COLLIER COUNTY — Driving in Florida is about to get more expensive. But for some, there is still time to avoid the financial impact.
Starting Tuesday, Sept. 1, the fees for driver license and motor vehicle services are going up as part of an effort to balance the state budget for the new fiscal year, according to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.
Annual vehicle registrations fees, driver license fees and title fees are just a few of the charges that are being affected by the recently passed legislation.
Drivers can expect a 35 percent increase in the cost of annual registration fees. Replacing a license will cost $25, up from $10. The most dramatic price increase is the initial vehicle registration fee, which jumps from $100 to $225.
The majority of these fees have not been changed since 1989, including the initial registration fee and cost for an original driver license.
On Wednesday, Cyndi Hoover, office manager of the Department of Motor Vehicles in North Naples, read a memo hot off the fax machine regarding the new changes.
“We are letting our customers know that as of September 1, fees are going up,” Hoover said. “The new fees will apply to anyone who is adding an additional car to their family as well as those who have never had a car in their name before.”
There are, however, alternatives for some people.
Anyone needing to renew their registration between now and September can do so with the option for a two-year renewal at the current price.
“We are definitely letting our customers know about the price increases and are offering them the option to renew for two years at today’s price, rather than next year at the new one,” Hoover said. “A majority of the people are going for the two-year renewal.”
Clutching her newly renewed license plates as she walked out of the North Naples DMV office, 42-year-old Martha Cisneros explained her decision to opt for the two-year renewal.
“I went down the line of everything trying to cut down costs on anything,” Cisneros said. “This is good because you pay a little more today but eventually it will be cheaper in the end. I know increasing the prices is something they have to do. It’s just one of those things we all have to struggle through and manage.”
Rob Strong, 33, also chose to renew for two years rather than one in order to save some money.
“I’m fortunate to have a job where it won’t affect me as much but there are a lot of people who aren’t that fortunate,” Strong said. “I still chose to renew for two years because either way, money is money.”
The majority of customers who learn of the price increases go for the two-year renewal, Hoover said.
The increase in these fees comes as a shock to not only drivers but to local car dealerships, as well.
“This is news to us,” said Alexis Kouskouris, office manager at Germain Toyota of Naples. “There’s not a lot that we can do, we have to go along with the law. Now we just have to figure out how to break it to the customer and let them know what’s going on.”
Kouskouris said she knew about the proposal but was unaware that it passed and would be taking effect so soon. Kouskouris believes that the cost increases should have been implemented incrementally over the years, rather than all at once.
“It would be nice if the DMV could communicate with the dealerships so we can act as a united front and educate our customers,” Kouskouris said. “It’s just all at one time and in this economic environment it’s just a little hard to swallow. Timing is everything. It would have been better to roll out the increase of these charges in small increments or to have had longer than two months to educate our customers.”
Ken Morrand, director of operations for Germain, was also unaware of the price changes.
“It’s a big jump for the consumer,” he said, “but all I can do is present them with the information and then kindly remind them that they elected these officials who pushed these taxes into enactment.”
Larry Ray, Collier County’s tax collector, wants to ensure that all drivers take advantage of the opportunities that are currently available and are educated as to what will be happening in the coming months.
“I know in these hard times people aren’t going to be thrilled to be paying the extra money,” he said, “but we’re going to try to make them as happy as we can when we give them their driver license and vehicle registration. They should know that if they have a vehicle registration that’s due to be renewed during this time period you can renew it three months early to avoid paying the increased fees.”
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For a complete list of the fee changes, refer to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Web site at http://www.flhsmv.gov/MotoristFees.htm