A change in the process held up thousands of mailed car-tab renewal notices last month. (Herald file)

A change in the process held up thousands of mailed car-tab renewal notices last month. (Herald file)

Did you get a late car-tab renewal notice? You’re not alone

Meanwhile, a reader is upset with a “hidden” 3% fee for using a credit card to pay for registration.

It comes once a year.

Car-tab renewal is an annual payment for vehicle owners. The cost depends on the value of what you drive, and that has been up for debate in recent years as an old valuation metric proved overly optimistic about an aging car’s worth — and thus how much the license renewal should cost.

Few of us put that task into our phone’s calendar or gaze at the rear plate where the stickers reside.

The Washington State Department of Licensing reminds owners in a couple of ways, either via email or the good old U.S. Postal Service.

That’s helpful. But in July, a change in the process held up thousands of mailed notices.

That snagged Karen Riedel of Snohomish. She got her notice on July 27, but her tabs officially expired July 10.

“I have always depended on this letter of notification to remind me of the due date for my tabs,” she wrote to The Daily Herald.

Riedel said she called the Department of Licensing, where someone told her that it’s her responsibility to renew vehicle tabs before they expire (that’s true) and that the state doesn’t actually have to remind people (also true).

“We’re not required by law to send vehicle renewal notices — it’s kind of a courtesy thing,” DOL spokesperson Christine Anthony said.

The state mails about 600,000 notifications each month for vehicles 30 days before they expire. Boat owners don’t get similar notices because they expire June 30 every year, but they do receive email reminders.

Vehicle owners aren’t charged directly for the mailed notices, an expense the DOL budgets for.

As for July’s renewal letters, “Some people did get them after their tabs had expired,” Anthony said.

“I can accept the Department of Licensing answer and be responsible for ensuring I have current tabs, but wonder how many people are aware of this,” Riedel wrote. “… Vehicle owners, do not depend on the letter for renewal sent out by the Washington State Department of Licensing, though that notification is appreciated.”

It’s a good reminder: Take note of your vehicle registration for the tab expiration date.

Another DOL change irked another reader.

Bill Quistorf, of Everett, noticed a 3% card charge fee for his vehicle registration renewal.

“The website has a calculator to give you the total in taxes and fees to be paid,” he wrote to The Daily Herald. “Once you enter credit card information and submit payment, DOL tacks on another 3% fee for a ‘credit card processing’ fee. The credit card fee can be avoided by paying by check but the DOL website has no mention of this in the online registration process. I did go back to the renewal notification message and the credit card fee is mentioned in the email message. I did not read the fine print.”

The DOL started charging the fee Jan. 1.

Quistorf said he wants other vehicle owners to know about it and asked that the licensing department include the fee in the taxes and fee calculation before someone hits the payment button. That way they could send a check or use their checking account information and not take the 3% hit.

“The state transportation budget previously covered the costs of online credit and debit transactions, and the Legislature discontinued this funding,” Anthony said in an email. “The new fee is intended to recover costs and will essentially equalize in-office and online card transaction fees.”

Have a question? Email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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