Idaho DMV: Don’t rely on us for registration renewal reminder

Have you checked your tags for when they expire? If you don’t renew on time, you could face a fine.
Have you checked your tags for when they expire? If you don’t renew on time, you could face a fine.

The vehicle registration notice you get in the mail before your tags expire is only a “customer service courtesy,” state transportation officials say — much to the frustration of some hybrid car owners who didn’t get the reminder and were subsequently fined for expired tags.

Yes, the state usually sends out notifications, but it is under no obligation to do so.

So if you don’t get that renewal post card in the mail — for whatever reason — it’s on you to remember to renew your registration before you get pulled over by an observant police officer.

Some hybrid car owners around Idaho discovered this the hard way in 2017, after a change in state law that resulted in notifications not going out.

They got ticketed for expired registrations.

Boisean Stephen Krag’s wife, Unsuk, was out Christmas shopping when she got pulled over by police. She and others alerted friends via social media to check their registrations.

“One of her friends said, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to go check mine,’” Stephen Krag recalled. “Her registration was up. She said thanks, ‘I’m going to go down and register right now.’”

Krag said he queried officials at the county DMV and assessor’s offices about why he didn’t get a notice. He was told not everybody got a notification in 2017, and also that it was a “courtesy” that no one should rely on.

“When the legislation changed, there were some cases where those renewal notices did not go out to individuals who perhaps had a hybrid vehicle,” said Jennifer Gonzalez, an Idaho Transportation Department spokeswoman. “However, moving forward, notices will be going out to all vehicle owners.”

Gonzalez was not sure how many motorists were impacted.

About 1.6 million vehicles registered annually in Idaho, including 9,700 hybrids. Drivers must renew car registration documents annually or biennially.

Nancy DeWitt posted a notice to The Northend Facebook group about the issue.

“This made me go check our Prius, and sure enough, the tags expired two months ago. We never got a notice for it, but we did get one for our gas guzzler,” DeWitt wrote. “I saw two more Priuses (Prii?) with expired tags on a short walk around our neighborhood this morning. Check your plates!”

Commenters weighed in with a range of opinions, including at least one who noted that vehicle registration renewal is a matter of personal responsibility.

“ ... They did not used to be inconsistent on when they decided to be ‘courteous,’” one Boisean responded. “Somehow I get a very courteous property tax bill every year.”

If taxpayers are paying for the notices to be sent out, then the DMV should be consistent about sending them and their policy should be clearly communicated to the public, she said.

Ironically, the change in the law that caused the notification kerfuffle was a repeal of a $75 surcharge on gas hybrid vehicles. The surcharge remains in effect for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The Krags received a $67 ticket for expired registration. Stephen Krag said he’s paid for a two-year registration and has created his own renewal notice on his digital calendar.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller