The Day The Tyrannical Government Suspended My Driver License

government tyranny

The government suspends my driver license one year. I want to share my story.

To the drivers out there who work very hard to deliver our packages and safely transport our citizens, to the employees out there who commute an hour each way to jobs you don't like to provide for your family, to the entrepreneurs out there who risk it all for a dream, to the responsible parents out there who are never late picking up your children from school, and to those who come to the USA legally for a better life, this post is for you!

The government does not make it easy for a regular person to get ahead. Instead, the government allows people who are already wealthy with tremendous resources beat the system at the average person's expense. If you can afford a lawyer or an assistant to deal with all the red tape, then life is easy. But very few people can.

In addition to deciding who gets to marry or who gets a a tax credit, the government can also keep you hostage, even if you've done nothing wrong. Let me explain my latest run in with the government that has robbed me of five hours of my life.

Driver License Renewal Time

In California your driver license expires on your birthday every five years. The CA DMV will mail you a renewal notice about two months before expiration. When I got my renewal notice, I paid my renewal fee by credit card and received an e-mail confirmation.

With one week left before expiration and still no new driver license in the mail, I began to worry. Could it be the government is screwing me again with its antiquated systems? So, I called CA DMV to ask my status. After being on hold for 35 minutes, here's what they said, “Sorry, I need to transfer you to the Error Processing unit. I cannot help you. It appears your credit card did not go through.

Long hold with DMV - driver license fight
1 hour, 5 minutes, 33 seconds and counting with NY DMV

Seriously? I've used my credit card multiple times since I paid the renewal fee almost two months ago. I wait another 30 minutes to explain my situation to a new person.

She responds, “The Federal government passed a law to place a hold on all driver license renewals for unpaid bills. New York state has a block on your driver's license. Please call them to inquire what is going on. “

OK, WTF. The last time I lived and worked in New York was in 2001. I've been a California resident and taxpayer since. I renewed my California driver license in 2006 and again in 2011 without problems, so this new Federal law must have gone into effect within the past five years.

The DMV Is The Worst

The CA DMV Error Processing person gave me a reference number and the NY State DMV number to call: 518 473 5595. So I did. After navigating through a bunch of options and waiting another 30 minutes, I spoke to another woman to explain my situation again.

Of course, she said she couldn't help me, and told me to hang tight as she transferred me to another department to deal with these issues. After another 25 minutes, a woman came on to hear my situation. After doing some digging, this is what she said.

It looks like in June 2001 you owned a vehicle in New York that had a lapse of insurance coverage. As a result, you owe a $25 penalty fee to get your hold removed. How would you like to proceed?

HUH?! Before coming out to San Francisco in 2001, I sold my New York registered vehicle to someone. Why do I need to pay insurance for a vehicle I do not own or operate?

According to our records, you are still the owner of this vehicle,” she went on to explain.

Crap. So I guess apparently whoever bought the car from me never registered the vehicle under his name. Did he take apart my car and sell it for parts?!

The NY DMV woman said there was nothing she could do except take the $25 payment over the phone with my credit card to terminate this lapse of insurance plus a $5 service charge. Further, she said she could not e-mail proof of payment or immediately update the system electronically. Instead, I would have to wait for a week to get the proof of payment via snail mail!

Now I'm wondering whether this confirmation will ever arrive. Given the DMV's antiquated systems, California won't get notice of my cleared New York state driving record from 15 years ago for another 5-10 business days. As a result, no new driver license and I'm not allowed to drive!

Screw The System

What's amazing is the California DMV didn't bother telling me that my payment hadn't gone through due to a New York insurance fee situation. If it had, obviously I would have handled the situation sooner.

What's also amazing is that not only were my 2006 and 2011 CA driver license renewals processed without problems, but it is 15 years later that I get an erroneous charge on a vehicle I sold back in 2001. The Federal government is creating more red tape to screw innocent citizens out of their time and money.

Shut out from driving because my driver license was suspended
Shut out from making money driving

What if I made my living as a full-time Uber driver? I logged on to my Uber app as I always do when I'm driving somewhere more than 20 minutes away to make some extra money. DENIED! The app won't work because my drivers license is expired and I can't get a new one to upload.

What if I drove an hour to work each way every day? SORRY! I guess I'll just have to take the bus two hours each way instead.

What if my kids depended on me to drop them off and pick them up every day? I guess I could rent a cheap rental car for $50 until I finally get my driver license in the mail. Oh wait, that won't work because I have no license.

Drivers License

To expedite proof of settling my New York auto insurance issue, the NY DMV said I could call the Out Of State Call Center at  518-473-5595 the next day, select “Abstracts” in the menu option, request “License Abstract” to show that my license suspension is removed, and request at my own cost documentation to prove my innocence.

After dealing with the Out Of State Call Center, I can then call the National Drivers Center at 888-851-0436 to get further proof I'm cleared. Oh my goodness. This is crazy!

And after I waste another couple more hours of my life, I then have to call the California Error Processing Sector at 916-657-8545 to make sure its system shows I'm cleared in New York. Well I did call a week later. Tt looks like I'm cleared from the national driver license registry. But, I have to wait another 7 – 10 business days for me to actually receive my license. Who knows whether or not my license will get lost in the mail?

Bottom line: thanks to the government not keeping accurate records and failing to update their data management system, I'll be out of a driver license for about two weeks at least and up to a couple months. I was told I have to wait 30 days to contact the CA DMV again if my new driver license does not come in 10 business days. Outrageous. I accept responsibility for not knowing completely the NY state DMV rules. Now I hope the following solutions below will help others prevent some pain as well.

Countering Government Oppression

During this ongoing DMV process, I kept telling myself, “Never give up. Never give up. Don't ever give up.” I was channeling Jimmy Valvano's amazing ESPN speech about fighting cancer. While I know some people who have been completely screwed by the government, I just have to keep faith that everything will be OK.

Some argue that such an experience is not oppression, but an inconvenience. Clearly these folks cannot empathize with people who rely on their vehicle to survive. This is government oppression if 1) you did nothing wrong and 2) you will be fined or jailed if you don't follow the government's rules while doing nothing wrong!

To never experience what I am experiencing, here are some strategies:

1) After you sell a vehicle, immediately contact your auto insurance company and the DMV to tell them the vehicle has been sold. Provide them the buyer's information and all relevant details. Do not assume like I did the DMV will just know. For some reason, the buyer of my vehicle never registered it in his name.

2) After you pay your driver license renewal fee, within a week call the DMV and verify your payment went through. Do not expect the DMV to inform you if it doesn't. DMV's systems suck. Never trust the DMV or the government to do the right thing for you.

3) Become financially independent as soon as possible. I'm mostly mad about the government wasting my time and causing undue stress. I first stressed wondering whether the license got lost in the mail. Then I stressed about whether I owed some massive back taxes to New York. If you have a large emergency fund, it's much easier to deal with these unfortunate situations. By writing this post, I'm trying to make lemonade by hopefully helping thousands of other people who depend on driving to make their lives work. It's important that everybody offers a solution to problems they face.

4) Try to get off the grid. The more you make, the more the government wants to take from you. The more assets you have, the more the government wants to tax you too. If you can make yourself a ghost by earning nothing, you'll have less paperwork to file and less taxes to pay. Instead, try to live off the government! If you don't own any property, the government can't charge you property taxes or confiscate the land you already own. If you can get rid of your car, you won't have the associated renewal fees, tickets, maintenance, and insurance costs. Less is more!

5) Avoid doing business in California or New York. Instead, look for more tax friendly states such as Deleware and Nevada. California and New York aggressively tax W2 earners and small businesses.

Be aware that if you get caught driving with an expired driver license, you can be jailed or fined. You can be banned from driving and have your car impounded too. You might even get a misdemeanor on your record. Some states have grace periods of up to 90 days after your driver license expire to drive and renew. But it's up to you to check your state's local laws.

I hope this post helps drivers everywhere. It may have taken me five hours to rectify this situation, but it may take many people many more hours, especially if they don't read this post. Some, I fear, will just simply give up altogether and just drive on a suspended license. Think about the millions of people out there who don't speak English as a first language. Navigating the bureaucracy is brutal enough!

To those who continuously vote for laws that require more and more government, please stop. The larger government gets, the more it will find ways to restrict your freedom. Freedom is what people have died fighting for. Do not let the government take advantage of you!


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126 thoughts on “The Day The Tyrannical Government Suspended My Driver License”

  1. Bryan lowery

    Yes I would like to know how the state of North Carolina charge me 3 times for driving on revoked for one incident apparently someone you’re not send the information to Raleigh stating that I took care of the one and only incident for driving on revoked license state of North Carolina made a mistake and is not willing to fix it so I have not had no license in 4 years and I also have the proof that they screwed me over but no one would listen to me

  2. Ceemee Freeme

    Apparently there are folks who have caught on to the fact that the DMV, especially in California, holds itself as a “higher entity” that does not answer to anyone unless it involves a profit at the end of said transaction. Case in point, a fellow named Sam that I lived by a few years ago was pulled over in So Cal as the officer witnessed him swerve while reaching for his sun glasses as he was blinded by sun heading home on the coast. He had been in a meeting with a client prior to the incident. Sam worked as hospitality vendor and this was his last appointment with a gm who he met with in the hotel tavern. Sad to say that decision cost him everything when he found himself in line of fire as two arguing patrons started brawling, one threw a pitcher of beer and missed his target & my friend was drenched. Sam was quite angry when he left, his ire was soon directed to the officer who pulled him over & was now insisting he take a dui test. Sam admitted he was surly in language & demeanor as he blew .04, yet the cop still arrested him for dui. He was beyond furious by now yet knew he would be exonerated as he demanded blood draw & his day in court. Long story short, he was found innocent of dui but officer showed up & with his testimony he was given reckless driving. So with evidence of dui innocence in hand he went to California DMV and was promptly denied license as he needed to take dui classes. I was there with him as he received the news. We were dumbfounded, The DMV did not care that he was found innocent, he was given a wet reckless because of the one beer in system and still had to pay fines & complete dui classes to regain his license. Apparently the California DMV is “judge, jury & executioner” in regards to being able to obtain ones right to drive after being found innocent in a court of law. My friend, Sam, needless to say, soon departed this great fubard state. I don’t blame him.
    The Cali DMV only responds to the “Kaching” as they liberate your wallet. They do not care so do not beg cry or plea, they only respond to your ‘paper or plastic’. There is no defense other than your hard earned dollar that you will spend to buy your way out. Democrats or Republicans in office, does not matter, they always find a fee, another way to profit off the working class citizens. This has proven time & again in 2018. The Don Juan dirtbags in Sac have soiled us again, whispered sweet nothings about the new improved gas tax that we already pay for our roads, is again being implemented via additional gas taxed tax. The mighty dmv is pleased to rake in registration fees, which are now raised this year $25 to $175, depends on how nice your wheels are, but what the hell, they obviously deserve our money more than we do. The kalifornia krazy kriminals elected run this place regardless of standing law & order, that of which they change more often than their dirty drawers to their benefit. California dreaming has become a nightmare. Now with the ‘right to die’ on the books I can see the baby boomers going ‘bye bye’ in record time & imagine the dmv in glee as the profit for that permit ride to ones resting place. The fools in office here make Hoffa look like a lil thug to their godfathers in government & mafia dmv dons play by the rules they implemented that day. As I now realize how they the ‘ government goombahs’ violate us even as we sleep.
    #me three
    Now pray for the day I can scramble two nickels together & escape, be free from these ‘Kalifornia Daze’

    1. Dee Andrews

      Its not just California. Its all over. Here is my Florida DMV horror story. I was in an accident (fender bender), the first one of my life. I went to pay my ticket at the Courthouse. There were three options. Pay the ticket, $166.00, opt for driver school and pay $160.00, or go to court. I chose driver school to avoid points, but still had to pay $160.00 for the ticket. If I had known, I would never have picked driver school and just paid the $166.00 for the ticket. (the 6.00 credit I didn’t ask for.) I wish I had just paid for the ticket period. That 6.00 credit is the govt.’s insurance policy to screw you. I got a new job and didn’t have time to complete the driver’s school. I knew I would get points on my record, but my insurance company doesn’t raise your rates for first accident. I wrongly assumed that would be all that would happen. WRONG. Three months later I get a letter from my insurance company telling me I have a suspended license. I had not gotten any bill or notice from DMV or courthouse, nothing. So I went to DMV to pay the fine which turned out to be $46.00 for fine and 66.00 to reinstate my license. Even though I was NOT court ordered to take a drivers course,( it was my option), I ended up paying another $120.00 to the govt. Typical govt. GOTCHA ripp-off.
      WARNING: Do not opt for driver’s school, just pay the ticket. You can always take the driver’s course if you want to and then get the points removed at a later date. You never know if life’s circumstances will keep you from following thru on something. Don’t give them the opportunity to screw you.

  3. 7 years later some crap popped up after I moved to a new state from … I don’t feel like writing out the whole story I hope those people at DMV choke on a piece of meat turn blue suffer and die. I did not do anything to anyone and the are _____ up my life. Choke suffer then die I hope so.

  4. Hello…
    First off, thank you for putting your story up for others to read and hopefully learn from.

    Ordinarily, I don’t leave​ comments of any nature. However, after reading this, I felt you and your readers needed to know what I’m talking about.

    Your post which, implied the state of New York dropped the ball, left it up to you to fix. Weather with or without knowledge CA’s DMV became a co-conspirator in the matter.
    Although this​ appears (on the surface) to be an isolated event perpetrated by the New York government & our federal government, it’s important to know that this isn’t as isolated as one may think.

    In my personal experience, I gave a 1991 Subaru to someone down on their luck. Following CA’s DMV rules, I filled out and submitted (in person) a release of liability as well as reporting the gift.

    As it turns out the receiving party began the transfer process but never completed the change of ownership. Six (6) years later the Ca Highway Patrol issued a tow notice and citation for the unregistered vehicle being illegally parked on the street. This caused a $500 towing service, vehicle impounding at the rate of $30/day, a lien filed, and the car disposed of. All in all the bill was $1,850.00 + interest of $300.00 & another $285 in lien fees, for a grand total of $2,470.00!

    That same year when renewing my Ca DL, I was told in order to get my license renewed & the suspension (which I knew nothing about) lifted, I must pay the now nearly $2600 bill.

    Once I explained I had done the release of liability I still had to wait as some peon in Sacramento, failed to enter the release in the system. Having been so many years later the document had to be ordered from CA DMV storage and printed from I the microfilm. After several cruciatingly painful weeks I was able to get the bill removed (for a $25.00 administrative fee).

    I say this so you and others know that this isn’t just an isolated event. Rather it is a coast to coast issue. Being a law-abiding, truthful citizen means nothing. Yes it was fixed but it shouldn’t have ever been an issue to begin with!

    Regardless of what state you live in, before buying, selling, accepting or giving a gift of any vehicle or vessel, DO NOT assume that by following the rules you’ll be in the clear. The facade the government has provided you to feel safe is the very government that is all to happy to pilfer every last cent from it’s law abiding citizens. Be assured though…should you ever be wronged by them, you can expect nothing less than a lifetime of consequences with little to no mercy shown or a condescending oops were sorry, & good luck!

    So beware and be-a-ware when conducting business with the government. Regardless of the issue you will suffer in some fashion the wrath of US Officials.

  5. Rights, like driving, are now being held hostage under any excuse whatsoever for the sake of manipulation. See 42 USC 666, which says they’ll stop you from driving or getting married if you won’t bear the mark of the beast (the SSN)

  6. Vancouver Brit

    You seem to have a pretty antiquated system in the US for driver licensing huh?

    In Canada (at least in BC) you just walk into the local ICBC (they have branches everywhere) and you can usually sort out any problem there and then. If for some reason you need to renew a license last minute and wait for a new one in the mail, they provide you with a temporary paper license to use until your new card arrives in the mail. Not exactly rocket science.

    Is there no way of sorting licensing issues out in person in the US that would expedite the process?

  7. Jersey Dave

    I know that this is an old article; I’ve recently discovered this site and have been reading backwards.

    Just a tip for other readers on selling a car. In NY (and NJ & PA) when a car is sold the seller is supposed to remove the license plate(s). The plates are then turned into the DMV who will provide a receipt. This receipt is the proof that your car is no longer on the road.

    In CA the title has an attached Transfer and Release of Liability form. This needs to be filled out with the new owner’s name and address. It should be taken by the seller. Every time I’ve bought a used motorcycle in CA the seller has mistakenly left the form on the title.

  8. A short history and then my own FUBAR story.

    The national DL registry was created by Congress in the 1990s in response to abuses by truckers and other drivers who would run up violation points and to avoid suspension or revocation would go to a different state (easy for long-haul truckers) to reset the ‘point clock’ to zero. Now, any state can block a driver from getting or renewing a DL in any other state.

    About 15 years ago I had an abrupt and extended hospitalization, during which my tags expired. My car was parked off-street in my driveway – no garage or carport – but received a number of tickets (‘abandoned vehicle’) because the tags were expired and the town was anal regarding enforcement of its codes.

    By the time I got out of the hospital, the tickets had defaulted and run up several hundred dollars in fines, which I had no way of paying. Since I was also not yet able to return to work – had limited mobility and needed a walker – family relocated me cross-country and took me in until I could return to work. The tickets are no longer enforceable – statute of limitations ran out – but I’d have to pay a nominal reinstatement fee to get a DL again.

  9. As a disabled veteran, I disagree with your statement “To those who continuously vote for laws that require more and more government, please stop. The larger government gets, the more it will find ways to restrict your freedom. Freedom is what people have died fighting for. Do not let the government take advantage of you!”

    I was willing to risk my life not for a small or large government not for no regulation and restrictions verses regulations and restrictions but for the right to choose my government. The Boston Tea Party was not about no taxes, it was about No taxes without representation. No taxes without a voice. I also find it Interesting that our founder took the individual voice and decided to be a collective voice. In other words, the guy or gal who gets the vote and gets elected, gets the voice for his entire district.

    Now I am not arguing for or against a small or large government. I am not arguing for against restrictions and regulations. That is another debate for another time.

    But please don’t confuse Freedom and an elected government actions and decisions. The last time I looked, most people in the Country of ours have the right and unrestricted opportunity to vote their way and at any time another group of people can vote another way.

    But please, for the love of God, don’t discount or diminish the right to choose a Government and the right to choose a poorly ran government as a marker for measuring our Freedom.

    The fact that either can be chosen is Freedom. The fact there is another election coming in the future where they can be fired and a new group put in is Freedom. Absent them taking the right to choose the government away, even boneheads elected is Freedom.

    My people may win this election and take the country one way and your people may win at the next election and take the country another direction. My Friend, that is freedom.

    1. Thanks for your service and your thoughts.

      Your words remind me of a great quote from Mance Rader, “the freedom to make my own mistakes is all i ever wanted.”

      I’ve seen the corruption, the inefficiencies, the $2B price tag to build Politicians are politicians due to their EGOs. I believe we can do better to help each other.

      Related: How Much Of My Time And Money Should I Give To Charity?

  10. Finance Solver

    Man, the thing I hate about the TX DMV is that their number never seems to work. Even though it took 30 minutes, at least you were able to navigate through the options and talk to a real live person. I called and had to listen to the “on hold” song for 15 minutes before I gave up, tried again, listened to the tune for another 15 minutes and gave up and went there in person. I had one quick question that would have taken 2 minutes to answer but instead it took 1+ hours!

  11. Well, just to throw the other perspective out there, I knew a woman who worked at a MD DMV in the early 2000’s. She is friendly and smiles a lot. She said she was forced to stop that at work. People come in with huge chips on their shoulders, many already looking for a fight and just flat out mad that they are there at all. She smiled at someone and they ripped into her on her first day. Happened again the next week. Taught her not to smile at people or say anything conversationally. People would give her the evil eye when she went to a “window” at the counter to use a computer and didn’t open the window to take people in line to shorten their weight. Some even spoke up about it and would make comments. They didn’t know that there were certain things that could only be done at those computers because of the dumb system at the time and the employees would periodically have to go sit at one and not open the line while they worked.

    She also had to deal with many a dreg. A lot of people lie, flat out. They lie about stupid things like their age even when their birth certificate says different, they lie about their past and what happened, they bring conflicting information, they spin fantastic excuses as to why they don’t have the paperwork they need, they bring documents like employee badges to “prove” who they are instead of birth certificates or even their old license, and whenever they are questioned they tend to get loud, mean, and blow up, delaying the process for everyone.

