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Be careful — or you could pay more for vehicle registration than required

Q. Honk, I just received my annual registration paperwork and tag for my car from a third party: NEEDTAGS, based in Hollywood. It was postmarked in Sacramento, and the registration paperwork is almost like plastic on the surface. My wife thought it was junk and nearly threw it all away. When did the Department of Motor Vehicles start outsourcing renewal registrations? I renewed on the DMV website.

– Pete Fleury, La Quinta

A. Honk told Pete he would look into what was going on, and Pete then quickly did some nice sleuthing and learned that NEEDTAGS is a business partner of the DMV.

DMV officials said they suspect Pete actually didn’t contact the DMV directly like he thought he had. Rather, they figured, he ended up with one of the 6,000 companies allowed to perform some DMV transactions.

Getting on the wrong website and not realizing it is too easy. Years ago, even the brainy Honk did it a time or two.

One website charges $31.95 to process your registration, another $29.99 – while the DMV does the same transaction for free. The businesses offer other services and might offer perks, such as phone support, but you might not need those.

“If a customer does a Google search on ‘DMV Registration Renewal,’ multiple sites come up offering their services,” the DMV told Honk in an email when he asked about Pete’s scenario. “The (business partner) will process the registration, and charge the registration fee and a service fee. Once the registration process is completed, the registration card and year sticker will be mailed to the customer.”

Honk subsequently talked with Jaime Garza, a DMV spokesman in Sacramento, and he kept peppering the conversation with “Dot Gov.”

In other words, to ensure you make it to the DMV’s website,, focus on the URL’s tail.

Garza said if you pay with a credit card, the DMV will indeed charge you a fee for that – but the state agency will never charge you a service fee. If you get onto the DMV website, he added, the state handles the entire transaction: “We wouldn’t ship it out.”

Overall, these business partners can be helpful. But some are a little aggressive about luring you in, such as buying an ad to get top placement on a Google search or dressing up their websites in the same shade of blue as the DMV’s.

Q. I am cruising out of California, headed to greener pastures in retirement after 32 years of working in the Golden State. As I get ready to settle into my 10-acre ranch, I am wondering: Will the California Department of Motor Vehicles refund my costs for vehicle registration? My old steed of a pickup truck was just registered in February for almost $700. And the registration for my wife’s car, for well over $400, is due this month. We will need to register them in our new home state by mid-July. Will the DMV refund any of the money we paid, or are we barking up the wrong tree and just have to chalk it up to a bad decision of moving after we paid our registrations?

– Jeffrey Williams, Orange

A. Jeffrey, Honk wishes you well in paradise, but California wants you to leave some of your green behind.

“Since the customer will have paid for the registration (and driven for a portion of the year on it) before moving out of state, registration fees will not be refunded or prorated,” said Nicholas Filipas, a DMV spokesman up in Sacramento.

Further, the DMV re   quires you to tell it when the vehicles have been registered out of state.

Honkin’ fact: The 90-year-old man who died last week and once helped put together the fumbling Watergate break-in crew, G. Gordon Liddy, apparently advertised his role in President Nixon’s downfall. The one-time license plates on his Rolls-Royce: H20-GATE. (Source: Reuters.)

To ask Honk questions, reach him at He only answers those that are published. To see Honk online: Twitter: @OCRegisterHonk

Source: Orange County Register

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