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Massachusetts R Inspection Sticker


When you go and get your car inspected in Massachusetts, there's 3 possible outcomes
  1. You get a sticker with the number of the month when you need to be inspected again
  2. You get a sticker with a Black R
  3. You get a sticker with a Red R

But what's the difference between the three?

In the first instance, your car passed both the Safety and Emmissions sections of the inspection, and you're free to go for another year.

But what about a Black R?

Massachusetts R inspection stickerA Black R represents that you passed Saftey, but failed Emissions. Something is wrong with your vehicle, but its safe to drive. By law, you have 60 days to fix the problem and return to the original shop for a FREE re-evaluation.

And what about a Red R?

A Red R means that your vehicle failed the Safety inspection. Technically speaking, it is not safe to drive. You have the right to take the vehicle home, or to any service shop, but it should not be on the road at all. A tow truck is going to be the safest bet, but you can always roll the dice and hope you don't get pulled over. As with a Black R, you have the right to one FREE re-inspection within 60 days from the original inspection station.

So I got an R, now what?

In the paperwork associated with the inspection, your mechanic should have written down what needs to be accomplished in order to pass Safety or Emissions. For me (hey, how do you think I took that picture), the recommendation was "Drive for 300 miles to let the emissions sensors start running clean, then come back", but it can be anything from "install new tires", "fix the brakes", all the way down to "replace failing ball joints".
Get this taken care of as soon as possible, then return back to your inspection station, and roll away with a brand new, valid for 12 months sticker.

What does "INS STAMP REQUIRED" mean on my registration renewal?


I can't believe that its been nearly two years since I packed up my family and moved across the border from NH into Massachusetts, but what this means is that I just got a nice little note from our handy dandy RMV reminding me that the 2 year registration period for both our cars is now coming due.

You should be getting your renewal application about 45 days prior to the expiration of your registration, which always happens on the last day of the month you first regesitered your car and got your plates.

Depending on your situation, it might require a little bit of leg work before you can actually renew your registration. What? You thought this was going to be easy? This is Massachusetts baby, nothing is easy.

ins stamp requiredMost likely, your registration renewal will have a little note in the lower right that says "INS STAMP REQUIRE", and you're probably asking yourself "What the heck does this mean?". As you know, you cannot legally register your car without proof of insurance (this is where that RMV-1 from your insurance provider comes from when you first move to the state or buy a new car), and the same holds true when its time to renew.

They're literally asking you to get a stamp from your insurance agent or company to prove that you are covered by insurance before you can mail back and show up in person to renew your registration.

So how does the masshole deal with this? This one is actually incredibly easy - just renew online.

The RMV has actually started charging people that show up to a branch to do activies that could have been handled by their call center or online, which means renewing online will save you a bit of money. By renewing online, you'll also be saving yourself some time. You'll actually be making the RMV do the leg work for you, and they'll use the fancy computer system to check to make sure you have valid insurance, and then send off your updated registration and new sticker for the rear license plate on your car.

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Can you get your car inspected without a valid registration?


Like many things in Massachusetts, there's a set order. Of course this holds true with registration and inspection of your car.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to get an inspection if you do not have a valid registration on your car. So be prepared to spend some time at the RMV if the inspection sticker on your windshield is getting really close to being expired.

The good news is that you have a ton of options when you register your car. The valid timeframe for registration is all tied to the type of plate that you put on your car. If you want a special plate, you'll have to re-register every year (at a higher cost), whereas the "normal" plates are good for a solid two years. Motorcycles have to renew every year in Massachusetts, but the plates are only $20. You can get a full breakdown on plate fees and the registration process over on the RMV website.

If your car is already registered in Massachusetts, be sure to watch your mail a few months before expiration. You'll get a nice little notice telling you when you're registration will be expiring, and it will also give you a bunch of options for paying the fees that are due. My favorite is just paying online, but you can also mail in your payment, or even go to a full-service RMV branch to get squared away.

If you've got a newly registered vehicle, hurry up and get your inspection taken care of ASAP. Technically speaking, you only have a 7 days to get your inspection before you are breaking the law.