    Even when it isn’t a lie, the state lays out the requirements, and often she would try to be helpful because that was her nature, but she couldn’t do anything if someone didn’t bring the state required information. She also couldn’t make exceptions to what was required even if she mentally agreed with the person that the system was nuts, like in this case how they could have issued multiple licenses over the years and suddenly there is a problem 15 years after the fact. They just aren’t given that amount of leeway, mainly because over all the years the dregs have forced the system to tighten up via their abuse of it.

    Sam mentioned someone depending on their license for a living. When she was a commercial license tester for large vehicles, she was often escorted by an officer because some of these big rig guys and gals had jobs and livelihoods riding on passing the exams and a few of them got out of control when they didn’t pass. So it’s no joy working there either.

  12. I have not driven in 7 years. On my birthday, I went to renew my license. There was a problem. They decided that my letter from the government as partial proof of address did not count because I did not bring the envelope it came in. The letter had my address, the government letterhead, and the date, but no. It just wouldn’t work. This requirement was not listed online. I had to come back to the DMV and wait again for my turn – this time with an envelope. They never asked me if I was still safe to drive. They never asked why I have never registered a car. They just needed a million versions of proof for my actual address. It was ridiculous.

  13. I felt my blood pressure rise as I read this story. Think about all the jobs this all has created!! How many people did you have the pleasure of talking to?? All in the most sarcastic way possible.

    Man it is truly incredible how much money is spent in inefficient ways throughout the government. You would think by now, with all the technology we have, that systems would talk to each other, but clearly we’re a long ways from that. Or maybe the inefficiency is by design? It’s hard not to think so.

    1. It’s like the tax lobby industry. They want more and more complicated tax codes so they can stay in business. And the IRS isn’t incentivized to make things simple either so they can earn more in late fees and penalty charges.


  14. Pertinent update: there are currently four men working on building a retaining wall in the back of my house. This is a crew I worked with last year, and one of the workers legally immigrated from China four years ago. His English is poor, so as a result he went from working as a Chinese government official to being a construction laborer here in the US.

    His boss is demanding, and doesn’t really let him breathe when he is around because he is paying his work or by the hour. But today, he snuck away while I was working in the front of the house because he wanted to ask me a question. He came up to me and showed me a picture on his phone. It was a picture of a contract of some sort. He asked me to translate what was scribbled working in the front of the house because he wanted to ask me a question. He came up to me and showed me a picture on his phone. It was a picture of a contract of some sort. He asked me to translate what was scribbled on the document. Basically, it said that he needed to initial in each box and then sign his name at the bottom of the document. Event needed to confirm that he understood everything in the document.

    I didn’t ask him what the document was about, but it looked like a renewal of some sort. Perhaps for his vehicle, or perhaps for his green card, not sure. He thanked me profusely for explaining to him what he needed to do in the document and he told me he has absolutely zero faith and doing things right without some type of help because things are so confusing. His documents were already sent back once for filling the info wrong.

    So imagine this guy losing his license because of some weird law. There is absolutely NO WAY he would have ever been able to renew his license if he were me. No chance in hell. This is why when you go to court you see free translators accompany the defendant in front of the judge. It is to help the people who have a very difficult time helping themselves because the system is so complex.

    A more streamlined process and a more efficient DMV is important. People lose hope when things get so complicated. If you can afford a lawyer, great. But most people cannot. The system is crushing those who need THE MOST help.

    1. This is absolutely correct. I consider myself a privileged and well-educated American, and I’m actually one of those weirdos who enjoys navigating bureaucracy successfully. When I moved to Denmark for grad school, dealing with government regulations (even in a country with very high English literacy and some dual language forms) was incredibly hard. The poor and uneducated have a snowball’s chance.

  15. Great article! I truly believe emotional intelligence is the most underrated skill in the workplace and life. With everything at our fingertips, we forget to take the time to get to know people on a personal level and connect outside of the daily hustle. I will definitely be sharing this with my colleagues.

  16. Dear financial samurai. I am a 24 year old east coast public accountant who has a question in regards to west coast financial opportunities and MBA programs. Is there a way I can get in touch with you via email? I would really appreciate it.

  17. Sam – I believe there is second lesson to be learned for your readers beyond the vehicle fiasco (the original point to this post) and that is how to professionally respond to criticism, to which you have put on a clinic in your responses to the commenters.

    I enjoy reading your articles, but often times get the biggest kick out of your responses to your detractors. Keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Thanks for your comment Matt! Very nice of you to say. All I wish is for those who dissent to just share where they are coming from. There’s asymmetric information here, which often puts me at a loss for how to properly debate and respond. We all know that our comments are more a reflection of ourselves than of someone else. So I try not to get too bent out of shape when the tidal wave comes. The angrier the person, the better it’s probably best for me to just listen.

      Any chance you read this post: A Key To An Easier Life? High Emotional Intelligence? Because your comment displays some high EI!

      1. Thanks for high EI compliment! The article you reference was one of my favorite articles in the last few months.

        Improving EI is an evolving process for me (and probably many of your readers). Your list of (8) points for developing EI is spot on and is a good point to reference moving forward. If we all check ourselves every few months, we can constantly improve and become better people for ourselves and for those around us.

  18. E30MeisterBrau

    Great write-up. Navigating bureaucracies is an unfortunate part of life. One that makes you want to run for the woods, grow a beard and start selling artisan jams by the side of the road.

    But! To add another helpful tip for your readers. Even if your state does not require it (and most do not) you should get a signed and notarized bill of sale put together whether you are selling or buying a vehicle.

    In your instance, the Bill of Sale would have been proof for NY that the car was not under your ownership, allowing you to avoid the penalty costs, and maybe shortcutting some, though not all of this hassle.

    You can get a sample bill of sale from numerous sources online but common information to include is:

    -Name and Address of Seller and Buyer
    -Make, Model, VIN and Mileage of Vehicle being transferred
    -As/Is warranty disclaimer
    -Signature Lines

    Getting a notary to endorse it might be a bit of overkill but removes any question about whether the people involved were legitimately who they claimed to be.

    1. Hilarious! I so wanted to get off the grid during my 5 hour navigation.

      Thanks for offering a great suggestion. So much better than just pointing fingers.

      I just turned 24 when this incident happened. What did I know about selling my first car? Hope other car owners reading can save some headache.

      Fight on!

  19. Trendsetter

    I didn’t hear about them not impounding cars in CA for not having insurance but I know they CAN impound the car for not being registered, depends if the officer or CHP is nice.

    The bottom points of your article are really good. There was once a time people didn’t need a “license” to drive. Keep your wealth out of government reach. The German banks now must force all new account holders to disclose if we have any bank accounts outside of Germany, so damn nosy so we walked out and told them to screw the regulators. Bitcoin will explode as the world gets sick of this control and over taxation.

  20. Nishank Pathak

    I don’t know about California and New York, but here in Florida seller can submit a form to the DMV, after selling your car, that says that you do not own that car anymore. If your state has such a rule and you did not do your due diligence, then I won’t blame the government. I am sorry but, it is you who is at fault.

    1. Indeed. Which is why I published this post to help other people who also depend on their car to not make the same mistake.

      No need to feel sorry for me. My focus is to share a situation and to provide solutions. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.

      Feel free to share your background and any solutions if you have any.

    2. Ms. Conviviality

      My friend mentioned during lunch today that she was going to be selling her car today. I shared with her the lessons from this post. She’s an auditor and hadn’t even thought about what could happen if the buyer never registers the car. Anyway, she was appreciative for the information and went to the sale with the proper form needed. Thanks, FS, for this is one person that’s benefited from your post.

      1. Ah, great to hear! The process was stressful and I do hope I can save more people from going through this similar type of stress.

        It’s not like we are all private party car buying and selling experts. I was 24 at the time I sold my first car I bought car in NYC and moved out to SF. Heck if I knew all the rules back them. But I learned, and I’m sharing.

        Your comment about helping your friend made my morning :)

  21. Sam-

    You post a lot of great things, but this post was far beneath the usual quality that you have established as a norm. Everybody who lives here, and I promise you in every other country on earth has had to deal with bureaucratic incompetence like this. We ALL have a stories like this or worse as is evident from the comments. The part that is completely irresponsible to me is that you have tried to make this political, right smack dab in the middle of a crazy amount of political instability that comes in every election year. I know it is not your intention, but this post comes about as boderline clickbait. This is a classic, “it’s all the liberals fault!” woe is me article. It’s not different than Sara’s whiny “rich people” comment above…which was equally ridiculous. You definitely have the right to complain as what happened to you is total BS. It has zero to do with being rich or poor. If you’ve dealt with any business, private or public, then you know the real problem here is that many, MANY, people are horrible at their jobs. Especially jobs that have a low barrier to entry. You can’t conflate that with the current political climate. The two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Your post is a thinly veiled suggestion to vote against “the liberals”. I have some very bad news for you…if Donald Trump gets elected, or if Mit Romney or John McCain were the current president, your story would be exactly the same. There are many areas where government regulations fail the people, and there are many areas where they help, but I’m sad to say, the DMV doesn’t fall into either category. Yes, it’s “government” office but it ends there. If there was just a slight bit of competence, somebody in NY would have looked at this and noted it was ridiculous to even pursue…or somebody in CA would have made sure a letter got to you. There is no “tyranny” here trying to make life harder for you or anybody else. There’s just plain old laziness and lack of care or empathy for the consequences of decisions you make at work. No doubt many people on Wall St. are guilty of this, as well as small businesses on “main street” and everywhere in between. Next time, please stay off the political soapbox…this type of slanderous writing is exactly why we are a country that is so divided.

    1. AC, didn’t realize you would think this is a post against liberals. If anything, it’s the exact opposite. Good feedback as I never mentioned the words “Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Trump, or Hillary.” Perhaps you are reading into this post more than what it is: a post about what to do to not get your driver license suspended, how gov’t red tape trips up a lot of people, especially lower income people who really need to depend on their cars to live, and to think twice about voting more government if you want your freedom.

      You will know when there is a political post when I post one. It is election year after all, and to not talk about politics and how it affects your money would be irresponsible.

