Tuesday, October 9, 2012


An Informative Rant

Don’t expect the car dealership to have your best interest at heart.  Before getting too negative, I will clarify that our salesmen has been excellent.  He even delivered my license plates to me which spared me from a 90 mile round trip drive.  It was a drive which would have been beyond the limits of the i-MiEV without recharging somewhere along the way.  It turns out we even went to the same high school, separated by quite a few years though.  So luckily it wasn’t that far off his normal course of travel to bring over the plates.  But once you move beyond the salesperson, it gets more difficult to find someone that values the customer’s interests above the dealership’s interests.  That is not to say that it should be different.  It’s the formula that typically keeps the dealership in business.  The point is: the dealership is on your side only to the extent that it benefits them. 

The source of my angst, you ask?  As part of my due process, I learned that in the state of Illinois, electric vehicles are eligible for an $81.50 annually lower license plate fee.  My mistake was in thinking that the dealership would be aware of this and know how to process the proper paperwork.  WRONG.  While dealing with the finance guy, I asked about the reduced fee.  He didn’t have a clue.  The extent of his help was guessing that maybe at the time the plates were renewed, the discount would be given.  So I was charged $99 for newly issued Passenger plates.  It wasn’t until after I had the new plates in hand that I researched deep enough to finally get the answer I was looking for.

The Illinois Secretary of State (SOS) web site does not provide any links to information about registering an Electric Vehicle.  I even called to ask the question to a live person.  They didn’t know about Electric Vehicle plates either.  (see bottom of blog for a number I was later given to call)  So maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh on the finance guy at the dealership.  The SOS employee did know about “Low-Speed Electric Vehicles” and the fact that they had separate plates and reduced fees.  But those are vehicles that have a top speed between 20-25 MPH and are restricted to driving on streets with either a 30 or 35 MPH maximum speed limit but are allowed to cross streets that have up to a 45 MPH speed limit. 

Finally, after searching numerous terms using Google and Yahoo, I found a shred of documentation that referred to the SOS pricing for Electric Vehicle plates.  Prior to the critical discovery it was hit or miss as to whether or not they even existed for Illinois.  The SOS web site shows “all” the types of license plates issued by the state, but does not include Electric Vehicle plates.  One type of plate shown is the Exempt Vehicle plate which uses the letters “EV” to show the designation.  I’m not sure what it’s exempt from, but it wasn’t looking too promising that there would also be an “EV” used simultaneously for Electric Vehicle.  The letters “EL” end up being the ones used for EV’s.  And the shred of documentation I finally discovered was a pdf of a cost sheet for license plate rates.  The search term was "il sos calendar registration fees", and currently it is the first link using Yahoo.

Illinois License Plate Fees

What I should have been charged was $27 for newly issued Electric Vehicle plates.  The plates are two-year issued plates and always expire in December of odd numbered years.  The $27 comes from ‘prorating’ the cost for being issued in the second of four periods stretched over the two-year issuance timeframe. 

What will it take to correct it?  Well, I stopped at the DMV on Friday afternoon to find out.  It wasn’t their mistake, so they won’t issue a refund.  Essentially, the plates need to be reclassified.  To reclassify them costs $27 for the new plates plus $29 to handle the paperwork.  Another $56 in addition to the $99 that I was erroneously forced to pay when I bought the car.  (Totaled together, it would be $128 in excess of what the original amount should have been.)  That’s if I wanted it fixed now.  Or I could wait one year until my current plates expire (August 2013), and have them reclassified then.  That would only save me $18.  (But I would also be paying $35 at the end of 2013 for plates for 2014-2015.)

On Friday, I left a voicemail for the Business Manager at the dealership.  I tried to explain the situation and asked if they would pay to have the plates reclassified.  I’m really hoping for a response within a week.  Was the fact that this happened, my fault for not knowing all the information at the time of purchase?  Is the blame theirs for not filling the paperwork out correctly? 

My Goal: A better informed public.

Regardless, hopefully this is read by a future electric vehicle purchaser in Illinois before they get to the dealership.  Hopefully this is also read by electric vehicle dealers serving Illinois customers in the hopes they correct their methods.  Of course, if the owner desires passenger plates (and the $99 annual fee that comes with them) over EL plates, they are allowed to use those.  Maybe someone doesn’t want the added attention that the plates may add.  Maybe they will opt for vanity plates, personalized plates, or a different style of specialty plates.  My preference is to save money year after year.  The car is going to attract attention with or without the plates anyway.