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Can you register a new car with past due excise tax?


The answer to this one really depends on your personal situation. While excise taxes start with the RMV, your city or town is responsible for issueing your bill and collecting the tax.

The Massachusetts Citizen Infomation Service site has a pretty good write-up on the whole process of dealing with excise taxes on their Motor Vehicle Excise Information page.

But what you should really focus on is the section about Non-Renewal of Registration and Driver's License. Basically, if you ignore your past-due excise tax for long enough, your local tax collector will ship ownership back to the RMV, and prevent you from renewing your registration or driver's license.

From my personal experience (being about 7 months late on my motorcycle's excise tax), you'd probably have to be dodging these bills for the better part of a year, if not longer. Since the RMV can prevent you from renewing your driver's license once the situation gets egregious enough, I wouldn't put it past them to block you from registrating your new car, either.

And honestly, if you can't afford the $25 per $1,000 based on you old car's NADA value, where are you getting the money for the 6.25% sales tax that you're going to have to pay when you register that new car?

What if I'm late on my Massachusetts vehicle inspection?


massachusetts inspection stickerOh boy, this one is tough. My one piece of advice on this? Don't be late with your vehicle inspection in Massachusetts.

Part of the burden of owning and operating a vehicle in Massachusetts is being compliant with all applicable laws at all times, so a lapse in insurance, registration, or inspection can turn a simple traffic stop into something much worse.

You can be pulled over for having an expired inspection sticker.

You can be ticketed for having an expired inspection sticker.

You may also be towed for having an expired inspection sticker.

You have until the last day of the month and year on your current sticker in the lower-right corner of your windshield to get inspected, the whole process shouldn't take more than 20 or 30 minutes, and it can be done anywhere that has a sign out front saying "Massachusetts State Inspection Station" or "State Inspections Here".

When you get your inspection sticker, its valid for 12 months from when it was issued. Let's say your current sticker is valid through June 30th, and you decide to get inspected on July 1st. The sticker that will be put on your car will expire on the last day of July next year - not the last day of June. Congrats, you just got a free month (at the chance of getting pulled over, ticketed, and towed until your vehicle is in compliance).

For some more info, check out the Massachusetts RMV Inspection FAQs page.

Photo Credit: mroach

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Revenge of the Excise Tax


So you already know what Excise Tax is. Sweet. Just make sure that you pay your excise tax well before the due date. Here's my story from when I didn't do this.

Last July, I took the Motorcycle Safety Course, got my Motorcycle endorsement, and bought a new (to me) bike. Awesome. I had a blast riding everything whenever I could.

Somehow, in all the excitement, I never saw an bill for excise tax come through on the bike. "Oh well," I said to myself, "maybe bikes are exempt from excise tax?". Nope.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2010, and one day I get an excise bill. And its red. And its for my 2009 excise tax. That was never paid. Crap. And now the city is asking for another $30, plus interest, on top of the excise that I owed (which was a whopping $7.50).

I held onto it for a few days, and then another letter came from the City of Lowell. "We messed up printing your excise bill, and you don't actually owe us the late fee. Now you've got another 20 days to mail it in." Sweet! $30 back in my pocket! Of course, the following day I get the bills for the 2010 excise tax for both cars and the bike. I decide to save on postage and send everything in all at once.

Well, not so fast. All the payments for the 2010 taxes go through just fine. Then I get a letter back saying that I'm short on the 2009 amount that's due. I pick up the phone and finally call the assessors office (which, I admit, I should have done in the first place). Turns out that they did TWO batches of bills on the day they generated my 2009 past-due bill. My bill was in batch one. There was an issue with batch two. Then they had another issue, because they sent letters to EVERYONE saying they screwed up "your bill", when they only meant to send it to people from batch two.

For 2009, I was on the hook for nearly FIVE TIMES my normal excise, after the initial excise due, plus the $30 late fee and interest.

So - moral of the story? You owe excise tax for anything that you have to register with the RMV. Check with your city or town FIRST, and don't make the assumption mistake that I did.

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How do massholes get drunk?


So, you're surrounded by massholes, and its time to start drinking. I approve.