      I don’t mind you being a Conservative and voting for Trump. You just have to lay out your arguments as to why and provide solutions, otherwise it’s just a jibber jabber waste of time. But I promise you, once you speak to the drivers who depend on their cars to make a living or lower income folks who can only afford to live an hour away from the city center by car, or the people who are working hourly jobs and can’t understand English well, you will gain more empathy for them and more understanding of how red tape hurts many Americans. And once you do, you might move closer to center.

      I’d love to know more about your background to understand where you’re coming from.

      Please read:

      Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

      In Search For Empathy For The Unemployed

      1. Sam-

        You’re right…you didn’t use the words “liberals” or “conservatives”. I think that’s being a bit technical. The phrases “vote for more government” and “tyrannical government” are obvious inflammatory language that send the exact same message. You’ve published plenty of stats about the average reader on this site so I think it is a safe assumption that most of the folks here can read between the lines. I would argue that there is obvious political slant to this post, no matter how carefully you chose your words. The point of my comment was that you’re pushing the idea that this is somehow the fault of big government and in my opinion this particular story has nothing to do with the government. It’s just straight incompetence.

        It’s interesting that you felt I lean one way or the other politically after reading my comment. I was trying to state that politics aren’t even in play here. I feel bad for you, of course, because you have been caught up in a storm of ridiculous bureaucracy. The fact that you can afford to weather that storm and that you are smart enough to navigate through the inefficiencies of the system is not relevant here. I would feel equally annoyed for any friend, family member, or coworker etc. that got caught in the same same storm but the outcome actually affected their livelihood. It is not about rich or poor as I said before and it has nothing to do with my personal background or political beliefs. The bottom line is that these injustices shouldn’t be happening. We all have a DMV story, or a hospital bill story, or a car insurance story. I agree that “red tape hurts many Americans” (personally I would just say “red tape hurts many” and leave it there because this problem exists in every country I have been to/lived in) and I also agree that it is infuriating. My point was that it has nothing to do with a “tyrannical government” as you put it and I felt that it was a bit irresponsible to throw the blame in that direction in such an incendiary way. Whether you intend to or not, this type of writing fans the flames that are dividing the nation. I feel like you write objectively a vast majority of the time, and you are right when you imply that you are clear when you get political. Even in those cases, I feel that you usually assess the situation quite fairly. This post did not have that same tone. I don’t think it is fair to place the blame on “the government” in this situation. I see the problem here is that people are horrible at their jobs. If you want to write an article every time you encounter that, you will be an extremely busy man (not that you aren’t already).

        1. Can you share your background so I can understand you better? Right now I’m just flying blind as I don’t really understand what we are debating about. But it is fun though. I’d love to hear some solutions to the problems we face so we can all benefit. Danka.

          1. Sam-

            Your tone suggests that you think I disagree with you. I hope that’s not the case because I definitely agree that there is a crazy amount of red tape in our lives…I just don’t think the government is to blame.

            I think these two statements you made along with several others makes the discussion political:

            “Why can’t people see government is inefficient and can really hurt innocent people with its excessive policies?”

            “To those who continuously vote for laws that require more and more government, please stop.”

            What I meant by the stats of your readers is that you basically have an audience made up of rather intelligent people…no doubt more educated that the general public as a whole. When somebody uses phrases like “tyrannical government”, it’s fair for an intelligent person to draw the conclusion that the writer of said phrase does not look favorably on the political left. When the writer further points out that those who vote for more government are the source of an issue, an intelligent person might also conclude that the writer of said statement does not look favorably on the political left. In short, intelligent people don’t need to see the exact words “liberal” or “conservative” to know you are talking about liberals and conservatives.

            I guess that’s the political slant I see here. You make several statements that I think an objective reader would consider taking a rather strong stance against “big government”. You make a very clear statement that people should stop voting for “more government”. If your point was really, “hey guys, don’t let the idiots at the DMV stop you from getting your license if you need it to make a living” then I don’t think any of your subjective thoughts about the government would be in this post. In fact, the word government doesn’t even belong here…but as you place the blame there, you take that route for the solution (more on this in a second).

            I offered up an implied solution before, but now I’ll go ahead and spell it out. I previously stated that the problem is that people are horrible at their jobs. I think the solution is to get competent people in positions at the DMV or similar places. I would imagine if YOU were the person in NY in charge of putting a hold on deadbeats that don’t pay tickets, you would quite easily look at an insurance situation like this from 15 years ago, determine exactly what happened with the transfer of sale and then do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. I think I competent person would see that and utilize their judgement to the best of their abilities. That’s the solution. Instead, somebody decided to waste your time (and now my time too!). But here is the problem…the need for competent people far exceeds the supply. I suppose education is an answer, but that probably still couldn’t fill in all the gaps. It seems as if the solution you provide is to not “continuously vote for laws that require more and more government”. I don’t think that’s the answer and by saying that I think you are making the discussion political.

            I’m not sure where my background would help here. Are you looking for socioeconomic info? African American. Grew up quite poor in the midwest. Much like yourself, started busting my ass at a young age…paper route at age 11, detasseling every summer (it’s a midwest thing), worked as a bagger at a grocery store from the day I turned 15, worked in a movie theatre and also in restaurants/catering other part time jobs. Put myself through college while accruing massive amounts of student loans, BS in Biochemistry, went to grad school, traveled the world for awhile. Currently live in San Diego and work in pharma/biotech and doing quite well. Lastly, though it’s irrelevant, I don’t consider myself a democrat OR a republican…and I am thus, smack dab in the center. But I don’t think any of this matters if you look at this situation objectively. Can you explain how knowing anything in the above paragraph changes your view of my stance?

            I’ve had plenty of bad cards dealt to me and plenty of good ones, but zero of those cards had to do with how efficiently/poorly my interactions have been with government red tape. That’s my point. I live in California, and I had a very similar situation happen after selling a car…and I was equally annoyed by the entire thing and also wasted hours of my life so I can empathize more than you know. Although I feel I’ve made most of my point here in the comments section, I’ll take you up on your offer to write a guest post. I like the idea. You have my email, so PM me and we’ll set it up. I firmly believe an objective discussion about these matters is more constructive than pilling on to the rather obvious notion that the DMV sucks.

            1. Now we are making progress! I like to know something about the people who I choose to converse with. Otherwise, the conversation is as fun as talking to a brick wall.

              If you want to focus on the politics, then one of the key takeaways is: do your best to vote on legislation if you are also willing to pay for it. It is much too easy for the government to spend other peoples money. Instead, we should be more fiscally responsible just like we are in our personal lives. It is selfish to put the burden on innocent people for our responsibilities.

              If the problem is that people are terrible at their jobs, theb the key is education. I hope I writing this article, people who rely on a car for a living can get better educated and not make the same mistake and get and snarled in the same trap as I did.

              And I challenge you, always think about solutions, and to take action to help other people every time you see something wrong or that could use improvement.

    2. Dee Andrews

      Wrong!! Since Donald Trump has become president, things have gotten better for small businesses, he has eliminated hundreds of restrictive regulations which have helped the economy and job growth. Liberals will be the death of our country.

  22. Oh man, sorry to hear that. DMV is always a PITA to deal with.
    About 12 years ago, I sold a junker and the new owner never bothered to register. I kept getting the registration renewal and I think there was one speeding ticket. I was able to straighten it out with the DMV, though. Yes, make sure you tell the DMV when you sold a car…

  23. And yet the government has no problem taking money from you every chance it gets. I pay a third of each paycheck to the government, and I earn less than $45,000/year! I just registered my side business for sales tax (a process that SHOULD be automated when filing but instead took two hours due to their faulty computer systems) and you wouldn’t believe how many things you can be fined for. They will proudly–PROUDLY–put a small business OUT of business due to an improperly filled out form.

    Honestly, politicians are no different than corner store robbers–ignorant savages who want what’s yours–but dressed nicer. Your livelihood and family’s well being is a threat to them.

    Sorry you had to deal with all that crap, Sam. Makes me glad I don’t drive.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

    1. This situation definitely helped me NOT buy a mid-life crisis car. More cars, more problems. I love walking, biking, and taking public transportation.

      Regarding your taxes, just be happy knowing you’re helping pay for the ~48% of Americans who don’t pay income taxes. Now get back to work and deal with those angry retail banking customers with a smile! :)

  24. Sorry Sam but you screwed up. You don’t sell a vehicle without turning your plates and registration into the DMV. A lesson has been learned. With modern technology you can’t get away with anything. As far as the State of NY was concerned you still owned the vehicle. The buyer was under no obligation to title the vehicle if he didn’t plan on ever driving it on public roads. I have sold many a vehicle to private parties. I have officially let every state know if the vehicle had been sold. You register the vehicle…Then you unregistered it. I bet you won’t make that mistake ever again.

    1. Indeed. Lesson learned. Wrote a post. Offered some solutions for those who may get ensnarled in the system as well. I could have saved hours and done nothing. But helping others is the responsible thing to do.

  25. Wow, that’s really aggravating. Dealing with the government here always takes a tremendous amount of energy and patience. I went for my licence years ago (manual gearbox) and when I went to renew, the renewal slip read automatic. I was like wtf? Luckily they pulled my license test records as I took my brother’s manual car for the test. When my new license came, it was blank (doesn’t state automatic or manual). When I pointed it out, the lady said it’s fine. I unfortunately am a working slob so I didn’t have the time to sort it out. I’ll see what happens at the next renewal.

    Our car licensing offices no longer send license renewals reminder so that they can charge the late penalty fee. This is what happens when a government becomes bloated and to sustain it they have to think of every single way to make money.

    Everyone’s stories make me wonder if there is such a thing as a smooth running government or is it a wildly fictitious concept like unicorns?

  26. Have you ever heard the saying that everyone likes to tell their tale of bureaucracy but no one likes to hear one?

    Fascinating to me that a high percentage of comments are stories. Reader engagement bait?

  27. erica matteson

    I had a strikingly similar experience when I last renewed my CA license. I too had a ‘lapse in insurance’ after selling a car in GA 15 years prior. Like you, I found out after calling in to inquire and found out my credit card had not processed. I went through the unending hold times with both states and the Error Processing Unit. I was, however, sent a temporary license by mail once I could prove (through a confirmation number over the phone) that all fees had been settled. I too had to call back the CA DMV to ensure the systems had been updated and hopefully would not have to endure the same experience on a future renewal date. I concur wholeheartedly with your shared prevention steps and becoming as independent and an advocate for yourself in all ways as soon as possible.

