Sunday, July 02, 2006

I'm Official

I've got a Pennsylvania license and registration, and the title is on its way. I'm even registered to vote. (Plus I get to vote against Santorum now.) It could have been a lot worse, even though Pennsylvania is a little weird when it comes to car stuff.

First off, they have no DMV. Instead, they have independently licensed "Drivers License Centers" which issue licenses. But I found one, and sense the Department of Transportation web site told me what I needed, I got the license pretty quickly. However, you have to go elsewhere for registration and title. When I searched the DOT website, it told me the closest location where I could get a registration and title was in Harrisburg, over 200 miles away. Fortunately, friends let me know that what I needed to do was go to AAA. You're not reading that wrong; in Pennsylvania, you register your car through the auto club.

So I went to the AAA office. I asked somewhat hesitantly, expecting the woman to give me a funny look and ask "Are you nuts?", but instead she just waved a big stack of papers and said, "Yup. These are titles." She also told me that Pennsylvania is the only state to do registration and titles this way, and that it takes up so much time at the AAA offices that you must request TripTiks two weeks in advance. So I got my registration, and my new title is being sent. They've even improved services, as I didn't have to take my car to a garage to have the VIN verified. (For some reason, having a title and registration for a particular VIN from Virginia does not simply translate into a title and registration for the same VIN in Pennsylvania; they require someone to certify that you have a vehicle with that VIN. Fortunately, they had someone who could certify the VIN themselves.) AAA even recommended a garage where I could get my inspection, so I did that too.

Everything was taken care of in a few hours, so I don't have much complaint, but I really think Pennsylvania must be one of these states that's afraid of "big government" for some reason. I can't imagine any good reason to separate all the vehicle services and send them out to different private companies just to avoid having a DMV. On the other hand, I also have a letter from the electric company listing a batch of electricity producers, and providing a helpful list of questions to ask them all, so that I as the consumer can take over the job of deciding which producer is worth having. Thanks, folks.

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