DMV Errors Force Drivers To Hit Road Without Registrations

Someone needs to have a chat with the IT person for the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Since February, the DMV has had to issue at least 16 public apologies regarding technical difficulties. And for the last week, many drivers have been unable to renew their registrations on the DMV website, forcing people to either go without using their cars or to hit the road illegally in unregistered vehicles.

For people who have been unable to renew their registration online, that also means the only way they can get late fees waived is to appear at the DMV in person. Again, this could mean that they are driving sans registration.

CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming attempted to file an information request regarding DMV computer problems, but was told it would cost him $1,533.19 for all the research involved.

The DMV says it “is working with the California Technology Agency to fully resolve the issue, and we are committed to implementing measures to mitigate future delays in service to our customers.”

Customers with unwarranted late fees will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, says the DMV.

But one driver, who already has a $30 late fee for the motorcycle gathering dust while it goes unregistered, wonders just how many people will pony over that extra money without either putting up a fight or realizing they are getting hosed.

“Just think what type of revenue they’re generating from this web site being down,” he points out.


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  1. Phildogger says:

    Screengrabs FTW

  2. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’m going to get some flack for this, but I’m going to say it anyway. In PA, we get our vehicle registration reminders 3 months before the expiration date. You can go to the DMV, renew online, or fill in the card and mail it back, with a check, to PennDOT.

    I’m not sure how much notice California gives its residents, but a little planning ahead would have avoided the whole late fee/not registered situation going on here.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Here in Oklahoma, I got mine 1 month in advance. I could see if someone was living paycheck-to-paycheck that this might be a legitimate problem. However, I would be surprised if at least 90% of the people having problems with this simply “didn’t get around to it” until the last minute. Yes, this is a problem, but it’s a government agency, for crying out loud! Prepare for the worst.

    • January says:

      No flack. NJ is the same. 8 wks in advance with option to renew online, by mail, or in person. And doing it in person these days is a hell of a lot easier and there are actually nicer people behind the counter.

    • Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

      Where I live, you have to have an emissions test done before you can renew your registration, and it has to be done 30 days or less before you renew. So if the site was down for a long time and someone had a crazy work schedule (scratch that…a normal one, seeing as the office is only open during a normal person’s workday), that could easily lead to being late.

      • GrayMatter says:

        Emissions test before Driver’s License Renewal:

        I have this horrible picture of you bending over while a TSA agent-in-training holds a Fart-O-Meter probe over your butt!

    • Brandon says:

      Your right I live in CA and we get them months in advance. I just happen to have my new registration sitting here next to me and its already complete and i have my stickers for my August renewal. There website says if you don’t get notice within 60 days you should call.

    • nrvn93 says:

      I just paid my registration online in California, after the paper was sitting on my desk for a couple months (its still not due until late July).

      Do things on time, and issues will not cause you flak.

    • alittle1584 says:

      CA resident here…
      I just got my renewal letter in the mail this week, and it isn’t due until Sep 29th. So yes, they do give plenty of time to renew. In fact, the letter recommends renewing eight weeks prior to the due date, to allow for any processing issues. Besides, your registration is due the same month each year (look at your license plate), so it shouldn’t be that hard to remember…

    • who? says:

      Another CA resident here. Yes, if you get a renewal notice, the renewal notice comes months in advance. However, I had two years in a row where I didn’t get the renewal notices. I hadn’t moved or anytyhing, they just never came. The first year, the only reason I got it renewed on time was that I remembered on Christmas day that I’d bought the car on New Year’s Day the year before. I had to race around to find a DMV where I could get an appointment during Christmas week.

      That was before the budget cuts. Like the rest of the state government, the DMV is extremely short staffed, and problems like I had have gotten worse, not better. If you can’t make an appointment at least 3 weeks in advance, you’re going to need to take an entire day off of work to go down and stand in line. A lot of people can’t do that, for some reason.

