New York State Exposed: License plate fees

Posted at: 02/06/2014 6:24 AM
Updated at: 02/06/2014 6:42 PM
By: Nikki Rudd

Just how much is New York State collecting from vehicle license plate fees?  Can our lawmakers do something to save you money?

A viewer sent News10NBC an email after seeing our New York State Exposed report on car inspections. We looked into how much the state makes from those inspections and where that money goes. Ray Smith, of Fairport, asked, “Why do we have to have two license plates?"  He said, "There are a lot of other states that only have one license plate, why not ours?" News10NBC did some research and talked with drivers paying all those fees.

Scott Will, of Lima, in Livingston County is pinching his pennies, like a lot of New Yorkers. 

Scott Will said, “Cost a couple hundred dollars to register and license a car, on top of that you have to get it inspected too.”

And Will has three vehicles. He paid for plates on his truck, his car for work and specialty plates for his family vehicle. 

Will said, “They nickel and dime you with stuff like that. They really do!”

You're required to register your car every two years in New York State. But you only pay for your license plates once, unless you need new ones or have vanity plates. 

When you come to the DMV, you spend $25 for two plates. It costs a little more if you want them personalized. It doesn't sound like a whole lot of money, but it adds up to more than $41 million a year for New York State.

Will said, “That’s a lot of money and it's just something you got to do. You have to plan for it, means you do less, you got to pay it.”

Nineteen states only require one license plate on the back of cars, saving taxpayers millions. Those states include Pennsylvania, Indiana and Michigan. Thirty one states, including New York, require them on the front and back. 

News10NBC wanted to know if New York eliminated the front plate. How much would that save taxpayers? The New York State Budget Office said the state would lose around $17 million of revenue a year.

News10NBC took these numbers to Assemblyman Mark Johns.

Assemblyman Mark Johns said, “It would be a way of the state saving money. It might be a good idea.”

But he says getting the idea to the Assembly floor is another issue.

Johns said, “90% of the bills are never voted on and some of those bills in my opinion could save the state billions of dollars. The majority runs the floor. They decide what bills are going to come up and every single bill that comes up passes.”

Johns says it is majority driven in Albany and the deals are cut in advance. 

Despite days of calls and emails to local state democrats to get a comment on this story, no one was made available for an on-camera interview. News10NBC was able to speak by phone with Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle in Albany. Here’s what he had to say about the idea of only requiring one license plate in New York.      

Morelle said, “I think it's not likely that we would go to one any time soon. The reason we have two plates is that people can monitor from the front and back of the vehicle. Although there's a cost associated with it, we think it is an importance of it is worth the cost in terms of the impact on public safety.”

A lot of them like Scott Will say the state should look into cutting down the costs of license plate fees.

Will said, “Anyway you can save between school taxes and property taxes. Every time you turn around you're paying something, so if I could save money somehow, sure why not.”

Ohio currently requires vehicles to have both a front and back license plate but some lawmakers are looking to change that to just one plate. Read the bill, bill analysis and fiscal note and local impact statement.

Read the 20th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems which ranks New York 46th in the nation (page 54).