    Thanks for this post Sam, I am not alone!

  28. Done by Forty

    Sorry you had to deal with that bureaucratic nonsense, Sam.

    In the end, I suppose some of these things are unavoidable. We can create systems to guard against someone else’s incompetence, but eventually we’ll have to deal with someone else’s screw up.

  29. An experience with the beloved US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) where more important things are on the line (your spouse or family for example) will make the DMV seem like a well-oiled corporation.

    However, you’ll quickly forget that when they successfully immigrate and have to go to the DMV too!

    1. Ditto this! Dealing with USCIS was no fun. But my worst nightmare with bureaucracy was actually dealing with an international student officer in a university in Michigan.

      Long story short, the admin lady who casually but incorrectly ticked the line that stated my trip was sponsored by my home government, which it was not and I fully fund my own trip refused to change it back after I caught the error on the printed paperwork right then and there — saying she couldn’t log back in and change things on the computer once submitted.

      Due to the very different nature of self-funded or government-funded, I was going to be subject to go back to my home country for service for at least 2 years before returning to US — I had to hire an immigration lawyer who tried many times over the phone and emails to get the lady to write a correct letter (which took her more than half a year!), a clarification letter from the agency who sent me for that US trip to Michigan, and tons of paperwork on my end to prepare to appeal for the correction and therefore cancellation of the subjection to service. It look my lawyer to skip the admin lady to get to her supervisor to ask her to write a 10-line clarification letter for the mistake made by her originally.

      The whole legal process took around 8-9 months to resolve, costed me thousands of dollars, and unbelievable amount of stress, and a then newly found hatred towards some stereotypical characteristics of some Americans: careless, heartless, cowardly, unwilling to admit to mistakes, taking things and other people’s lives for granted, no respect or empathy for anybody but themselves.

      Makes me cringe everything I revisit this memory.

      1. That is absolutely ridiculous and I bet the admin just got a slap on the wrist…what does she care right? She should be liable, but that’s probably not worth the fight. I’ve heard MANY horror stories going through the immigration process, and yours seems like one of them. I’m glad you got through it ok at the end.

        1. Thanks, John! By now, I am long over it. :) Multiple incidents like this have me made a promise to myself to try my best not to get hung up on things/people I don’t care about.

          They can, and will inconvenience me and I will do everything in my power to straighten things out and move on, but I do not allow myself to be stressed out or feeling hurt for irrelevant people/things. They are not worth it.

  30. New York state is definitely one of the most aggressive about imposing these latent charges. They also have antiquated and barely functional record-keeping systems that only add to the confusion and frustration of its current or former citizens.

    Sam, interestingly, in Washington State when you sell a car both the buyer and seller are supposed to report the sale to the DMV, hopefully to avoid situations like the one you encountered. Seems like a simple solution to avoid big huge headaches. States need to empower their employees to use judgment to alleviate the needless and senseless pain they’re inflicting on their own citizens, the very citizens they’re supposed to be serving and supporting.

  31. Fiscally Free

    I’m definitely not a fan of big government, but it sounds like the root cause of this problem was your failure to report the sale of a vehicle.
    It should have been much easier to resolve this issue, and there should be a statute of limitations on random fines, but the most important lesson is to make sure you handle things properly the first time.

  32. The California DMV was always crowded and inefficient, but became doubly so when illegal immigrants were allowed to get drivers licenses last year. Instead of your ordeal to renew your license, you could have walked in, told them you were undocumented, taken an easy written test in your preferred language, and gotten a new license on the spot.

    1. Hi Carole,

      Can illegal immigrants really get a driver license though? I don’t think it is possible. If it is possible, then shame on the government when there are plenty of legal citizens paying taxes who need help.

      Maybe create an illegal line and a legal line for citizens at the DMV?


      1. Jack Catchem

        Yup. As of 2015, those in California sans documentation can apply for one as long as they have a “national ID” card, consular card, and some proof of California residency, such as a utility bill. Oh AB-60…

        I get the illegal immigration frustration, but I do like the incentivization of actually being able to get a license and learn to drive safely, in whatever language. If someone is going to be on the road next to you anyway, they may as well be licensed and insured.

        1. The Mexican “national ID” card is called a Matricula Consular, and as the name suggests, you can get them at any Mexican Consulate office, which many larger cities have in North America. Radio talk show host Lars Larson has one, which as I recall was a gag gift from someone else, so I don’t know how it was obtained.

      2. Yes it’s very true. Do a search for California Illegal Immigrant Drivers License. “California Assembly Bill 60 ( AB-60) is a bill passed into law that, in effect, allows illegal immigrants to the United States to apply for a California driver’s license with the CA Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).”

        American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California
        As of January 2015, any eligible California resident can receive a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status. An applicant who doesn’t have proof of …

        Orange County Register
        Jan 8, 2016 – In program’s first year, nearly half of California’s driver’s licenses went to undocumented. California issued some 605,000 new driver’s licenses last year to immigrants residing in the country illegally, surpassing expectations for the program’s first year…

        The Daily Caller
        Jan 10, 2016 – Almost 50 percent of all California driver’s licenses issued in 2015 went to illegal immigrants.

        The New York Times
        Aug 8, 2015 – When California began issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants this year, he was one of the first in line…

    2. Carole’s right. In California, they can get driver’s licenses. It creates longer lines, but it helps ensure that more drivers out there can get insured. You can’t get insurance if you don’t have a driver’s license. I’d rather have an illegal immigrant crash into me with a driver’s license and insurance than without. And I’m sure the vast majority of them were driving without licenses before.

      But if the DMV is collecting fees from all of those new licensees, shouldn’t they have the money to hire extra staff?

      It wouldn’t have solved the New York issue, though.

  33. The DMV in Michigan (called, Secretary of State) is the most efficient of the 7 states I have lived in. Most of it can be done online and has been a simple process to renew, etc…

    I can tell you an eye opening experience about inefficiency of our government while I was working in the DC area for a government contractor…I was working on revamping a website for a government initiative promoting green practices to business. I developed some ideas for the website layout. The one I liked and pushed the most to adopt was turned down because, “It is too nice and the taxpayers would think we spent too much on it.”

    This was over a decade ago, but it was crazy that they wouldn’t adopt the best practices of the time in web development/user friendliness, because they were afraid of the perception it might create. They went with a dull, non-user friendly format (that probably never got used)…I left the company a month later for something more fulfilling.

  34. Not sure this classifies as tyranny but I get the ineptitude part. Seems my days are bogged down by ineptitude. I moved last weekend and had a reservation for UHAUL. They called me to tell me I had to drive to another location the day before pickup because the location I reserved had overbooked. Fine. 10 miles one way further south but whatever. Then I drive there (when everything was tightly scheduled with the loading dock) and they don’t have a UHAUL either. After waiting in line for 30 minutes they say nothing they can do…sorry…call the 1-800 number. So I did and they reroute me to a third location. On the way to that third location I call to confirm that the truck will be there for me and they say, ‘sorry someone just took our last truck.’

    Stopped the car and had to call 1-800 number again to go to yet another location and pray there was a truck there. Meanwhile wasting gas and losing my moving window on the loading dock.

    That was just one example. Try setting up cable with Comcast or Verizon and see if that’s any easier than what you experienced. I did that this weekend too and have another fun story to share if you want to be bored further!

    Government, like anything else, is chockfull of redundancies and ineptitude.

    I feel your pain bro…we all experience it all the time!

  35. I recently ran into a bureaucracy merry-go-round when I got pulled over for speeding. The officer gave me a warning, but noticed that my boat trailer wasn’t registered ($186 fine). She also said that the trailer wasn’t registered to the previous owner- it wasn’t in the system at all!

    I went to the local DMV to get it sorted out. I explained that the trailer had no previous registration. The lady there told me that I just needed to provide proof of ownership and then I could register the trailer in my name. I showed her the proof of sale document, which had the VIN and previous owner info on it, but she scoffed at me with “What is this? This isn’t proof; I could’ve given you this.”

    I asked her what would serve as proof and – I’m not joking here – she told me I needed “the previous registration document”.

  36. Mmm….

    Reminds me of an early interaction with the DMV and getting my photo taken for the new license when I relocated from the UK ( trust me they are just as incompetent over there if it makes you feel any better) to this fine land. The agent I was dealing with was so obnoxious, rude ( those I can handle and laugh off) and most worryingly, incompetent ( this, I have absolutely no time for). I had this stony, fizzing look on my face for the photo.

    From that point on, every time I opened my wallet, it was a reminder of the bunch of buffoons that occupy most of the DMV. Importantly, it served as a reminder to be super vigilant whenever I interacted with this crew.

  37. Sorry to hear, DMV is a drag. They get paid by the hour, and treat ‘clients’ as if we are getting paid by the hour, too.

    So. For everybody, this is what you do when selling/donating a car: fill out a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form; you can do it online, or mail in a hardcopy. Here is a link for CA as an example, but every state has this. Completing the form will absolve you from future traffic tickets, towing fees, insurance claims, etc. Don’t wait for the new owner to register; would you trust a stranger you will never see again with 5 hours of your time? $25? $2,500? $25,000? Me neither, so take five minutes and complete this form and be in the clear.

    Myself, I didn’t need to go in to DMV for 16 years and had to get a new photo. DMV encourages appointments made online, but I had some time and was nearby and “dropped in.” What a sh*t-show! I signed-in, was told it would be ‘about an hour’ and it was 3.5 hours waiting, for a 3-minute process. Absolutely abusive.

    btw, 1-in-3 drivers in CA don’t have auto insurance (it is the law, I know, but there is no consequence anymore as law-enforcement will not confiscate vehicles on this basis because it impacted a certain demographic disproportionately), and 1-in-5 drivers do not have a valid license. Be aware.

    1. JayCeezy: good thing you called this “form” out. Sam’s ordeal from state of NY, not CA. With advent of internet and Google/Bings — you could find such forms, processes and search those online on Govt sites, or on forums. Not in 2001, when google was budding and AltaVista, Yahoo, and Lycos (anybody remember these names?) were in more rage than google/bing., there weren’t whole lot of items you could find online.

