By Michael Schlee; photo courtesy Donate Life California

Governments: cant’ live with them, can’t live without them. Truth is, as much as we in Canada like love to complain about our government, we really do not have it that bad. Compared to many, many countries around the world, ours is a well-oiled machine. However, that does not mean our beloved government is devoid of incompetence and overeager bureaucracy. Case in point is the motor vehicle licensing office.

I get why institutions like this exist. Without a lot of these rules and regulations in place, our roadways would be utter chaos ruled by the dangerous and unsavoury. Okay, it may not be that bad, but for the most part I get why we need some control. Heck, I can even live with the annual license registration fees and need for a safety certificate when transferring ownership of vehicles (emission tests and HST on private sales though… well, that could be an entirely separate rant).

For years I have been using the much-lamented Ministry of Transportation offices without issue or complaint — until this week. For those who follow along in our forum, you will know that I recently bought a 22-year-old Mazda Miata off of a neighbour. I paid $1,500 for the car plus $500 for various accessories and parts. After a week-long battle repairing some serious floorboard rot, I was finally ready to get it on the road last week.

Even though this car is old, my insurance company had no issue insuring the car for its worth (post repairs) at $2,000 since it is now at 308,000+ km. The body, roof, and interior are in decent shape, but the underbody is rough. Considering the high mileage, the mechanicals are surprisingly solid. After obtaining my insurance card, I headed off to the ministry desk with all my necessary documents; or so I thought. After a 30-minute wait, I made it up to the front desk only to be informed that since my car is over 20 years old, it is no longer “on the books” and needs to be appraised to ensure I pay the government the maximum amount of money. In other words, if the car is appraised at more than the $1,500 I paid for the car, then I pay tax on the appraised amount. I get the premise of this law. You don’t want someone with a nearly-priceless 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle or 1987 Buick GNX to try to pass off that they paid $5,000 for it. But I am here with a vehicle that is about to eclipse a third of a million kilometres and is in a rusty state of repair. Realizing I would not win this battle, and succumbing to the knowledge this law does, on a very specific level, make sense, I begrudgingly left to find an appraisal for my cheaper-than-a-60-inch-television car.

Fast forward two days and I have been able to get a colleague of mine to provide an appraisal for my little roadster. He is the general manager of a large dealership and agrees to give the 1990 Miata a once over. After inspecting the vehicle (and its floor rot) he determines it is worth roughly $1,500. Perfect, I paid the right amount. He finishes filling out the form, we say our goodbyes, and I head out to ministry to finally get the vehicle registered.

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