And just so I don’t become another source of information that states that Illinois offers lower rates for electric vehicle plates, but fails to communicate HOW to obtain the lower rate; refer to the pdf image above.  The critical step comes in filling out the APPLICATION FOR VEHICLE TRANSACTION.  Instead of Passenger plates, Electric Vehicle (EL) plates need to be requested instead.  Also make sure the dealership is not automatically collecting $99 for plates.  Many of their computer programs are not set up to handle other fees or the operator is just accepting the default amount.  This is typically well into the purchasing process, after being worn down by the negotiations for the new car price and the trade in price.  So it’s easy to be in the “whatever it takes to get me out of here” phase of the deal.  It may be worth asking up front if the dealership knows about the plates and their lower costs.  It will give them ample time to research before the signing marathon begins.  (Ask for/Look at the finance contract for the correct numbers before getting too far into the process.)

Special thanks to Latonya at the Rockford SOS Drivers License Facility for finding out the corrective action to fix the plates.

Special thanks to Agnes Mrozowski for providing the SOS Special Plates division phone number.  It is 214-782-7758.  (By the way, that wasn’t the number I had called earlier when I talked to an SOS employee about the plates.  This number was provided later.)


  1. Must be a pure electric that never uses motor fuel to get the discounted registration in Illinois!!!

  2. That is correct, the car must be 100% electric. Vehicles such as the Volt that have a gas tank are not be eligible. Also, to keep people up to date with Illinois license plate fees, the price for passenger and motorcycle plates went up $2 for 2013. It is now $101 for passenger plates and $41 for motorcycle plates.

  3. Really appreciated your work.Thanks for providing a nice blog.

  4. Thanks for the research. I had the same problem with my 2012 Nissan Leaf and my plates are up for renewel now. I will have my plates reclassified at the DMV.

  5. Long story short... go get your electric vehicle plates for your Volt.

  6. I just called the Secretary of State and they said that the Volt does not qualify for the discounted electric plate. It has to be a totally electric vehicle. Not very friendly I might add!!

  7. I just called Illinois Secretary of State Office about renewing the registration for my Chevy Volt and after talking with a representative, was advised to talk to the Non Standard Plates Division Office 217-785-4175. A gentleman categorically told me that Chevy Volt does not qualify for the reduced fee of $18.

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  11. The number you mention has a WRONG AREA CODE. The number is actually 217- 782-7758 - and yes, dealerships are still not willing to go the extra mile to make sure electric vehicle owners get the correct plates.

    Also, I am in the midst of clearing up my incorrect plate situation and the direct number to the person who handles the EL plates in Illinois is 217-782-1140.

  12. Thanks for the valuable info I didn't know.

  13. SImilar issues that I dont expect secretary of state to see my way. My dealership was unaware of EV plates, did best effort based off of the cyberdrive website and charged me the full $130 registratioin fee, filled it out to expire in july 2017.

    plate came today with springfield scratching out the computer entered 7/2017 with a dec 2015 and sticker. Was cursing at Springfield until I found this article. You think Springfield could have at least triggered a $27 refund for the overcharge. sigh.....

  14. I have a neighbor with a 2017 Volt & he was able to get an IL EV plate. He knew of one other as well. I applied for one & got one as well on my 2016 Volt, but my sister was denied at the DMV on her 2014 Volt.

    The IL Affirmation of Electric Vehicle form which must accompany the plate application states "I/we hereby affirm that the vehicle described for registration is a motor vehicle of the first division or a motor vehicle of the second division weighing 8,000 pounds or less and propelled exclusively by an electric engine and not utilizing motor fuel." The Volt is <8000 lbs...check. It is propelled exclusively by an electric engine...check. Not utilizing motor fuel....depends on how you interpret that... it does not directly utilize motor fuel to propel the vehicle, but it can use motor fuel to produce electricity which is then used to propel the vehicle... very confusing wording and clearly the DMV has not been consistent with how they handle EV plate applications as it pertains to the Volt.

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