and spend another $60 or so dollars, hoping to find the first mechanic was scamming but risking that the second mechanic will say the same thing? Do you take your business elsewhere upon reinspection and spend the extra money on a fee, or do you take it back to the original place — where the reinspection might cost close to $50 if they need to put it on a lift to check repairs?

I’ve read so many stories online from frustrated people who got scammed and don’t understand why Maryland follows this system of letting private mechanics go wild when it comes to doling out documents that people need to register their vehicles. I feel the same way — the opportunity for fraud and mechanics to take advantage of customers is high and prevalent, and this greed is the reason why the private sector often can’t be trusted to have honest and proper transactions with its customers.

Sure, business is business. You go to a mechanic to get something fixed, he scams you, you learn your lesson. But this is the state government saying you must go to a private company to get a certificate or else you can’t register your vehicle in the state. You are being forced to go to a mechanic even when nothing seems wrong with your car, and you’re told that you need to fix some things you aren’t even sure need to be fixed in order to get the piece of paper you want.

My other theory, aside from the fact that the Maryland Vehicle Administration is out to bankrupt me and everyone else in this state, is that Maryland secretly implemented these regulations as an environmental initiative to get more people to use public transportation. People will get so frustrated with the overly complicated process of bringing a vehicle into the state that they’ll just leave the car behind and walk, bike, or use public transit.

If only this were true, it would be brilliant, because it is 39234612029 times easier to just buy a Metrocard or a bus pass than to deal with a safety inspection and the true/faux repairs it brings, plus finding some time to get your vehicle registered during their weekday hours of 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — the most inconvenient hours on the planet. Would it be that hard to be open on a Saturday, even for just a few hours?

Never move to Maryland if you have a car — just sell it and get a really nice electric bicycle. Or get a cheap inspection by a mechanic you trust before you move, use Google to try to find an honest and registered safety inspection station, and/or look for a coupon in the mail.

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2 Responses to “Maryland — the worst place for carowners”

  1. Brian Wells Says:

    I think you should write a continuance on as to why we had to come back to Ohio for a day to sign a piece of paper!

    • cathyjwilson Says:

      I don’t mind that part — it was actually nice of the clerk to recommend the piece of paper that will save $400 in taxes … she could have just not told me about it and taken my $437!

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