      Yes, there could have been a “process” one could have followed – but every state is different: some states require – returning plates, some require the “form” similar to the one you mentioned, some require “sales agreement” form, while some other states required both parties physically going-in to same DMV, together.

      You have “drivers license” booklet – but have you seen half-helpful “car ownership responsibilities” booklet published by any state ? Any hints you could pass to the readers ?

      The problem is processes keep changing – as “consumers” (or registration/license holders) — we are not in the loop — not necessarily all the time. Have you ever seen an “Ad” on TV showing how to comply with newly enacted DMV/License/Registration/Inspection/Environmental/Emissions requirements/updates ? The onus is on us to proactively search and find out — though we at times may come-up short; you do not know what you do not know !! Ideally – you would hope some DMV counsellors in-person or on phone to guide you with current rules.


  38. David Michael

    Sam…I feel your angst. Nothing worse than calling a state, federal or company number to be put on hold and then asked to call another number. I well remember living and working in California for 20 years. After moving there from the East coast where I grew up, I was dismayed by the sheer number of people and cars and bureaucracy of the state. In particular…the DMV. Nearly 40 million people have an effect on you. I ended it all by moving to Oregon in the middle of a very satisfying career where I gave up tons of money for peace of mind and the outdoor life.

    I remember the first time I called the Oregon State DMV. I reached a real person within a few seconds and she sounded lke a long lost friend. What the heck? After that, I was hooked and the best thing is that they rarely honk their horns here, although they may fall asleep at the stop light. And, they even fill up your gas tank when purchasing gas, much to the chagrin of Californians who can’t stand the time lost. That was over 30 years ago, and I am very happy I made that decision. Now, we seem to have this tidal wave of refugees from California. My advice…don’t move to Oregon. Bypass us and move on to Idaho or Montana. It still rains six months of the year.

  39. What a terrible ordeal, Sam. While I see you’ve taken some flack from a few commenters above who seemed to miss the point entirely, I’m glad you wrote this post in an interest to save other people from this kind of hassle.

    Not to rub it in, but I have had pretty good luck with DMVs in Michigan and Illinois over the years. Their systems are just as inefficient as CA and NY, no doubt, but I have been fortunate.

    I’ll share a similar story with my experience at the unemployment office several years ago. In my first year teaching after graduating college, I was pink-slipped due to budget constraints in my school district. I was not given a promise of return to employment, so I was eligible for unemployment benefits. I had been living in Illinois for less than a year at the time, and I had been living with a friend-of-a-friend in a sublease situation which was far from permanent. As a result, I still held a MI driver’s license. As you can imagine, that complicated the process when I visited the unemployment office to apply for my benefits. To add that the confusion, my wife and I had just been married that same month, and applying for spousal benefits for her was equally as confusing for the same reason. Once we both got new IL driver’s licenses, I thought we would be all set.

    At this stage, I was directed to make a phone call to get everything squared away. After dialing through several prompts, I was placed on hold for nearly two hours! I listened to the same annoying smooth jazz piece over and over. Just before reaching the two hour mark, I was redirected back to the main menu and asked to input all of my information again. To this day, I cannot believe I didn’t kick a hole in the wall!

    At that point, I went to the office, once again, in person, and waited in line for several hours. Once I met with an officer and presented all of my documentation, the entire process only took about ten minutes.

    In the long run, the annoyance was worth it, as I received the benefits that I was owed. I was also fortunate to be offered my old position once the budget concerns were cleared up, and due to the structure of my contract (deferred compensation spread out through the summer months), I never even missed a bi-weekly paycheck!

  40. Kevin @

    “Paper work is the embalming fluid of bureaucracy, maintaining an appearance of life where none exists” – Robert J Meltzer

  41. As an Arizona resident, let me respond to Dollar Engineer. The reason new licenses are required at 21 is because they change the format. Prior to 21 years of age, the licenses are printed in a vertical format. After 21, they are printed in the standard horizontal format. This makes it very easy for businesses to determine if someone is under 21 and cannot be sold alcohol. There is a 30 day grace period to get a new license when you turn 21.

    No vertical licenses can be used to purchase alcohol, even if the person is over 21 and within the 30 day grace period window. This is to prevent people who get a new horizontal license immediately upon turning 21 from giving their vertical license to someone who is still underage to use to purchase alcohol for the next 30 days.

    Not sure why out of state licenses would not be valid for alcohol, unless those also are printed in a vertical format. The law states no vertical format licenses can be used to purchase alcohol, regardless of state of issue, so if other states do the vertical format thing, the bars and stores have no choice but to refuse them. Now if your brother’s license was a horizontal format, I have no idea why it wouldn’t be accepted.

    And yes, once you are over 21, the license is good until you turn 65. I look at this as the government actually creating some efficiencies. I’ve lived at the same address for 12 years now. No need for me to visit the DMV and get a new license every 4 or 5 years. That saves them work, which saves them money, which ends up saving me taxes. We’ve also got a very large number of DMV services that can be handled online, which also helps reduce costs and reduce trips to the DMV. (Actually, in Arizona, the DMV is called the MVD, but I’m a So. Cal native, so I still call it the DMV.)

  42. There’s a difference between a serious inconvenience and government oppression. This isn’t oppression.

    1. It is oppression if you rely on your car to make a living, and you get your driver license suspended b/c of government red tape, and if you drive and get caught you get fined or jailed.

      When the choice is between COMPLY or GET FINED OR JAILED, that is oppression. At least we don’t regularly execute our citizens like some other countries.

  43. Oh man what a nightmare. Sorry to hear you had to go through all of that. I can’t believe the DMV in NY or CA didn’t tell you there was an issue until you called them. That’s really messed up. I had to go into DMV to renew my license the last time so when my next one is up for renewal in several years or whatever it’ll be by mail. I’ll definitely remember to chase after them now so I hopefully won’t have any issues like this.

  44. BenefitJack

    Vote for bigger government this fall and you can have more and more and more of this!

    The big government idiocy has spread across the country. For example, read about hair braiders in Iowa. See:

    Amazing on how persistent these folks were for a $25 fine dating back 15 years, when many state, county and local enforcement folks won’t pursue wanted felons across state lines:

    Or, for comparison, there is a comparable federal law that requires cities to cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration law; yet, there are hundreds of so called “sanctuary cities” and in California, you seem to have a “sanctuary state”… See:

    To me, this is just one more example of state and federal governments that have misplaced priorities.

    I’d bet you pay your federal, state, city and other taxes on time, too! See what it buys?!

  45. Dollar Engineer

    Jeez Sam that sounds so ridiculous I almost can’t believe it, but these days it just sounds like peak government inefficiency.
    I’ll go ahead and give you some insane driver’s license rules from the state of Arizona. Last year, my brother and I visited some friends there during the holidays. My brother recently turned 21 and had a valid non-expired driver’s license. However, in the state of Arizona you are required to get a new license within 30 days after turning 21. This rule also applies to unknowing tourists from out of state. We wanted to enjoy this trip with our friends, but this turned into an unnecessary hassle at many places when he was denied any alcohol.
    To add to this absurdity once Arizona residents renew their DL after turning 21, their new DL doesn’t expire until they turn 65 while only needing a new picture every 12 years! How in the world does that make any sense? So after turning 21 the state is so strict with IDs you have 30 days to renew, but after that you get 44 years?! The irony.

    1. Jack Catchem

      You could see this as irony or a system falling apart, true. But many see this as an OPPORTUNITY!

      Though you should not do this, I’ve interviewed several Californians who kept their eternal Arizona Driver Licenses and did not switch to a California license to avoid fees and reregistering. (Again, illegal to do as a California resident.)

      Even inconsistent government policies are subject to people “gaming” the system.

      1. Dollar Engineer

        I don’t blame them, the DMV is a nightmare as we’ve seen in this post and plenty of the comments.

  46. Jack Catchem

    Hi Sam!
    The most common DMV horror story I see on the streets is people driving their unregistered vehicles for months while honestly believing their vehicle is registered…until pulled over. What happens is they receive their notice of registration, pay the DMV its money, and continue on with their lives. What they forget is the smog check!

    The DMV will happily take people’s money but not issue the new registration sticker as they wait for the smog check certificate to arrive. Why does this matter? Per 22651 (o) CVC, if your car is unregistered over 6 months and publicly parked, it can be towed! Then I get a call that your car was stolen only to later realize it was impounded. :(

    I believe the DMV cashing the driver’s check causes a false sense of “everything is good” for drivers. When people wonder why I pull them over for expired registration: this is why! It’s a preventative public service announcement. The DMV is coming for your car! *evil voice* Has your car been smog checked recently?

    (In fairness there is a big notice of “smog check required” at the top of the receipt you receive from the DMV, but many lead distracted lives.)

  47. Steven Christopherson

    Sorry dude. But this is your error: 1). You had a lapse in insurance. Whose fault is that? 2). You trusted the buyer to change the registration without you notifying DMV or your insurance? Whose fault is that? 3). You put the DMV charge on plastic, but didn’t make sure the charge went through? Whose fault is that? 4). You waited until your license was nearly expired before following through. Whose fault is that?

    The DMV didn’t waste your time. You used your time inefficiency. Yes the government is bureaucratic. That is a reason to be proactive and not reactive when dealing with them.

    The fault is yours, and yours only.

    1. You’re right. There’s no use blaming the government, which is one of the reasons why I left work in 2012. It feels great taking it much easier now, so I am thankful.

      I do feel this post can help drivers out there save some time and hassle, especially those who really depend on driving for a living like the hundreds of brothers and sisters I’ve met who deliver goods or drive for Lyft and Uber I’ve met this past year. Stand strong folks. You will make mistakes like I have. But there are ways to fix them!

    2. So you just accept poor government and hold them completely blameless, eh? No wonder government spending (F + S + L) is $7 trillion per year now, and people still clamor for more government. Amazing.

    3. Wait, are you saying it’s his fault that he didn’t maintain insurance coverage on a car he no longer owned?

  48. Massive arguments against libratarianism aside, try submitting your travails to: Consumer Reports, Comsumerist, and as many local and national news sources as you fee comfortable spending your time sending to. Many news entities have segments devoted to these types of things, and garners them promos as well as endearing them to their viewers. Consumer Reports, Consumerist, perhaps even the Better Business Bureau, focus solely on encouraging better business practices and calling out an organization’s accountability. It will, at the very least, bring attention to your matter, hopefully speeding up your results, as well as offer you another article to write; and, at best possibly pre-correct and create better situations in the future for others.

