Sticker Shock

Have any of you tried to get the safety inspection sticker renewed for your car lately? If your head hasn’t exploded, then you probably haven’t.

I was cleaning my wife’s car over the weekend, when I noticed that I inadvertently let her safety inspection sticker expire. With her car registration due this month, I needed to jump on that right away. I drove to all of my regular inspection places and found that no one was doing them anymore, so I searched until I found a place that does. They told me it wouldn’t take longer than a half-hour and said they would call me.

More than an hour had passed and no call, so I walked back to the shop. They said they were doing some pricing, which is why they didn’t call me. I asked, “Pricing for what?” They said everything looked good except for two things: My two front tires were borderline for wear and my third brake light wasn’t working. They said I couldn’t pass until those were fixed.

They explained that the process had gotten stricter, and that businesses were being clamped down on to ensure they were not simply handing out these stickers. No harm in good business practice, so I asked what the pricing was to fix these items.

When they told me, I had to do a mental double-take. For what they were asking, I could buy a pretty decent used car. I thanked them and said I was going to shop around, knowing I had 30 days to come into compliance. I went to my regular tire place and asked them to give me a good deal. They did, although with alignment I had to fork out about 500 bucks.

I then went on a search for that third brake light. I always thought you needed only two, but the third one is on the trunk lid or in the rear window. And it’s not just a bulb replacement but a full LED module. The dealer was asking for $800 not including installation. I was in a bind, for without a current safety inspection, I couldn’t renew the registration.

It totally felt like extortion. In the end, I had to fork over nearly $1,300 for a $20 safety inspection sticker. The safety inspection renewal is coming up for my mom’s car and mine. I might have to sell my wife’s car in order to do that.