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How to File a DMV Complaint in New York

Abby Wiener - Car Dealership - July 28, 2023

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    Experiencing an issue with a repair shop, car dealership, or other type of automotive business? You're not alone, and we're here to help. If the business is regulated by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),  you can file a complaint with them. In this article, we provide examples of common types of complaints filed with the DMV, discuss what types of automotive businesses are regulated by the DMV, and explain how to file a complaint with the DMV. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to a business? Check out our demand letter tool.

    When Can You File a Complaint With the New York DMV?

    Here are some examples of complaints that can be filed with the New York State DMV:

    • False Estimates. For example, you bring your car to a repair shop and ask for a written estimate of the parts and labor necessary for each repair. The estimate comes out to $550. You go back a week later to pay and pick up the car. You go to pay, and the repair shop owner charges you $700 for the “unexpected” labor.   

    • Faulty Repairs. For example, you take your truck to a repair shop to fix your squeaking tire. You go to pick up your vehicle, and after a few minutes of driving, you find that the problem comes back. You bring it back to the shop, and they tell you they fixed the problem. They claim you must have done something to the car when you left the shop.

    • Inspection Fraud. For example, you bring your car to an inspection station to be inspected. The station tells you that your car requires an engine repair, insisting that it can only be performed at their facility. In the end, they demand twice the amount charged by other inspection stations in the same area for the very same type of repair. 

    When can you NOT file a complaint with the New York DMV? 

    1. The DMV does not investigate complaints under the NY State “Lemon Laws.” If you purchase a “lemon,” which is a car that does not perform according to its promised warranty, New York State Lemon Laws help consumers like you by providing clear legal actions you can take to address the problem. Instead of directing your Lemon Law complaint to the DMV, you can file your complaint with the New York Attorney General. More information on the New York Attorney General complaint process can be found at the end of this article.  

    2. The DMV does not investigate complaints against private sellers. If you bought a car from a private individual (not a dealership) and encounter any issues with the vehicle, the DMV cannot handle your complaint.

    3. The DMV does not investigate complaints against towing companies. If you encounter any problems, such as being overcharged for towing services, facing an unlawful towing incident, or experiencing other issues with a towing company, it's important to note that the DMV cannot handle your complaint. 

    Who Can You File a DMV Complaint Against?

    In New York, you can file a complaint with the DMV against different motor vehicle businesses. 

    Here are some of the main businesses you can file a complaint against:

    • A Repair Shop

    • A Dealership

    • A Junk and Salvage business

    If you're unsure about the businesses included in these categories and who falls into each group, don't worry. In this section, we'll clearly define the businesses described above to help you figure out whether you can file a complaint with the New York DMV.

    A Repair Shop

    The New York State DMV regulates motor vehicle repair shops and body repair shops. The DMV does not regulate the individuals who perform these repairs.

    1. Motor vehicle repair shops perform mechanical repairs or damages. This includes New York State-certified motor vehicle inspection stations. For example, you bring your car to the motor vehicle repair shop to repair your damaged bumper. You go to pick up your car, and your bill has an additional charge. The shop tells you they performed a “needed” oil change without speaking with you. 

    2. A body repair shop specializes in modifying motor vehicle bodies. They do not perform mechanical repairs. For example, you went to a body repair shop to add a new skin (color coating) onto the exterior of your car, but when you go to pick up the car, the new skin is chipped. 

    Note: The New York State DMV only accepts complaints for repairs up to 90 days or 3,000 miles (whichever comes first) after the date repairs were completed. 

    A Dealership

    The New York State DMV regulates automobile dealers. Automobile dealers are classified as businesses that sell vehicles at retail or wholesale. They must also sell at least 225 vehicles annually, and one-third of their sales must be new vehicles. Determine whether a dealer is at the retail or wholesale level before you report a dealership to the DMV to make sure the DMV properly files your complaint. 

    • Retail motor vehicle dealers sell motorcycles, trailers, used cars, RVs, heavy trucks, and other vehicle types. They do not sell new passenger cars or light trucks.

