The MVA Website is Terrible

Over the weekend I had to renew the registration for my Honda Accord.  While spending $135 in the middle of prime Holiday shopping season definitely was not something I wanted to do, what choice did I have?

While Maryland is obviously overcharging millions of drivers in registration renewal fees each year it seems with all that money the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) could afford to build a good and well designed website.  After all the MVA is gouging us with high fees.  However, a clean and easy-to-understand website is not what you get when you visit the MVA website.   Here is a picture of the MVA's frontpage when I went to pay my vehicle registration renewal;

mva website

Not only is it confusing but it wasn't clear where I needed to go to pay.  In the documents I got in the mail they say

Registration renewals can be done on-line at www.mva.maryland.gov, by mail, by telephone at 1-410-768-7000 or using the self service kiosk located at MVA offices.

So at least I was under the impression I was in the right place but was hoping that I would save time and sanity by paying the registration fee online.  As you can see from the above picture the website is confusing and clunky to say the least.  I didn't see anywhere where it says “Pay Here” or “Pay Online” or anything with these types of terms.  Why wouldn't you want to make it clear where to give you money?  The web designers for the MVA website seemed to forget it's better to “Keep it Simple Stupid.”  Just look at all the options you have when you land on the front of the website and how poorly laid out it is.  I imagine the intent a visitor has when visiting the MVA website is to get information about vehicle and driver services in Maryland OR to pay a fee.

Whatever web design firm got hired to build the MVA website must have also done HealthCare.gov and probably charged waaaay to much money to do it too.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were some serious security holes in the MVA website in addition to it being poorly laid out.  Let's be serious, there are no good web designers in the government.  This is something Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, emphasized at the 2012 State of the Word at Wordcamp San Francisco.  If the creator of WordPress, what this site is built on and millions of others, doesn't like government websites he knows what he is talking about.

This is just me complaining really but I'd be curios to know if you live in Maryland and if you have found the MVA website confusing and frustrating too?  What did you need to do on the MVA website which you found difficult to accomplish?

 

Switched out my License Plates

Yesterday I finally switched out my license plates from the California ones I had on my Honda Accord, to the Maryland ones I got from the MVA awhile ago. It was bit a sad for me, since I kind of liked having those CA plates on my car.  I guess it made me think of how nice CA is and how I want go back there.

The new redesigned MD plates are kind of fun though.  They have this red, white, and blue Star-Spangled Banner theme.

I got my Title today!

I got my title today from the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)!  This means I officially own my Honda Accord, one of the best cars ever made!  I am glad I got the title.  Who knows that the MVA could have forgotten or not done between when I went it to do my registration and now.

I visisted the MVA Today

$266.40 for a Title, Registration, & 2 Tags!

You might think an auto writer/blogger would be able to find some way around the terrible experience of going to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).  Unfortunately this is not the case.  I had to go to an MVA office today to get new Tags & a Title for my Honda Accord.  Here is the story of my experience.

I went late in the day, probably around 3pm.  Always a bad idea.  It is a better idea to go earlier in the day.  This is when people are just trying to make it afterwork or taking off early to go to the MVA.  Instead of going to Mondawmin Mall, where the Baltimore City MVA office was, I went to the new Hilltop Shopping Center office on Reisterstown Rd.  Apparently the Mondawmin office closed in May and they moved to the Hilltop location.

I waited in line for the information desk for about 20-30 minutes.  What I found strange is when I got up to the desk I told the lady, “I need to register my car and get Tags.”  I handed her the California title and inspection certificate, she took both and looked at the title like it was some weird document.  Without saying anything she went over and starting talking with the supervisor for 5 minutes.  I was thinking, “Really?  They don't see out-of-state titles?”  She came back to the desk and just said, “Fillout the information on the back as well.”

I took my ticket and sat down in the waiting area.  I started filling out the Title form and making sure I had everything set.  I realized I needed to go get the mileage from my car.  I thought I might not have time to do this… then I realized I was at the MVA.  There was plenty of time!

When I came back in from getting the mileage out of the car, I looked around at all the people in the MVA.  It didn't matter age, race, gender, whatever because everyone has the same exact look at the MVA!  “I just want to get out of here!”  Why won't this line move?”  “Why is it taking so long?”

Luckily I brought a book ‘Real Money' by Jim Cramer, but it is hard to read in there.  There is the automated voice that goes off every 20 seconds “Now serving C45 at number 12.”  After another 30+ minutes I finally got my number called.  You feel like jumping and up down when that happens.

I handed the lady my title, form, and bill of sale.  She was pretty helpful and nice.  She commented about my car, “Wow!  The mileage on this is really good!”  I told her the story of how I drove it across the country and that it was my Grandma's car.  “Oh so she just used it to drive to Church and the Grocery store?”  I replied “Yeah, pretty much!”  She told me her Grandma had a Mercedes that had very few miles on it too.  When I got out my credit card to pay I gave her my business card and said I was an auto journalist.  We talked about that for awhile and I told her about how I got a media pass to the Baltimore Grand Prix.  She seemed enthusiast about it and asked me some questions.

So I spent about 2 hours getting to the MVA office, waiting, waiting some more, and actually doing what I needed to do, before getting back to my house.  It cost $266.40 to register, get a title, and for 2 MD license plates.  Since I was smart enough to get a bill of sale stating the car was bought for $0 and therefore a gift, I was not charged 6% sales tax.  It would have more expensive if I did not have that.  Of course I still spent too much time there!

My new Car, drive or ship?

1996 Honda Accord
Looks great for a 15-year old car!

 

I have great news, I am getting a new car.  Well… a “new” car to me at least.  I will be buying a 1996 Honda Accord from my Grandma in Irvine, California.  It has 120,000 miles on it, was kept in superb condition, runs and drives great.  Lucky for this car it has been in CA its whole life.  So no harsh winters, therefore no rust.  Originally it was my aunt's car and now I'm buying it.  Accords are such good cars, we want to keep this one in the family.  I know I will be able to get another 120,000 miles out of it easily.  Maybe even get 300,000+ miles out of this car.  Hey, it's a Honda!  It can make it.

The only problem is… well… I'm in Baltimore, MD and the car is in Irvine, CA.  That's on the other side of the county.  My two options are to ship it through an auto transport company, or drive it on a fantastic road trip across the country.  I would love to drive it, but my family feel it's better to ship it and not put extra miles on the car.  My thoughts are “It will be an adventure.  Besides it's a Honda, another 3,000 miles is nothing.  It should make it back to Baltimore no problem!”  The car does need a few maintenance items before it could make a cross country trip.  The back tires should be replaced, it could use a new battery, a brake flush, and probably an oil change.  Just that, then it should be set.  I'm having trouble deciding.  Shipping would be about $800-1000.  Driving might work out to be about the same, but it would be an unforgettable journey.

I would love to hear suggestions, comments, or advice from people.  What are your thoughts?  Ship or drive?

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