Being punished for daring to own more than one vehicle, that is. How am I being punished? How are you being punished (if you also own more than one vehicle)?
By the endless (and annual) little exactions that, together, end up adding up. I am talking about:
Title and registration fees; property taxes.
There are other ways they get you, of course – including mandatory insurance coverage – but these three items specifically target the owner of more than one vehicle, even if the owner can only use one of them at a time.
I’m not rich but I enjoy fiddling with vehicles, two-wheeled and four. I own two older trucks (a ’98 and a 2002), an antique car and four motorcycles. None of these, with the exception of my antique car, is worth more than about $6,000 – mainly because they’re older (some of the bikes are antiques, too) and I like to have paid-off stuff instead of a monthly payment.
Except you can’t escape the payments. I mean, the payments to the government.
I am restoring an old Kawasaki motorcycle (1974 S1 triple, if you’re interested; see here for the story on that ). I bought the hulk – literally, an inoperable “parts bike” that needed every single item refurbished – for $50 from a friend of mine. I have a clean, signed-over title, so it’s my property. But if I go to the DMV and title the bike officially – put it in my name – the DMV will stick its paws out and demand sales tax (based on the “book value,” their book – not mine – and based on the average retail value of a bike similar to mine – but not mine) plus the fee for the title itself, plus another fee to register it. Out the window goes another $150-plus (easily twice what I actually paid for the bike itself). But the worst part is yet to come. Once titled in my name, the county will know I have the bike – and will stick its paws out, looking for more money, in the form of the annual property tax. Here in Virginia(and other states, too) you are taxed on the “book value” of every vehicle you own.
Not just once, either. Every year, forever – as long as I am alive, at least and still possess the bike.
Mind, this is just for one old bike – a project; something I fiddle with in my spare time, like many hobbyists. We haven’t yet begun to add up the same costs just listed above as applied to all my other vehicles. Oh, and naturally, the fees for things on four wheels (vs. two) are even higher.
At any rate, let’s do some math. Annual registration fee in Virginia: $40.75 per vehicle. Times five (for me) equals $203.75.
Annual property tax: Varies, per unit (based on their estimation of its value) but approximately as follows: Two trucks, $130 each. Bikes, $75 each. That’s $260 plus $225 equals $485. Every year, endlessly.
Now, without even getting into the title fees (which at least are a one-time hit) or the cost of government mandated insurance (even on vehicles that are driven next-to-never, fewer than 500 miles annually for three of mine) I have paid, over the past eight years, at least $5,510 to the DMV and county KGB for the privilege of “owning” my vehicles. (I use quote marks deliberately to make a point; as with real-estate taxes, if you don’t pay the property tax assessed, men with guns will seize “your” property and auction it off.)
That $5,510 is money I sure would have liked to have been able to put to other uses. It probably would have covered our gas bill for the past five years. Instead, it went up in smoke – up the government’s chimney.
And mind: We own older/lower value stuff, which limits the hit somewhat. People who own newer, higher-value stuff, really get reamed. It is not at all common for a Virginia vehicle “owner” to be hit with a personal property tax o$1,000 or more for just one year (vs. my eight) if their vehicle is new enough and nice (valuable) enough.
The policy seems specifically intended to discourage people for owning multiple vehicles – by punishing them financially for doing so. And it is especially regressive, since people who own several older cars are often people who don’t have a lot of money who are trying to live frugally by avoiding the expense of a new vehicle.
For instance: I decided not to get the title to the motorcycle I’m restoring put “officially” into my name. At least,not yet. I have the signed-over title from the previous owner – so the bike is legally mine and I can prove it’s mine. But by not going to the DMV, by not getting that stupid piece of government paper, I dodge the hit for a title fee, sales tax and – the $%!@! property tax.
Just saved a couple hundred bucks, right there.
I let the registration lapse for one of my trucks, the one we rarely use for more than the weekly trip to the green boxes (trash collection), about two miles up and back. It’s limited exposure but even if I have bad luck and a cop eventually spots my out-of-date tags, the fine will be less than paying the $^%!@#! registration fee (especially if I get away with it long enough). Note: I keep the insurance on this truck up to date. Not because I need it, but because the consequences of not having a valid policy are pretty severe (even if you’ve caused no one any harm whatsoever) and thanks to “cooperation” between the insurance cartels and the DMV authorities, they’re sure to know – and sure to pounce – the moment you let your coverage lapse.
To hell with state “safety” inspections, too. I keep my vehicles in good working order because I am personally interested in not driving vehicles with bald tires, defective brakes and so on. I do not need the state’s “help” on this, let alone the $15 per vehicle annual fee ($15×5= another $75 I just saved).
There is also the option – for us – of Farm Use tags and registration. Like Antique Vehicle tags (more on them below) Farm Use tags are permanent, meaning no annual registration fee. You don’t have to buy a new month/year sticker every year, as with regular tags. The caveat is you have to (to be legally compliant) actually have a farm and use the vehicle for defined “farm use.” Since we’re on 16-odd acres and do have livestock (poultry) we are within the letter of the law.
Just saved another few – no, many – bills.
Antique Vehicle tags: Similar to Farm Use; there are restrictions – specifically, annual mileage allowed and no “regular” use. However, if you have a little-used car or motorcycle that’s 21 years old or older, that mostly just sits, this can be a great money-saver vs. normal plates/registration – with their endless, annual fees.
Property tax is harder to avoid, but you can do so by not titling or registering whatever you buy – like I did (didn’t do, actually) with the old motorcycle I’m restoring. At least during the time you’re working on the machine – and it’s not going anywhere – you’ve violated no law that I am aware of. You are not required to immediately (or ever) title a vehicle. You’ve bought it, you have a bill of sale and a signed over old title – it’s yours. You don’t need the state’s affirmation – what it calls its “service” – to make your ownership official. Why give them an opportunity to attack your wallet? Again?
So, it’s not much – but it is a start.
And that is better than just sitting back and taking it.
Throw it in the Woods?