    • Wholesale dealers exclusively buy and sell motor vehicles, motorcycles, or trailers at wholesale. They do not sell at the retail level. 

    Note, the New York DMV does not regulate automobile broker businesses. Automobile broker businesses are defined by the state as a person who is paid to assist in the purchasing of a vehicle. 

    A Junk and Salvage Business

    The DMV regulates dismantlers, scrap processors, and other vehicle parts and scrap businesses. A business falls under a “Junk and Salvage Business” if it processes, sells, or disposes of junk vehicles and vehicle parts. 

    How to File a Complaint With the New York DMV

    Before you file a complaint with the New York DMV, you are required to first try and resolve the dispute directly with the business. Keep a record of each attempt to contact the business and of any details about the inspection, repair, or sale to help prove your case to the DMV. 

    If reaching out to the business did not resolve your issue, follow the steps below to file a complaint with the DMV. 

    1. Prepare your dispute information

    2. Submit a DMV complaint form.

    3. Wait to hear back from your assigned DMV customer services representative (CSR).

    1. Prepare Your Information

    What to prepare before filing a complaint: 

    • Before submitting a complaint to the DMV, prepare any supporting documents to send along with the complaint form. For example, include any receipts, written estimates, invoices, or correspondence between you and the automotive business. 

    • Additionally, make sure to gather legal information about the business, as you will need it to complete the form. 

    • You can visit the DMV website to find legal information on a regulated business.

    • The DMV does not investigate complaints that have been filed anonymously, so prepare to provide your contact information. 

    2. Submit a DMV Complaint Form

    How to submit a complaint to the New York DMV: 

    To submit a complaint with the New York State DMV, fill out the Vehicle Safety Complaint Report (PDF) (VS-35). You can file the complaint online or by mail to the DMV Consumer & Facilities Services Complaint Unit. 

    • Online. To file an online complaint, email the form, along with any supporting documents, to [email protected]

    • By mail. To mail in your complaint, print the form, along with any supporting documents and send them to the Bureau Of Consumer & Facility Services at PO BOX 2700-ESP, ALBANY, NY 12220-0700.

    Any questions you may have about filing a complaint can be directed to the Bureau Of Consumer & Facility Services at (518)-474-8943. 

    3. Wait to Hear Back 

    A Consumer Services Representative (CSR) from DMV will be assigned to handle your complaint after it is filed. The CSR will contact the business the complaint was filed against to try and resolve the dispute. This process can take six to eight weeks from the date the complaint is received. You will hear back from the CSR if they successfully resolved the complaint. 

    If the CSR is unable to resolve the complaint, the case will be sent to an Automotive Facilities Inspector (AFI) for a formal investigation

    Here is how the formal investigation process generally works: 

    • The inspector will contact you to gather all information for a formal investigation. 

    • The result of the investigation may be: (1) the DMV closes your case and does not take any action against the business, (2) the DMV places a warning letter in the business’s file, (3) or a formal Administrative Hearing is scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

    • A hearing before an ALJ can result in suspending or revoking a business’s registration and/or imposing fines on the business if it is determined that the business violated its obligations. The ALJ can offer the business the option to pay you back the amount you were overcharged or the cost of proper repairs. If the business doesn’t comply with any fines or other disciplinary action, they may even lose their privilege to operate. 

    • Please be aware that the investigation process could take up to a year to resolve. 

    Note: if you file a small claims lawsuit against a DMV-regulated business, BEFORE undergoing the DMV investigative process, you will not be able to have your case heard by the DMV ALJ. You will instead have your case heard in front of a small claims court judge.

    Alternatives to Filing a Complaint With the New York DMV  

    If you filed a complaint with the DMV against a DMV-regulated business but weren’t able to resolve your dispute, consider the following alternatives. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to a business? Check out our demand letter tool.


    Abby Wiener

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Abby is a New York native and has a passion for breaking down complicated legal processes.

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