Talk about the high price of car tabs seems to be everywhere in the region.
Regional Transit Authority fees will triple to fund Sound Transit 3 and its $54 billion price tag.
But who pays the price?
“I don’t think people understood how high the state values vehicles. I just don’t think people understood that,” said truck owner Andre Gauron.
Mo Aliabadi, president of the Washington State Independent Auto Dealers Association, says the higher fees may force consumers away from car purchases and he believes this isn’t a fair deal for anyone.
“They are going to be thinking about whether should I be buying a car or not because the payment is high and this is a recurring cost every year. If I’m going to pay five, six hundred bucks a year every year from now — can I afford it? There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Aliabadi said.
And in the auto industry, uncertainty can turn into unemployment among the 1,300 car dealers and thousands of jobs in Aliabadi’s association alone.
“How many cars we sell depends on how many salesmen we hire, how many mechanics we hire — how many people we need on staff. If the volume drops we are going to have to cut back on jobs,” said Aliabadi.
Andre Gauron from Sammamish says the problem is that fees are based on the value of a vehicle.
For example, he bought his 2013 Ford F-150 new for $38,000, but it’s still valued by the state four years later at almost $36,000.
“I’m actually being taxed on a number that is higher than what I feel my truck is worth,” Gauron said.
The state’s valuations are based on manufacturer’s standard retail price, and in Gauron’s case, it’s $10,000 more than what he paid for the truck.
“This is not because I’m a master negotiator. This takes place every single day,” Gauron said.
Andre believes it should be based on what people paid for the vehicle or from a firm like Kelley Blue Book, which says the average retained value of a vehicle drops 30 percent first year.
The state’s depreciation scale drops just 5 percent in the same frame. At year five, the difference in valuation is more than 34 percent.
State Representative Mark Harmsworth from Mill Creek says that’s a problem.
“Government’s always looking for the highest rate they can get from us but in this case it’s just not fair,” Harmsworth said.
Geoff Patrick from Sound Transit says voters approved the measure overwhelmingly.
He added that the information provided to voters was transparent and thorough.
“No one likes paying a higher tax, but it’s going for something that’s necessary in this region,” Patrick said.
The average age of vehicles is now 11.6 years and growing. And for Mo and other car dealers, a sale further delayed is a sale denied.
“We can’t have the same amount of people here with less volume. That’s just the bottom line,” Aliabadi said.