In Missouri, what is known as the DMV everywhere else, is called the Department of Revenue. Because folks, let us face it, it is really all about the money. I have lived in Missouri for forty-three years and one of this state’s least desirable aspects has been its auto license plate renewal process. In the beginning, every year, for each vehicle that we owned and since we never had cars that were purchased in the same calendar month, at different times of the year, I had to undergo the state mandated procedure for renewing our auto registration. Now, they allow two-year registrations, but only for an additional “convenience” fee.
This process begins with a paper chase for all the bits of documentation that are required to get new tags and woe to that supplicant who neglected to accumulate them all. Your reward for such negligence was to be turned away empty handed, after having waited for a seeming eternity at the Department of Revenue office. Also, in the beginning most of these offices were patronage affairs. Each new governor would select the private citizen who would run each office, for a fee.
This fee was added to the normal renewal fee, but they were both preceded by other taxes and fees. There was the Personal Property Tax, which is akin to real-estate property taxes, which we also pay, but separately. You needed to save the receipt for this tax, because it will be one of the chits of paper that you need to have to renew your car next time. You also needed to have “proof of financial responsibility.” Otherwise known as an insurance ID card. Finally, in addition to the renewal form, you needed to have forms that show that your vehicle has recently passed both a safety and an emissions test.
For late model cars such as ours, these tests are often waived. This year I did not need a safety test, but I was required to have an emissions test. In the past this would mean queuing up at a special county run emissions testing station. Where hoses would be attached to the tailpipes and the amount of exhaust and its individual polluting components were measured. They do not do that anymore. Emissions test now can be performed by your local auto shop, where they simply check the car’s computer for codes.
For older cars the safety test can be quite a hurdle. Basically, you are asking a mechanic to look for work and then demand that it be performed or else. This was often the most expensive aspect of getting new tags. It became such a problem that thieves would steal the new tags. These tags were originally placed in a corner of the plate, but thieves would simply take tinsnips and cutoff that corner. They now affix these tags to the center of the plate.
This year, after forty-three fricking years they now have online plate renewal. I still need all the same chits of paper, but now they are all online. I navigated the same-old, same-old process, but this time without having to go to a Department of Revenue office. I printed a new temporary registration form and now await the new tags by mail. Cross your fingers, because this is still Missouri.