    1. Good suggestions. I’m going to submit this post to them and see if I can make a difference.

      Hopefully this post will help all readers who plan to buy or sell a car some time and stress.

      Before publishing this post, I was chatting with a fellow driver, who shared with me his story about the hoops he had to jump through as well. Long story, but there are likely THOUSANDS of people out there who have no resources and not enough money to get them out of difficult situations.

      To the millions of drivers out there, this post is for you!

  49. The Green Swan

    This is insane! Besides the stress and penalty fee (only $30, but still!) think about how much your 5 hours is worth. Man, thanks for writing this article to help everyone else out there not have to deal with a situation like this. I’m happy to say I’ve never had a huge issue with the DMV (besides never having hours that are good for the working class… I had to basically take a day off of work to get my license setup when I moved to North Carolina). This information will be a great checklist for everyone who sells a car, moves across state lines or just has to renew their license. Thanks Fin Sam!

  50. Oh do I have a story for you. I have lived in many states and countries, but by the time I was 15 and could get my license, I was in Indiana. After college, I got a job with Microsoft and worked in Redmond, WA.

    I have a son who is now 21. Several years ago, he was living with his mother who had guardianship and he was taken away by CPS. I flew back to Indiana to go to the hearing and the judge ruled he could not live with me in Washington, as Indiana and Washington’s CPS did not have a joint operating agreement. The judge ruled I had to purchase a house, in a specific school system, in a specific city if I wanted to be a foster parent to my son. So I decided enough was enough and began the process.

    Quitting my job with Microsoft and moving back to Indiana was not fun. I also had a condo in Redmond to sell which held up most of my liquidity for buying a new house in Indiana. So after lots of work, I got a house to close on a Friday in the AM and to be able to pick up my son that evening. House closing went well, and I go to pick up my son. At that point I must have a valid driver’s license with that residence address on it to pick up my son from the foster care center. Also being a Friday, if I did not pick my son up at 5:30, he would spend another weekend at some stranger’s house.

    Off to the DMV I go. The first trip that day I come with ton of paperwork (including the financial documents saying I bought the house) and ask for my title/registration and license be moved to my new address. They did not help me much and said I needed more paperwork. I went home and got all the paperwork they said I needed. Came back and they transferred the title/registration on my car but would not do my license. They rejected me because I needed a bank statement or utility bill with the address stating that I am the owner of the house as they did not want to read the mortgage documents. I don’t have anything like that as I literally was the owner of the house for 3 hours at that point. So I had to be creative. I got the power and gas company to fax to me (at a Kinko’s) the change orders stating to move the gas and electric for my house into my name for that day.

    I go back to the DMV, it is like 3pm. They stated that this document would not work as it was not a bill, just a change order. I finally said that they were stupid enough to require enough documentation for who is legally liable for the car (and insurance), but they want to have all this documentation for me to transfer my license. Finally they said that if I could get an affidavit from the bank saying they are moving my accounts to my new address, that would work for them with all my other documentation. So I run to a bank and get the affidavit from them and come back to the BMV. I get my picture and a new license and run out of the DMV to drive the 45 minutes to the foster care center.

    I try to get my son, and they said my address is wrong on my newly printing license. I look at it and it has my address from when I was in high school (I was 28 now). So I run back to the BMV I was at (45 minutes away) and they tried to close the door on my face telling me they were closed. I get in and tell them they screwed up my license. They then needed to start the whole process again (get all that information I had provided them, thank god I gave them copies, not the originals). They then had to retake the picture on it. I still have it to this day at home, but I was so damned angry I looked like a mass murder. They said I could look happier, and my response was that I will be happy when their screw up was fixed and I had custody of my son. They printed out the new license, with the correct address. I had 30 minutes to make a 45 minute drive to pick up my son. I made it with 1 minute to spare after some “fast” driving.

    It all worked out, but they were being such tools about it that this entire story could have been avoided. I got custody of my son 6 months later and he has lived with me since (about to finish his senior year of college this fall).

    1. Wow. You are a man of great patience and resilience. I probably would have murdered someone by the end of that day. Your son is a lucky kid. :)

    2. So painful Big-D. So painful. I think many people would just GIVE UP. So many drivers I’ve talked to say they just didn’t bother with the paper work and the DMV b/c they couldn’t figure out the system. There was roadblock after roadblock.

      Glad you got your son back and everything worked out in the end.

      Dear government, why make things complicated when you can make things easy?

    3. I have a nearly identical story for your DMV while switching states (think I made 6 trips total0 and throw in having to sit on phone to get POA from Honda Lease to xfer lease to another state three times because the DMV lady said the fax hadn’t come through [she was checking the wrong fax machine] and the license had the wrong DOB which caused issues elsewhere, although fortunately not as serious as your kid – just had to take a vacation day to get it done.

  51. Stefan - The Millennial Budget

    You are lucky you can even call your DMV. In Trinidad we just call it the licensing office and you cannot call them. We go into a small room with chairs so close to each other it feels like you are sitting on top people and to top it off there is no ac, sometimes they turn a fan on. I waited 5 hours at this place once for them to tell me that I could not renew my license because I was out of the country for more than a specific period of time and I have to bring my student visa as proof, mind you that I am a resident of this country. The next day I came back pretty annoyed with all the documents and the woman asked me why I bought all of this in… safe to say I almost lost it. After 8 hours of waiting I finally got my local license.

  52. Ug – I certainly hope this post is intended to be satirical, because if it isn’t, a bit of a reality check is definitely in order. You really couldn’t get any more 1st world than problems of this sort. So you spent a few hours of time – of which you have plenty – on something that needed to be cleared up. Boo hoo. And another boo hoo on the taxes. If you don’t like paying your fair share, then go right ahead and find somewhere else to live that is economically friendlier to rich people – because you are most definitely a rich person. You enjoy the benefits of living in your city, your county, your state and the good old USA. All of those benefits come with a price. I pay mine without whining about it, and I definitely have fewer dollars to spare for it than you do. If you don’t like the way the ‘tyrannical’ government spends all of the many dollars you are forced to give it, maybe you should put your effort into actively doing something about that part of the equation, rather than limiting yourself to spending time complaining about it. Or, maybe you need to take another trip – this time to a part of the world that doesn’t have safe running water or modern sanitation. Maybe that will get your ‘poor me’ vision adjusted.

    1. It actually sounds like you are the one complaining who is angry at the world. If you’re a regular reader, which I’m guessing you are not, you’d know quite well how well cultured Sam really is. Whether or not someone has money doesn’t mean it’s okay for the government to be this inefficient.

    2. Sara,

      Although it’s easy to dismiss the thousands of drivers who depend on driving and delivering to make ends meet, the hundreds of thousands more who have to commute to work, the people who might not have a strong grasp of English, and the thousands of parents who depend on their cars to pick up their kids up or take care of errands, I strongly encourage you to spend some time speaking to the people about their situations to gain more empathy. Listening to people’s situations while driving is one of the biggest benefits of driving for a living.

      Check out: Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult

      The government makes things very difficult for every day citizens to get ahead due to so much red tape. Anybody who depends on a car for a living and has dealt with the DMV or has tried to start a business knows this.

      Please also read: The Key To A Happier Life: High Emotional Intelligence. I think it’ll make you happier, because it will spur you to give back more to others, especially those who’ve been flung aside by the system.


      1. Sara, I grew up in a socialist country where the government owned the only phone company. In the 90s, when my mom dared to request a second phone line for the new small business she was starting, after a six month waiting period the request was denied. It took another six months and straight up bribery for her to get that second phone line. I remember accompanying her on many many useless trips to the phone company office, making the rounds of various officials’ offices. That’s what happens when bureaucrats have meaningless power. It’s nowhere near as bad here in the US and we are remarkably free of corruption, but it’s the logical conclusion of this setup. It may seem harmless now, but small things lead to bigger ones. All that wasted time adds up. There is a reason the economy in my home country did not take off until we ditched socialism. Even our drinking water and sanitation got better.

        1. One of the most powerful quotes I have ever read,

          “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a Socialist.

          Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

          Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
          Because I was not a Jew.

          Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

          The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period.

    3. I don’t speak English well and this post is very helpful to me. I am a driver too and it is very difficult to understand a lot of the rules and instructions for driving. Every day I work hard for my money. I do not have much and it is frustrating to learn all the paperwork. I understand what Sam is going through. I hope the government can make things easier for people like me to get ahead.

      1. Fight on Jose! If you need some help or some tips with making more money driving, shoot me an e-mail. I know so many people who just GIVE UP and just drive without a license because the system is so hard to navigate. Half the battle of succeeding is just surviving long enough. Don’t every give up!

    4. The Alchemist

      Hang on a second— let me get this straight, Sara: You think Sam has no right to complain about the clusterf**k he was stuck dealing with due to bureaucratic incompetence? And you’re accusing him of “poor me” syndrome? I would hazard a guess that you’re a newcomer to Financial Samurai and don’t really know Sam very well. Either way, my reaction is that you are waaaay off base here.

      1. Sara, people like you are the ones need a reality check. You’re part of the problem by accepting incomplete acne and shutting up other taxpayers who voice their ideas and bring awareness of areas that our government can improve.

    5. Not getting your license then getting the run around from the government is stressful because the same government fines or jails you for not complying. Just because one is not dying of hunger doesn’t mean that stress is not an issue. I would not get in the habit of dismissing frustrating situations as first world problems. It does nothing to reduce stress or make anyone feel better.

      1. This is EXACTLY right. If you don’t comply, you get fined or go to jail. And the government purposefully makes things like taxes and running a business as complicated as possible so that people WILL make mistakes and pay fines. It’s a total racket that is completely inefficient because there’s this endless gravy train from tax payers who must pay or else.

    6. I’m confused. Sam isn’t complaining about paying the fee to renew his license. That’s a reasonable cost for the government to impose to fund the DMV, administer tests to verify you know the laws before getting a license, etc.

      Sam is complaining because the New York DMV took 15 year to notify him of a problem. He’s annoyed because the California DMV didn’t let him know that there was a problem with his renewal. He’s angry that even after he paid his multiple (unfairly assessed) fees there’s no way to get the problem sorted out expeditiously so he can get his license back.

