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Fees for vehicle safety inspections could be going up

March 5, 2019
Have doubts about what a mechanic says? Experts say get a 2nd opinion

North Carolina’s annual vehicle safety inspection could soon cost drivers more.

The House Transportation Committee on Tuesday approved a $1 increase for the required inspection. The increase wouldn’t affect many drivers in the Triangle because their vehicles also must pass emissions tests, and the fee for the combined test would remain at $30 under the proposal.

Vehicles must pass inspection every year before the registration and license plate can be renewed.

For years, the state has charged $13,60 for the safety inspection, with $12.75 of that amount going to the mechanic who performs the inspection.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, said mechanics have complained that the $12.75 isn’t enough to pay for the 30 to 45 minutes of their time it takes to complete an inspection, especially in counties that no longer combine the emissions tests with safety inspections. Mechanics get $23.75 for each inspection that involves an emissions test.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dropped 26 North Carolina counties from required annual emissions testing. The tests are now required in only 22 counties statewide.

“This does eat at their time when it’s a required safety inspection by the state, so we need to look at the reasonable market rate,” Stevens said.

But some committee members balked at the state subsidizing auto mechanics.

“The whole thing with safety inspections is to find things wrong,” said Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven. “If they find something wrong, this is where they make their money – on these things that are wrong with the vehicle that the person is going to get fixed. If they’re doing the inspection properly, they will find a lot of stuff wrong, [and] they will make money on it.”

Stevens initially proposed tacking $7 on to the safety inspection fee, but Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus, suggested taking a smaller step and increasing the fee by only $1.

That proposal passed the committee on a 14-13 vote. The bill has to clear two more committees before going to the House floor.