Drivers hit with car-tab sticker shock

A big price increase for car-tab renewals is surprising many drivers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

A big price increase for car-tab renewals is leaving a lot of drivers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties a bit surprised.

The increase is related to the passage of Sound Transit 3 last November.

Sound Transit increased it's tax by 0.8-percent of vehicle value. While that may not sound like a lot, it means an increase of $80 for every $10,000 of your vehicle's value.

To give you a better idea, here's a breakdown of the Sound Transit tax on a $20,000 vehicle:

  • Pre ST3 - $60
  • New Rate - $220

"I got this about a week-and-a-half ago, so when I opened the bill and saw the increase amount, I was really shocked.  My mouth dropped open.  I was like, 'Oh my gosh!'," said driver Veronica Guillen.

Last year, her car tab renewal cost her $90 for her 2012 Toyota Sienna.  This year?  $267.75.

"That's a huge increase," she said.  "And I would've liked for them to be like hey, there's going to be a big increase, be prepared.  Don't just send out the bill and be like, surprise!  Your bill went up more than double!"

The Sound Transit tax is just one small part of the tab renewal fee, other taxes can come from cities, counties or the state.

ST3 also means increases on sales tax and property taxes. You can calculate your additional cost here. Sound Transit says the typical adult will end up paying $169 more annually, or $14 per month.

Here's an explanation from Sound Transit about the tax increases:

  • Sales tax of 0.5 percent ($.50 on a $100 purchase) in addition to the 0.9 percent currently collected.
  • Motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) of 0.8 percent of vehicle value ($80 annually on a $10,000 vehicle) in addition to the 0.3 percent MVET Sound Transit is collecting through 2028.
  • Property tax of 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation ($100 annually for a $400,000 home). A property tax was identified as a new way to establish a more progressive revenue source for regional transit investments that reduces reliance on the sales tax.


ST3 will bring light rail service to West Seattle and Tacoma in 2030, Ballard in 2035, Everett in 2036, Issaquah and Kirkland in 2041.

Voters in Renton, where Guillen lives, were not in favor of ST3.  Guillen says she doesn't feel like she would ever benefit from the light rail expansion and other public transit services the tax increase is paying for.

"It's not something I voted for," she said. "Those of us who don't live in Seattle and don't commute to Seattle, we're not going to be really using it.  Here, I work down the street.  My kids go to school down the street.  My shopping centers are all down the street."

A spokesperson for the State Department of Licensing said they've gotten hundreds of calls in the last few weeks, from drivers complaining about the bigger-than-usual car-tab fees.

If your car-tab expires on or after March 1, 2017 and you live in King, Snohomish, or Pierce County, get ready for a increased fee.  Some drivers are reporting bills two or three times higher than past years.

Copyright 2017 KING


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