First of all, if you fail, you are given the chance to do some repairs and have your car re-tested. Sounds reasonable, in that you need to pass to get your plates renewed, right? Well not really. If you pass great, but if you fail again, there is this bit called a "conditional pass". It turns out that you 'only' need to spend $450, and then even if you still aren't passing, you can get your sticker, for a year or two, depending on who you talk to (we haven't got a straight answer yet, as the DOT was closed by the time we finished running around). Still with me? Good, because it gets better. These repairs can only be carried out at an authorized repair centre. That's right, I can't have it diagnosed and then go to my much cheaper local garage, who are still ministry certified, so I assume they have some recourse if they lie. Now, my hubby, the ever trusting soul, refuses to bring our vehicle to be tested at a facility that will be able to do the repairs. So we go to an oil changers for the test and the dealership for any repairs. This way, he believes he is avoiding any 'oh we can repair that here' issues.
Okay, enough of gripe number two, or is that three? Next we have the cost of diagnostics. Level one is $180 and if nothing is found, they test the catalytic (by drilling into your exhaust! Um, hello rust!) This will run you another $160 or so. So $340 to diagnose the problem, and this goes towards your spending limit. Now call me crazy, but if they didn't find any thing in the initial tests, and they check the catalytic, you aren't getting off with an easy, $100 repair. Nope, in our case, our bad catalytic will run us $1600. That's right, sixteen hundred freaking dollars.
And that's where the final bit of scam-like activity kicks in. If you fail and the repairs are well over the $450 mark (or $100 in our case) you just bring the estimate in to the DOT and you get the conditional pass and sticker anyways. That's right, no repairs are needed to be made, just the test, diagnostics and an estimate. Great program I'm telling you.
So my car isn't polluting any less, and this exercise is costing us:
$37 intial e-test
$17 retest (where we failed worse thanks to the garage adding fuel injector cleaner - bah)
$76 sticker. (or $152 if we can get this for 2 years)
about 6 hours of hubby's time
1 day without a vehicle
and 1 very annoyed hubby
I guess the gift is that I don't have to fork out $1600 until I want to sell the car, or if I get tired of doing this 'conditional pass' dance? Because, I don't actually have a time frame to fix this issue, I can continue to get conditional passes for as long as I want to continue owning the car.
Needless to say, if we do want to get it repaired, we'll be OEMing it at our local garage and crossing our fingers next time.