      • veronykah says:

        Really depends on the DMV. I registered a car I bought last year at the DMV in West Hollywood and it took about 40 minutes, this is in LA. Even when I went into 2 different DMVs to take my motorcycle permit test, it didn’t take 4 hours combined. Not sure where you live but sounds like a drive to a less crowded DMV would be worth it.
        Bonus? They have a estimated wait time for each DMV listed on the DMV website.

        • who? says:

          Looking at the DMV website right now. I can’t even get the hours that the locations are open, because that page doesn’t work.

    • dameon says:

      Kansas has had a similar issue with an update to the software they use to run the DMV. It has resulted in the state of KS informing it’s officers not to ticket drivers with expired tags. Which is good for me because my tags expired in May.

      In a typical year I send in my renewal online and have my tags in 2-3 business days. This year I paid the fee on May 8th and as of this posting I still have not received my new tags. I’ve contacted them a few times and they simply tell me they’re working on it and to be patient. Luckily I have a receipt showing I’ve already paid for my renewal and I just keep that in my car in the event an officer pulls me over for my expired tags.

      • CrazyTrain says:

        KS is still whacked. It’s only software???? How come MO has all of the politically assigned license bureaus (New GOV new owners) and it works…..? And why does the largest county in KS have two freaking DMV’s? Cross the border and you cant swing a dead cat and hit one.

    • Carlee says:

      I’m in CA and I got my renewal notice a couple of months ago, and I believe it’s due in August?. So you definitely do get a few months (at least). Although things have been changing a bit in the last few years – at one point, the DMV held off on issuing renewal notices for anything due after June 30th because the cost of registration for the new fiscal year was up in the air (they were hoping to increase the registration fees but that didn’t happen). And then they wanted to change the way they handled registration renewals – instead of getting the notice a few months ahead of time, they would mail them out only one month in advance. Or some crazy thing like that.

      But it seems they are back to sending out notices early again.

  3. SerenityDan says:

    wait… when it wont let them do it online who don’t they just to to the DMV and do it in person BEFORE the registration expires?

    • Lyn Torden says:

      People don’t like standing in line for 4 hours.

      • SerenityDan says:

        I bet they like getting their car taken away for lack of registration more

        • Syncop8d1 says:

          For a time, the CA DMVs closed their offices on some days due to budget difficulties. I think they were closing every other Friday back in 2009 when I last tried to go there. I have a car that I purchased in CA in 2002, and have since paid off in 2007. Yet I still have no title because my credit union LOST the title and won’t get a replacement for me. The only way *I* can get a replacement is to fly (I’m in TX) to CA. No use calling the DMV 800 # as it’s always busy. *sigh*

          • Carlee says:

            I think it was the 1st 3 Fridays of each month, so essentially there would be only 1 Friday each month for most months. It sucked.

  4. Coleoptera Girl says:

    “DMV is […] notifying customers that registration transactions can either be made through the mail, or through Self Service Terminals in selected field offices.” (From the CBS Sacramento article, part of one of the statements from the DMV.)

    Is it so hard to bribe a friend with free lunch in order to get to one of those terminals and back? People are complaining because a convenience has been taken away, not because they actually have no way to register their vehicles.

    • who? says:

      Have you ever been to a CA DMV office? You’re not going to find parking during lunch, much less get to the front of the line, even at a self service terminal.

      If you have to go to the DMV in person, you need to plan on it being an all day experience.

  5. dks64 says:

    I tried to change my address online (California DMV) back in May, before getting my car registration. I wasted the 15 minutes going through every page. In the end, it said it was changed. A month and a half later, still no registration. I called and the address was never changed. The operator notes that they’ve had a lot of issues with the online services lately and I wasn’t the only one. I made an appointment to go in to change it. Shockingly, I was out in less than 15 minutes.

    If they’re going to keep having issues, either resolve it or take the option to pay/change things online off the site for now.

  6. ronbo97 says:

    That’s why there are multiple redundancies set up. Mail in a check or go visit in person. Here in CT, DMV is open late one night a week + Saturday morning. Yes, a little less convenient than doing it online. But still no excuse.

