No more 'free months': What to know about inspection sticker changes in Mass.

Are you one of those drivers who has been getting a free month — or more — before renewing your vehicle's annual inspection, simply by delaying the renewal until after your current sticker expires?

Well, the state is onto you.

As of Nov. 1, drivers will get new annual stickers that expire in the same month a year after which their old ones expire — and not a year after any late inspection. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles announced the policy change last week.

In a statement, Registrar Colleen Ogilvie said the move was motivated by safety, pointing to such issues as tires wearing down and lights not working. Emissions and emissions control are also tested during the required annual evaluation, which typically costs $35.

Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, said some people come in expecting a new inspection sticker even while driving without a muffler or on bald tires, Sept. 20, 2022.
Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, said some people come in expecting a new inspection sticker even while driving without a muffler or on bald tires, Sept. 20, 2022.

“We are asking all vehicle owners to place safety first and make sure to check your inspection date, and don’t be late,” Ogilvie said.

A full list of vehicle inspection locations can be found online. Drivers will also no longer receive hard copies of their inspection report, as part of an effort to reduce paper use.

However, drivers will be provided a paper copy of their inspection report if their vehicle fails.

More: Malware attack delays distribution of new inspection stickers

As far as Marlborough resident Bob Levine is concerned, vehicle safety is important, but the change can be an inconvenience for do-it-your-selfers such as himself.

When faced with an inspection failure, Levine can often make fixes himself, such as replacing headlights. But he doesn’t have a garage in which to work, so he prefers his vehicles to get inspected during warmer months when he can do any needed work outdoors.

“Whenever I got a new car — and I keep them for a long time — I would just wait until the first day of the next month. Then the next year, move it up a month (again), until I got to warm weather,” Levine said. “Then I would go when I was supposed to.”

Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, said some people intentionally delay getting a new inspection sticker, but most "just forget."
Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, said some people intentionally delay getting a new inspection sticker, but most "just forget."

He was critical of the state prioritizing this change over, say, streamlining the registration process that he described as “a pain.” He also said that, as a motorcycle owner, the lack of inspection options is frustrating.

“I think cars should be inspected and I want them to be safe — but it seems like spending a lot of money to do nothing here,” Levine said.

One day last week, a Daily News reporter walked through a Shoppers World parking lot and found that 29 of 558 passenger vehicles (5.2%) parked there had stickers that had expired. In addition, the clock was still ticking on about 40 other vehicles whose inspection deadlines are at the end of this month.

Of the vehicles that had expired stickers, 16 were due on Aug. 31 and nine were due during earlier months this year. But two contained the bright-yellow inspection stickers from 2020 and two others had 2021 stickers.

For those drivers who have waited a year or more to get new inspections, their stickers will be knocked back to January of the current year, starting Nov. 1.

Moving violations

Rick Alberini, of Alberini Inspection Services on Megunko Road in Ashland, heard about the changes coming to inspection stickers.

He said some people “come in with no mufflers and they think they’re going to get a sticker, or they come in with bald tires. They want to argue with ya — but most of the people are cool.”

Alberini used to be in the trucking business, but he’s been doing inspections for about 15 years.

He said he usually doesn’t ask, but when a woman came in a few years ago with a sticker more than a year old, he had to say something.

Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, at his work station on Sept. 20.
Rick Alberini, owner of Alberini Inspection Services in Ashland, at his work station on Sept. 20.

“I looked at her and I said, “Holy smokes, ma’am, this thing expired last year.’ And she goes ‘I know.’ And I said, ‘I’m surprised you never got a ticket.’ And she said, ‘I did. I got two.’”

In Massachusetts, driving with an expired sticker is a traffic violation that comes with a $40 citation. It can also result in points being assessed on a driver’s insurance policy.

Alberini said he doesn’t really think the changes are going to affect him or his business much, although there were a few expired stickers he had to deal with in the past few days. He didn’t know if it was related to the announcement or if it was just a coincidence.

“Some people do do it on purpose … if you do that for, maybe, 12 years, you’ll get a free sticker,” he said. “But I think most people just forget.”

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Ma Registry of Motor Vehicles new policy on inspection stickers