…But I managed to cry my way out of a $1,700 MVA fine.
Back in April, I traded my 2008 smart car (George Bush) in for a 2013 smart car (Phillip Smartcar Hoffman–btw, yes I am devastated by PSH’s death and I’m extremely touched by all the people who texted me to either let me know or send their condolences. I didn’t know my love for PSH was so public, but I guess that’s what happens when you name your car after someone).
This was only my second car I’ve ever purchased, so I will admit that I’m not super savvy with all that’s involved in the new car process. However, I thought the benefit of working with a dealership (rather than say, buying a car on Craigslist) was that they took care of a lot if not most of the necessities for you.
Nearly nine months later, I realized one very important item got overlooked when I switched cars–my car insurance.
My car insurance is something I don’t often think about. I see it come out of my bank account every month and I print out a new ID card for car twice a year. But other than that, it’s not really a high priority thing to me. This is probably because I’m a super defensive driver and assume if I get in a car accident in the smart car, death is probably certain (even though its name is Phillip Smartcar Hoffman, I also often call it my death carriage.).
I will admit that I got a notice in the mail from the MVA in November (I didn’t see it til December because I never open my mail) saying that they couldn’t prove my car was insured. Of course at this point, I had been driving the car for half a year and 10,000+ miles, so I’m not sure they waited so long to tell me. I checked my bank account to make sure all my car insurance payments went through–yep. I had only gotten one letter, so I kind of assumed it was an MVA error and didn’t think much else of it since I had proof that I paid my insurance.
Fast forward to last Wednesday. It was 12 degrees outside and I needed to drop Brian off at his house before work. I didn’t want to take Wisconsin Ave during rush hour, so we decided to take a back road. Unfortunately, a lot of the neighborhoods prohibit left hand turns during rush hour, and I ended up getting pulled over.
The officer was very nice, and told me that as long as I hadn’t been ticketed on that road before, he’d let me go with a warning. After about five minutes of waiting for him to run his scan, he returned to my car to let me know that my registration had been flagged, and that he had to take my tags and have my car towed.
“Are you kidding me?”
“The MVA has a flag on your tags. It’s an insurance issue.”
“I have insurance.”
“It’s out of my hands at this point. I already called the tow. You’re going to need to go sort this out at the MVA.”
At this point I started to cry.
“How do I get to the MVA if you tow my car?”
(In case you don’t know, I live 200+ miles away from my family. Sure I have friends, but we live in the D.C. area so a lot of them don’t have cars.)
“I’m done with this conversation.”
The only thing I could think to do was to call Jill and get her to drive me to work. Between sobs, I explained the situation to her. But in the meantime, another officer showed up. They felt guilty about towing me when it was so cold out, so they gave me a fine for driving with a suspended registration and for making an illegal left turn during rush hour and told me to go straight to the MVA with my proof of insurance.
“Don’t get pulled over by the state troopers,” they told me. “They won’t let you go like we did.”
The officer also let me know I could go to court to fight the first fine if everything ended up getting squared away with the MVA. He even offered to let them know that I have a good driving record and that I was very cooperative. What a sweetheart.
As I gathered my insurance information to take it to the MVA, I happened to glimpse at the year of the vehicle on the ID card.
Two thousand fucking eight.
I had been paying to insure the wrong car for over nine months.
I called Geico and had them update the information, though they said they couldn’t retroactively insure the car. This is when I started to get really nervous. In addition, since so much time had gone by since the car was purchased, Geico needed to inspect the car before they were willing to fully insure it.
I drove down to Chevy Chase for the inspection, where I explained my situation to yet another Geico worker. She said this happens more often than you’d think, and it’s usually because the dealerships offer to update the information and then never do. I asked her if she thought the MVA would be lenient about it. “The MVA can be tough,” she said. “But it’s better you found out this way than if you got in an accident and found out you didn’t have insurance.” My nerves were completely shot at this point.
I had a relatively short wait at the MVA. The representative let me know that I needed an F15 form that showed that my 2013 smart was insured between May 22, 2013 to present. I explained the situation and let her know that my insurance would not be able to offer that information.
“Oh. I would call them and talk to a supervisor. Because then you’re going to owe bounty.”
This is when the tears really started to fall. With mascara running down my cheeks in the middle of a semi-crowded MVA, I talked to a very sweet girl named Wendy for what seemed like hours.
“Wendy, I technically was paying you guys and I wasn’t even getting anything in return. And when I updated it I ended up having to pay less so you guys were getting even more than you were supposed to. And I didn’t get into any accidents whatsoever. Isn’t there a supervisor I can talk to?”
“Let me see what I can do.”
She faxed over an F15 and a new MVA representative let me know that I would indeed have to pay the $1700 unless they said I was insured from May 22, 2013.
Still on the phone, I pleaded with Wendy to transfer me to her supervisor.
“What exactly does he need the form to say.”
“That my 2013, not my 2008 smart car was insured from May 22, 2013 to present.”
The gentleman at the MVA was already writing up my bill when this was happening. I was going to owe at least 20 percent immediately, and the rest could be paid on a payment plan with 17 percent interest.
Then Wendy told me to have him check the fax again.
And there it was. An F15 from Geico that said i was insured from May 22, 2013 to present.
The gentleman at the MVA threw away the bill he was writing up and removed the suspension off my registration. He offered me a copy of it that said “case closed.”
As I was getting ready to leave, he asked me how I like my smart car.
Despite everything, I still fucking do.