Shorter lines, less hassle

Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Standing in line to renew a vehicle license or register a newly purchased automobile used to be a constant source of complaints and frustration. But much of the pain of getting new or renewed tags has been eased by several changes.

Nearly 3 million vehicles were switched to every-other-year renewals last year. This means the vehicles' owners pay two years of license fees instead of one.

In 2001, Missouri began online renewals for vehicle owners with computers and Internet access.

For several years Missouri automobile owners have been able to renew their vehicle registrations by mail, another convenience that avoids lines at a license bureau.

July used to be a busy month at fee offices, because owners of vehicles with vanity plates -- the ones personalized with names and numbers -- all renewed during that month. Now personalized plates are renewed in the month when they were purchased, just like regular plates.

Taken together, this has meant less of a crush at fee offices where licenses are purchased and renewed in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. It is a big improvement -- one that has been helped by courteous and knowledgeable personnel at the fee offices.

The process for renewing a driver's license also has been streamlined. Gone are the days of going to a fee office to have your photo taken and then waiting weeks for the new license to arrive in the mail. Now motorists get their photo snapped and wait just a few minutes for the new license to be handed to them.

There are still lines near the end of each month when vehicle owners wait until the last minute to take care of registrations and renewals. But those lines can easily be avoided by going to a fee office earlier in the month, by taking care of renewals online or by mail and by paying for two-year registrations instead of one.

While the vehicle-registration process is less painful, owners still must write a check. For motorists registering a newly purchased vehicle, that means paying the sales tax, which can be hefty depending on the cost of the vehicle.

Also remember that you need specific documentation when you go to the license bureau: registration application, inspection certificate, paid tax receipt and proof of insurance. With all of this in hand, your visit to the license bureau shouldn't take a lot of time or involve waiting very long in a line.

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