      I don’t see how those are controversial things to be upset about. Are you arguing that because Sam is a “rich person” he doesn’t have the right to get upset about government institutions not doing their job, even though the result is that he’s unfairly punished?

    7. Standard SJW class warfare material here. Move along, nothing to see.
      Yes unfortunate people suffer in the rest of the world and have to deal with worse problems, but that does not mean a law abiding hard-working albeit “rich” citizen like Sam does not have the right to voice a complaint in our land of free speech to eventually force an improvement in the system. If people like Sam shut up every time they are given the run-around for hours, we’d regress backwards sooner than you can imagine. Those unfortunate poor who live in the third world have a different set of problems. I don’t see how the stress and life wasted on the phone from dealing red tape is directly comparable to hunger and lack of clean water.

  53. Well private corporations like the local cable company treat me the same way, so for me it’s not a conspiracy so much as it is a dedication to understaffing and poor customer service when they know they do not have to work for your business because there are no competitors. But I agree, the government in any form runs for the hills and makes you jump from hold to hold when they owe you money in some way. It’s all about attrition.

    1. Steve Adams

      Monopolies everywheree stink. Government or business. If only there were more free city states like Singapore or old Hong Kong

  54. Nuclear Real Estate

    The $1,000 stapler made me chuckle, reminds me of the absurdity of “nuclear grade” duct tape, which is exactly the same as regular duct tape, except it comes with a certificate verifying it’s chemical properties, and costs ~$40 a roll… And all of us in the nuclear industry fork over the cash because regulations require us to…

    1. Creating the website, cost $2.2 BILLION too btw. What the…….. I’m for universal healthcare, but how many government contractors and government officials got rich off of that project?

    2. As long as you understand that things like “hammer” listed for a hundred dollars may also be a specific brass hammer used around explosive materials, or that certain piping may not be just any piping you can go pick up at Home Depot because of the material being utilized. I’ve seen too much equipment damage and personnel injury reports to include fatalities because gung ho budgeting folks decide they can save a buck and ordered substitute items they think, without checking with the designers, engineers, or operators, will fit the bill. If that duct tape is actually no different than stuff off the shelf, get yourself an award by suggesting use of cheaper material. If it has to meet certain quality standards in order to be used, then you are paying for that assurance on the part of the manufacture that it will meet that criteria.

  55. John C @ Action Economics

    Yikes! It’s crazy how things from several years back can come back to bite you, especially when you didn’t actually do anything wrong, but there’s no way to prove it. In Michigan for certain driving offenses there is a double fee. Let’s use your situation of having a lapsed license. If you got pulled over in Michigan while driving to work from this situation you would get a ticket for maybe $100 from the county…Then about a month later the Department of Treasury would send you a Drivers Responsibility Bill for $500. And you can’t get your licence re-instated without paying these fees…And then the following year you will get another drivers responsibility fee for another $500….Most people can’t come up with $500 very easily and it becomes a viscous cycle. I know of a few people who have accumulated several of these fees and haven’t been able to have a licence for multiple years because of it.

  56. That’s crazy and what a PITA! And I live in NY – so I totally get avoiding anything to do with the government or the DMV… And what are you going to do – try to fight it? That would take forever – and you would be stuck not driving. Thanks for your $25 Sam – I’m sure NY will use it to do some really productive things. I just commented on my blog about how our tenants in NY will do anything to pay their car payments, insurance, registration, etc. because that is way more important to them than paying their rent. They don’t want to deal with the DMV and insurance companies because of their power over them – but landlords have no power at all. Evictions can take months and the tenant’s have more than the landlords. We even have to pay to store their things if they move out! There’s another crazy law! Thanks for the rant this morning – off to take a walk :)

    1. Interesting analogy about tenants will pay for everything except for the rent on time. You remind me to follow up on my tenants who haven’t paid me for some utility bills they were supposed to pay two weeks ago.

  57. Apathy Ends

    That’s a wild string of events Sam, everytime I go to the DMV it is a horrible experience. The air feels dead and you can tell everyone hates working there.

    Last time I renewed our tabs, I got through the line, waited for my number to be called and was immediately turned away for not having proof of insurance. New law was passed that I was not aware of.

    We can do a few things online in MN now, but your story sounds pretty inconvenient

  58. Oh my god, I totally sympathize. That’s a nightmare. What is with the government lately? Seems like there’s more and more red tape for no reason.

    My nightmare for the past couple of years has been the Franchise Tax Board (CA). First, because of an error on a withholding form with my social security number (escrow left off the last two digits), it took me multiple hours on the phone with FTB and seven months to get my tax refund. Then, I come to find out, the FTB apparently disregarded my instruction to apply part of my refund to the following year’s tax return, so for the next tax year, I got a deficiency notice for the short paid amount that was FTB’s own fault. Should I have noticed that they refunded too much? Well, maybe, except the math still doesn’t make sense. After recalculating it, it looks like they owe me at least another $250 back, but I know it would take hours of my time to sort it out and who knows if it would ultimately get me anywhere, so I’m opting to save the stress and just eat the $250. Jerks.

    Then, I find out that one of our family businesses has had its LLC status suspended by the FTB. WTF? We prepare and file all our returns on time and pay the amount due. Well, it turns out that back in 2013 or so, there was an LLC tax that used to be paid at the end of the year, that the FTB changed to make it due at the beginning of the year (a Band-Aid for the state’s financial problems). We apparently paid it late, and the FTB assessed a penalty, BUT THEY NEVER TOLD US ABOUT IT. They never sent a single tax notice, instead they just sat quietly and then suspended our LLC for it. I paid the measly fine and then the FTB still wouldn’t reinstate us because they said there was no filed tax return for 1995, the year that the LLC was first formed. I said we didn’t have activity under the LLC that year because we were formerly a partnership and we flipped to the LLC starting in 1996. The woman on the phone basically called me a liar and threatened to make me file LLC returns going back to 1986 because that’s the date we said we started doing business on our tax return. THERE WAS NO SUCH THING AS AN LLC IN 1986 in CA! Emmereffers. Still trying to get that sorted out. We have to file a zero-income tax return more than 20 years after the fact now.

    I feel your pain, man. Although not being able to freaking DRIVE is even worse.

    1. That sounds very, very painful. It is extremely difficult to deal with the Franchise Tax Board and figure out other tax documents and fees to pay as a small business owner here in California. It’s as if the government purposefully makes the tax code super complicated so that entrepreneurs have to hire tax professionals to navigate the land mines, otherwise face stiff penalties.

      Maybe aggressive lobbying and funding of our politicians work! It would be nice if politicians weren’t so easily bought.

  59. Wow. Love #3. It’s so much easier when we call more of the shots…and it makes getting to #4 easier. I’m amazed how much less crap I have to deal with now. Great post.

  60. Wow, so many issues to address that I can’t even begin…

    I will say that I had a similar issue happen to us. We moved from MD to PA back in 2001. Last year, in 2015, we get two letters from the MD DMV. One for each car stating that we were being fined for having a lapse in insurance coverage in MD beginning in July of 2001, over 14 years prior! The total was almost $4,000. The reason they had no records of our insurance is because we sold our house and moved to PA where we transferred our insurance! It took them 14 years to realize that they didn’t have a record of our insurance and let us know. So crazy and obviously we did not even owe the money because we had left the state.

    The inefficiency in the government is just amazing and the out-dated systems and processes create more work for everyone involved. No wonder our taxes keep going up and up. Somebody has to pay for it.

    1. In a way the fact that I had to return my license plates to New York was good. It proved I no longer had insurance in NY after I had moved to GA.

    2. Dang, did you pay the $4,000 fine? I was stressing about some mega fine as well. So, the brightside is mine was only $30. But during the wait, your mind kinda goes crazy wondering how big the penalty.

      And what are you going to do? Fight it? No. What most citizens do is take it and like it. There’s nothing we can do unless we have massive financial resources and connections.

  61. Matt @ Distilled Dollar

    As a CPA, the number of tax loopholes and the levels of red tape provide job security! Vote for more! :)

    Your story hit close to home! I specialize in state tax matters, so I’ve had my fair share of ODD cases.

    While it is not DMV related, I’ll share a recent story from a year ago that you’ll appreciate.

    Typically, calling into a state on behalf of company requires a power of attorney or at least a few pieces of information from the company (think registration #’s or $ amounts). I called in and the immediate question was to verify the address on file. No problem. This client had several locations in the state, so I ran through the list of locations.

    Nope, no luck. None of the locations matched what was on file.

    Hmm, this must be an error, I said, as the company does not have other locations besides the ones on my list (after triple checking this for accuracy of course). No places were ever opened and later closed. The Department responded that we needed to change the address to reflect the new address, then we can speak. Great, I said, what form do we use.

    The form required that we list the old address in order to update to a new address…

    We even had the client call in, but they were routed to the same process.

    It took an extra few months and probably 10-12 hours of communication to resolve.

    1. My head hurts reading.

      Just imagine what happens for folks who might not have a firm grasp on English, who don’t have your tenacity, who might not have gone to college, and who are stressed out of their minds because they are fearful they won’t be able to continue working……….. inadequate systems and government red tape are hurting so many innocent folks who just want to get going.

      It’s so easy to give up when the paperwork is so confusing. There really is something to be said for having less.

      1. Government and often people who are within the government do not know how to create value, they must take it. The older I get, the more I realize that this is true.

    2. Last year I had the same issue with CA DMV it seems that when renewed my license in 2014 useing my card the payment for some reason didn’t go through. The only way I found out was I bought another car and was trying to get insurance, after providing the insurer with my info they informed me that my license was suspended and had been for two years. Mind you I was still driving and kept the vehicle insured. So it’s off to the DMV Where I spend for hours and almost $300.00 dollars along with a week of phone calls then another two hours at the DMV to finally get the situation resolved. Had to turn in my old license plus the new one that they issued my first trip to the DMV because I was to surrender my old license. Then they give me the same DL#. So I go to insur the vehicle and the rate has gone up because my license was suspended. So Igo to other insurer and everyone’s in the same area then I was told that they aren’t supposed to rates for non moving infractions. So I’m trying to find out if that’s true so far info has been limited:

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