I received a deadline of Sept. 29 to finish and submit this article—it was assigned to me on Sept. 15. Having a 14-day window to draft an article for PIA Northeast News & Media is more than enough time. Coincidently, those 14 days also signify the time frame my team allotted me to obtain a photo inspection for my 2017 Hyundai Sonata.
Before joining PIA Northeast—like many consumers—I was completely unaware of the 14-day requirement that New York state imposes on policyholders in the state to obtain a photo inspection to document their vehicles’ condition, nor was I aware of the severity of the consequences associated with failing to obtain one.
Typically, I take pride in being a young, responsible millennial. I stick to a budget, live below my means, actively invest my income, and ensure all my bills are paid in full and on time. Nevertheless, when confronted with major tasks, sometimes I do procrastinate; and obtaining a photo inspection fell into that category.
From the beginning …
The story began when I switched insurance providers. After making the switch, I received a notice in the mail, informing me of my duty, as an insured, to obtain a photo inspection. Failure to comply with the notice would result in the cancellation of my physical damage coverage—leaving any damage to my vehicle uninsured.
Receiving this notice induced a sense of fear because I understood that if I were to be involved in an accident or a minor collision during that period, I would be personally responsible for covering any damage to my new-to-me car.
Despite the scare, I continued driving without this necessary protection in place, until the afternoon of Sept. 21. My action may have been prompted by a friend of mine recalling a story about a drunk driver crashing into several cars parked on the street outside of his busy, downtown Albany apartment.
I was now determined that this was the last straw, and that I was going to obtain a photo inspection before something happened to me or my vehicle.
What happens during a photo inspection?
I arrived at Chit Chaat Café—nestled on Central Ave. in Albany, which is the only photo inspection site in Albany County open on the weekends—on a Saturday afternoon.
Chit Chaat Café is a multifunctional establishment, serving not only as an Indian grocery store and restaurant, but also as a Lyca mobile dealer and CARCO inspection site.
The employee led me back to my car where she conducted the photo inspection. To my astonishment, she started taking photos of my vehicle’s registration and inspection stickers, the odometer, and various angles of the vehicle’s exterior with her smartphone.
Following the inspection, the employee escorted me back inside the Chit Chaat Café where she conducted an inquiry about my vehicle, delving into its physical condition and other pertinent details.
After reviewing the document, both she and I provided our respective signatures, and then I left. The entire process concluded within approximately 15 minutes. There wasn’t even enough time for me to enjoy the Indian cuisine.
It is worth noting that the photo inspection could conceivably be executed by car owners from the comfort of their own homes or any remote location. In my perspective, there appears to be no compelling need for consumers to physically journey to CARCO-approved photo inspection sites, if the technology already exists to allow these photo inspections to be performed digitally.
The photo inspection journey educated me about the significance of adhering to insurance requirements, and it raises questions about the efficiency of existing processes.
It is with a renewed sense of peace of mind that I look forward to the reinstatement of my personal auto insurance’s physical damage coverage. As we continue to navigate a changing world, it is essential to learn, adapt and seek improvements that can make life more convenient and efficient for everyone.
To this end, PIANY has been working diligently for the passage of S.5889/A.3172A, which would make important reforms to New York state’s outdated photo inspection law. The bill has passed both the state Assembly and Senate, and it will now go to Gov. Kathy Hochul for her consideration.
Theophilus W. Alexander joined PIA Northeast as a government & industry affairs specialist for the Government & Industry Affairs Department in 2023. Prior to joining PIA, Theo had served in both houses of the New York State Legislature. Previously, he worked as a legislative analyst for Hon. New York State Sen. Samra G. Brouk, D-55, and he served at the New York State Assembly, as a policy analyst with New York Assembly Program & Counsel. Theo received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics from Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y.