Answer Man: $480 to register a car in NC? Asheville Social Security office reopening?

A reader says she was told it would cost her $480 to register her car in North Carolina, which she found excessively high.
A reader says she was told it would cost her $480 to register her car in North Carolina, which she found excessively high.

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: The DMV told me that it would cost $480 to register my car in North Carolina. I’m moving from Tennessee. My car is a 2016 Volkswagen Jetta that’s insured and financed. Why is it so doggone expensive to drive legally in this state? Have these charges increased? Who sets the rates? Does the state actually make money on this, or does it just cover expenses?

My answer: Having moved here 27 years ago from Virginia, I think it's probably time to register my car in North Carolina. Maybe this will be the year!

Real answer: N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles spokesman John Brockwell said first that, "All DMV fees are established by (state) statute, and all vehicle property taxes are assessed by local county tax offices."

"Money that is collected by vehicle registration fees goes to the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund and the state's General Fund," Brockwell said. "That money is then used to improve roads in North Carolina."

NCDOT: Staff shortages to blame for Asheville DMV lines, wait times through late March

While it is expensive to register a car here, the reader's estimate sounded a little high to another DMV communications department worker, Marty Homan.

"You pay $56 for the title, and then you pay a highway use tax, which is 3% of the vehicle value, but that’s not to exceed $250,” Homan said. “And then you pay a plate fee. In Buncombe County that would be another $38.75.”

That comes to $344.75, and that would be if the car's value was pretty high. I suspect the worker might have been including some other fees in her assessment that came to $480, possibly including some late fees and maybe even the driver's license fee of $44 for an eight-year license.

Answer Man: A whole bunch of DMV questions? Slow license renewals?

The DMV collects a lot of different fees, and it's a huge source of revenue. The primary DMV fees, according to their website, are driver's license fees, vehicle titling fees, and vehicle registration and inspection fees.

In the 2020 fiscal year, DMV vehicle fees totaled $888.4 million. Of that, $750.1 million went to Highway Fund revenues, or 24.1% of that total. Another $138.3 million went to Highway Trust Fund revenues, or 8.9% of the total.

Registering a car in North Carolina can be expensive, but an estimate of $480 for someone moving here from Tennessee seemed excessive.
Registering a car in North Carolina can be expensive, but an estimate of $480 for someone moving here from Tennessee seemed excessive.

Some other fun DMV facts, from the website:

  • In the 2020 fiscal year, the DMV processed more than 1.4 million original and renewal driver's license issuances and registered 8,251,423 million vehicles.

  • DMV fees provided 21.4% of the state’s total revenues for transportation investment.

  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DMV revenues were 3.6% lower than the previous fiscal year. "The revenue loss is related to the five-month extension (from March 1-Aug. 1) for citizens to renew and pay for driver licenses, vehicle inspections, and vehicle registrations."

Now, about increases in fees.

The DMV notes the state legislature raised most DMV fees by 30% in the 2015 budget.

"The law also authorized DMV to apply an inflationary increase to DMV fees every four years, beginning on July 1, 2020," the DMV notes. "The first inflationary adjustment increased fees by 7.8 percent. The next fee adjustment will occur on July 1, 2024."

I also found this little factoid interesting: "The average annual cost of vehicle ownership increased $450 from 2017 to 2019, which raised the cost of driving a gasoline-powered vehicle by 3.4 cents per mile."

The annual vehicle ownership cost came to $9,300.


Question: Why is the Social Security Administration building in Chunns Cove closed? And when will it reopen?

My answer: Default answer No. 1: Pandemic!

Real answer: Apparently, this office, like most Social Security offices, has been closed for quite some time because of the pandemic.

This message is on the Social Security Administration website:

"All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. This decision protects the population we serve — older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions — and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, we are still able to provide critical services."

Answer Man: City recycling cans not holding up? Brush removal MIA?

The SSA encourages you to try its online services first, by visiting

The local office phone number, 866-572-8361, says the office is open only for "in-person services by appointment only, for limited, critical situations ..."

AARP, the nonprofit organization for retirees, notes on its website that the Social Security office likely will reopen at the beginning of April:

"The Social Security Administration had been preparing staff to return to field offices and resume normal, pre-pandemic operations but the rapid rise of the omicron COVID-19 variant had put those plans on hold," AARP said. "Now, the SSA and the three unions that work with it say they have a plan to return 45,000 employees to physical worksites on March 30."

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Answer Man: $480 to register a car in NC? Social Security office MIA?