Originally Posted by impolyt_one
All of the states in America require a periodic inspection so that people get a sticker for their plates to drive on for X number of years; in most states though, the 'inspection' doesn't really consist of much and people get by with parts duct taped on and so forth. If it's a more stringent state they will stick a sniffer in the tailpipe and make sure the car still has 4 tires. That's about it. So... to answer your question - yes, things are much different than in Europe, and no, many Americans do not take care of their cars the same way people in other countries do. Very few people do preventative maintenance. Also, mechanics in America tend to vary in honesty and they charge a lot for their work (like, $100/hr and then tons of hours by the book for a job that actually takes a fraction of that), so there's a lot of suspicion regarding that.
There's a lot of truth to this post. Consider also that - in TX at least - inspections focus more on taillights and wiper blades than actual driving capability - because then the station can coerce you into replacing these things and mark them up accordingly. Other than that, preventative maintenance is a big-time Not Happening around these parts - partly due to the complexity of these cars - partly due to time/cost constraints, and partly because people figure they'll just trade it in on a new unit and let someone else take the hit for the 60k maintenance bill. Then they procrastinate and go 90K+ without doing the big service.
I will say that from what I've seen on the Mrs' wagon, Mercedes has a ridiculously-long maintenance schedule. And they're - most of the time - intuitively easy to work on. (I may amend this after changing out the spark plugs, though)