When you go and get your car inspected in Massachusetts, there's 3 possible outcomes
- You get a sticker with the number of the month when you need to be inspected again
- You get a sticker with a Black R
- 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?
A 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.
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?
Oh 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
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.
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.
So, a couple months ago you registered your car, and now you got this letter from the town or city that you live in asking for even more money. Great.
Remember when you paid sales tax to buy your car in the great state of Massachusetts? Well, the excise tax is basically your city or town trying to get in on top of that action.
While the sales tax was at the state level and based on the price you paid, the excise tax is a local-level "luxury" tax, and based on a portion of the NADA resale value.
Good news: its pro-rated based on the number of months that you've been a resident and covers the whole year.
Bad news: if you moved in January (and became a resident), you're on the hook for the whole year.
How does the masshole deal with this?
Well, there's really no way around it. Just complain to your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers like everyone else, and pay the $100 or so. This is actually one of the few straight-forward and painless parts of living in Massachusetts.