Virginia’s DMV has a surprise for the owners of fuel-efficient vehicles…
I recently renewed the registration on my four vehicles. I have a 1985 Toyota Corolla LE that my wife bought new and no matter what, it will never be traded in… I have a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500, 4x4, Cummins Turbo Diesel (what’s that grunt that “Tim the Tool Man” makes…), a 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback SE (a good car, but nothing special…), and a 2020 Honda Fit Hatchback (what’s that sound that Hefty Trash Bag’s competitor makes, Oh yeah; Wimpy, Wimpy Wimpy…).
But I digress, I renewed the registration on all four vehicles. I had read that Virginia passed a new law that lowered vehicle registration fees, but added a highway use fee.
The Highway Use Fee was meant “to create sustainable funding for transit, rail, and roads, invest in systemic safety improvements, and support a multimodal system in Virginia.”
The article said that vehicle registration fees would be cut by $10, which comes out to a 25% reduction for most Virginians.’’
That meant that the registration fee for the Ram Truck (weighs more than 4,000 lbs) went from $45.75 to $35.75, and the registration fee for each of the three cars went from $40.75 to $30.75.
But that Transportation Bill also comes with an increase of the statewide gas tax by five cents in 2020 and then another 5 cents in 2021, as well as a new highway use fee.
Now we get to the dirty little secret of the “New Highway Use Fee,” it also includes an add-on fee when you register your fuel-efficient vehicles.
Since the gas tax is one of Virginia’s key funding sources for road projects, the Northam administration (that’s our Democrat Governor…) proposed a fee on fuel-efficient vehicles to ensure users pay something closer to the amount that they use when it comes to roads.
Their rational is that since Fuel Efficient vehicles use less gas (hence, they buy less gas and do not pay as much gas tax) they need to be “punished” for that conservation and pay the “piper” for the privilege to drive on Virginia’s roads…
Fuel-efficient vehicles would be those with a combined miles-per-gallon rating of 25 or greater, electric vehicles, or alternative fuel vehicles that run on something other than gasoline or diesel.
Local governments would also be able to continue charging additional local registration fees at the current levels.
Now, with all this talk about the added fee for fuel-efficient vehicles, nowhere did the actual fee ever appear in print. If you called the DMV, they said the amount is statutory (set by law) and the fee was based on the gas mileage of the vehicle and they claimed they did not have any idea how it computed nor what it would be unless they actually ran the renewal on the computers, but of course, all of this was happening during the worse of the pandemic with the DMVs locked, with no one to answer the phones. (PS: I had to go in to correct the Honda’s Title; the DMV originally said the Honda had 3-axles…)
Because Virginia shuttered the DMVs, they gave everyone a 90-day grace period extension on their registrations and it took me almost 5-weeks to get an appointment after the DMVs opened for an appointment to register the vehicles (they have now enacted appointment-only visits permanently…). I do not know how long you would have to wait if you buy a car from a private party and would like to register quickly.
But again I digress… The '85 Toyota is “Grandmother’d” because of its age and not classified as a fuel-efficient vehicle (my wife named the '85 “Eleanor,” hence it’s Grandmother’d). As for the Ram Truck, it also is not considered a fuel-efficient vehicle (who would have guessed?). Their registration fees were $30.75 and $35.75 respectively.
But both the '19 Toyota and the '20 Honda are considered fuel-efficient vehicles. The Toyota is rated at 36-MPG and has an add-on Highway Use Fee of $37.24, plus the standard Registration Fee of $30.75, for a total of $69.99. The '20 Honda is rated at 33-MPG and has an add-on Highway Use Fee of $30.13, plus the standard Registration Fee of $30.75, for a total of $60.88… These MPGs ratings are the manufacturer’s figures.
Trust me, when the DMV clerk told me the total cost of registering these two vehicles, I had a hard time believing that they were wearing that face mask for health reasons verses for highway robbery…
I ultimately did find the DMV’s web address to compute the Highway Use Fee.
If it has not already happened, I believe all states will follow suit, anything to raise more tax money…