    • who? says:

      That’s CT, not CA. I tried to look up the hours of my local office, and failed because the site is down. I live down the street from one of the largest DMV offices in the state, and it is definitely not open any night or weekend. I’m not entirely sure that it’s consistently open M-F, either.

      • Carlee says:

        I think they are open M-F (I don’t think they have furloughs for the first 3 Fridays of each month anymore). The hours are usually from 8am to 5pm except for Wednesday, when it’s from 9am to 5pm. Definitely no late evening hours and no more Saturdays.

        I don’t get why they open later on Wednesdays – it’s not like they close later on that day. What’s up with that? At least with the Los Angeles county libraries, they vary their hours so some days are 8am to 5pm, some days are 10am to 7pm.

  7. veronykah says:

    I registered both my scooter and my car on the CA DMV website recently, no problem about 3 weeks ago.

    • who? says:

      I did the same, and it seemed to work. However when I go there right now, it seems to be toast. I can get to the site, but it’s a blank page where the registration stuff should be.

  8. penuspenuspenus says:

    I’d like to see an itemized list for that $1533.19.

  9. yankinwaoz says:

    I usually just do it at the AAA office.

  10. Carlee says:

    It’s the CA DMV, what can I say? Last year, they rolled out new ID and DL designs. I should have gotten my new DL around March, but it took all the way until August. I had to ask for 3 extensions – the first time I was able to do this by phone. Apparently the license had been made but not mailed. They checked the system and said the DL was not mailed because of quality issues. So they would put in a request for a re-do (nice that they weren’t going to do anything until I called to ask.

    Then I had to go to the DMV to get the 2nd and 3rd extensions. Absolutely ridiculous. At least the time I spent for the 3rd extension was super quick – I made an appointment at the DMV near USC (early afternoon), took the bus to get there, was in and out of there in basically 5 minutes. Literally. And then a couple of days later, my DL came in the mail. Of course!

  11. shadow roper says:

    OK, I don’t have time to feel too bad about California. The brain trust in charge of the DMV in Kansas – where I live – went and spent $40 Million of our money on a “New and Improved” – now where have I heard that before – IT system for DMV services including tag renewal. OK, they shut down all DMV offices for 1 week to “implement the new system and train the employees”. Since then, life has been hell for the DMV employees and anyone that needs to actually do any business in person at the DMV. After the first couple of days, it was so bad at the Johnson County DMV that an employee was taking people’s phone numbers when they came in the door and then sending them away with the promise that they would call them when their number was getting close so they could come back in.

    So many things that I could say but I will keep it short and say that as the owner(s) of the company that sold KS this turkey sold his company to 3M shortly before the implementation of the system, that there is a software developer/ex-company owner on an island somewhere laughing his ass off. God I wish I was that devious.


  12. lvdave says:

    Good Lord, I’m sooooo glad I left that bats**t insane state back in the mid 90’s. The only problem is that since Nevada is right next door, we seem to be getting a lot of slop-over from the idiots in that state. The only good things coming out of California to Nevada are the endless lines of gamblers/partiers who make the cross-desert trek on Friday and go BACK on Sunday.. Wish there was a way to get their money without the traffic jams on Interstate 15…

  13. wcnghj says:

    Huh, I guess things a quite different here in Maine. No reminders are sent- you just hopefully look at your sticker and know when it’s due. A week or so before it expires, you head to your town office where you pay excise tax. This is a tax that goes to the town and must be paid before the vehicle can be registered. For a new vehicle, it can be over $1000 for a year. After a few years, it goes down to maybe $150.

    After that, you can pay a $3 agent fee to get the registration and tags directly from the town hall, or go to the DMV and pay no agent fee. The registration costs about $35 and you can get a vanity plate for an additional $25.

  14. JonBoy470 says:

    The issue is their website is broken. I have no sympathy for the state of California. With a population of 50 million people and shitty public transportation, there’s a business case for having a car registration regime that is un-sucky… There’s no excuse for this, not in 2012.