Owners may license recreational 'toys'
By Sonja Lee
Great Falls Tribune
Montana is offering a one-year-only, once in a lifetime deal
to people who license a recreational vehicle in 2004.
New laws, approved by the 2003 Legislature, mean that the
owners of trailers, boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles and off-road
vehicles must register their toys for a lifetime rather than
Registration costs, in some cases, also significantly dropped
-- but only for 2004. Those who wait a year to register or
buy a recreational vehicle will pay a lot more in 2005.
"Most all of the fees will double next year," said
Cascade County Treasurer Jess Anderson.
Motorcycle owners who pick up a permanent license in 2004
will be particularly pleased, he said.
Last year registering a 2001 Harley, for example, cost $105.
This year registering the same bike permanently costs an estimated
"If they are going to register any of their 'toys,'
this year would be the year," Anderson said.
Jan Marie Osterhoudt registered two motorcycles last week
and was pleasantly surprised by her bill for the permanent
"I thought we were going to be talking about a couple
hundred dollars to register, and it cost me $36.75,"
she said. "I walked out of there a happy camper."
Osterhoudt said one man who registered his bike actually
went back to the motor vehicle office because he was sure
that the low price had to be a mistake.
Bob Burnside, supervisor of Cascade County's Motor Vehicle
Department, said the permanent registration appears to be
Lines in the office also are still moving quickly, he said.
The changes don't seem to be slowing down too many vehicle
Some registration fees, like those on boats and trailers,
have increased. And the new laws are aimed at bringing in
more money for the state.
Fees for new license plates increased, and manufacturing
fees for collegiate license plates doubled.
A number of motorcycle and snowmobile owners also regularly
trade off their toys for new and improved, so the new registration
rules could cost them more in the future. When a vehicle is
sold, the new owner has to license it, and the fees will be
higher than in 2004.
Rep. Jeff Pattison, R-Glasgow, sponsored House Bill 444,
better known as the "Toy Bill."
Pattison said research shows that most snowmobile and motorcycle
owners sell or trade in their vehicles every three years.
The legislation will generate more money for the state, he
But registering for a lifetime also is convenient, he said.
Steve Kaste, the owner of Steve's Sports Center in Great
Falls, said the state must be counting on people selling their
toys and having to relicense them at the higher costs.
Gil Melton said he will license his Harleys next month. He
said he has a lot of questions about the permanent registration.
"That's the big snag I see," he said. "The
prices sound good now, but I'm afraid I'm still just a little
Cascade County also is a little leery of the changes. In
Montana, it is possible a lot of people won't sell or trade
their recreational vehicles, Anderson said, which could be
"It potentially could be a big loss in revenue,"
Cascade County Commissioner Lance Olson said the county will
keep a close eye on the impacts of the new rules. He said
there are a lot of unknowns about what the changes might mean
for the budget.
Those who register a car, truck or SUV also are paying some
Registration fees now include a 50-cent veteran affairs fee
and a $4 state parks fee.
The state accidentally left the two new fees off vehicle
registration cards mailed out for January, but Montana is
still requesting the additional money.
The state set the voluntary $4 surcharge on vehicle licenses,
with the money going directly to support state parks. If residents
don't want to pay the fee, they have to make a written request
to "opt out" of the $4 charge.
Anderson said at this time it isn't known how many people
are opting out of the park's fee.
Another change is that Montanans only receive one license
plate tab when they register a vehicle. The state expects
the change will save $800,000 in the next two years.
With all the changes, there has been some confusion, Anderson
said. But signs are posted reminding people that the one tab
must be attached to the rear plate of a vehicle.