The business of vehicle licensing

Mirror staff

State vehicle licensing agencies exist to give vehicle owners convenient locations to renew or transfer automobile and boat titles. But the agencies are businesses, too, so the Washington Association of Vehicle Sub-Agents exists to watch out for their interests.

The Federal Way-based organization lobbies the Legislature for higher fees for the agencies’ services. Last year, lawmakers agreed to a 50-cent increase to the current $3.50 that agencies tack onto state licensing fees. It was the first boost of the agencies’ share in five years.

There are no immediate plans to seek another increase, said Jan Novak, the association’s executive director and only salaried official.

Federal Way Auto License Agency, where Novak is employed (and which is co-owned by George Cohee, the association’s president and Agent of the Year), and the other 108 agencies statewide are state-sanctioned but independent businesses. Most have three employees; Federal Way’s six-person staff is one of the biggest.

Vehicle tabs, title transfers, handicapped-parking tags and notices regarding disabled vehicles are issued by the agencies. They also sell pet licenses.

A word to the wise for consumers: Waiting until the last minute this time of year to renew car tabs or boat registrations can lead to longer transactions.

“Summer is the busiest time of the year for our vehicle service counters. To avoid long lines and delays during these peak months, we strongly encourage people to renew early,” said Nancy Kelly, assistant director of vehicle services for the state Department of Licensing.

For consumers who don’t want to pay the extra license agency fee, transactions can be done over the Internet at or by mail. The latter takes at least two weeks, officials said.

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