You'll need to find a liquor store. Chances are, there's one closer than you think. Liquor is heavily regulated in Massachusetts, and stores need a special license to be allowed to sell any alcholic beverages.

Some older residents of the state may refer to these stores as "packys" or "package stores". The termonology dates back to when laws were on the books that required all alcohol be carried in paper bags (because booze is evil).

How does the masshole deal with this?

One of the nice things about living in Massachusetts is that its always just a quick drive to get to the border for cheaper liquor. While its technically illegal to transport any amount of alcohol across the boarder into Massachusetts, the various police departments tend to only crack down on instances where the trafficing is being done for commercial purposes, instead of personal consumption.

In New Hampshire, beer and wine tends to be cheaper than you would find in Massachusetts, and can be purchased at just about any gas station, pharmacy, or super market. Hard liquor can be found at state-run liquor stores, and while prices may be on par with those in Massachusetts, you don't have to pay sales tax. There's usually a state liquor store in every town and multiple stores in the cities. As a bonus, if you're on Route 93 or Route 95, there's state liquor stores AT THE REST STOPS.

If you go further north into Maine, you can buy anything anywhere. I grew up in New Hampshire, and it was always interesting walking into a gas station in Maine and being able to get some hard liquor.

A masshole takes advantage of these alternative availabilities. Because New Hampshire essentially has a state-level monopoly on purchasing and distributing hard liquor, they can set the prices pretty low. And massholes are nothing if not cheap.

What is the T?


Ah, the T.

Otherwise known as the MBTA, or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The MBTA provides public transportation options throughout the greater Boston area, as well as operating commuter rail lines from all over Massachusetts.

When you hear "The T" used, most commonly the speaker is referring to the subway system within Boston. This system is comprised of the Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line. Technically the Silver Line is included, but it just runs buses in the downtown area and out to the airport.

Where do you find the masshole on the T?

Probably the Green Line.

You'll probably see a pack of massholes whenever you are on the Green Line, and can identify them by the fact that they've probably been drinking, and think its fun to "Surf the T".

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How does the masshole deal with burnt-out headlights?


Hey, it happens to us all. We're driving down the street, and then notice its harder to see.

You've got a burnt out headlight. You can see it reflecting off the chromed bumper of the car in front of you - only one headlight.

Most cars have instructions for changing bulbs in their owners manual. The bulbs shouldn't cost more than $20 a piece (unless you've got a super fancy car, and why would you be working on it yourself?), and it shouldn't take more than 30 minutes per bulb to change. 

How does the masshole deal with this?

He doesn't.

The masshole sees a burnt out headlight as a badge of honor. It shows resiliency in the face of adversity. And its frickin cold out! You think the masshole is going to spend an hour outside changing bulbs?

At best, the masshole will finally get around to changing the bulb exactly 2 hours before he has to get his car inspected.

At worst, he'll have his car inspected by his buddy Sully who will pass the car without even looking at anything.

Where do I get an RMV-1?


So you moved to Massachusetts, and now you need to register your car.

The first step to dealing with anything car-related at the RMV is the mytical document known as an "RMV-1". This basically serves as the main document for your vehicle - it has your VIN, proof of insurance, address - everything that the RMV needs to get you a new registration.

But where does it come from?

The Massachusetts RMV allows you to download and fill out an RMV-1. Just remember, beacuse every car registered in Massachsetts has to be covered by insurance, this form will need to be signed by your insurance provider. In most cases, it will just be easiest to get your RMV-1 directly from your insurance provider.

When you setup your new policy (what, you thought you could take your insurance from the state you used to live in?), make sure they have EVERYTHING correct - your VIN, SSN, address, EVERYTHING. I've heard horror stories about trying to get these changed after the fact.

Within a few days, you should get your RMV-1 in the mail. Now you're ready to head to the RMV (with everything to prove residency) and get your registration.

Now what?

You've got 7 days to get your car inspected. There's actually a Massachusetts Vehicle Inspection Station Locator for you to use and find a location that's convientent for you. It only takes about 15 minutes per car, and then you're all set for another year.

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