Vehicle's weight leads to commercial rate fee


POSTED: Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Question: My wife and I just bought a brand-new Chevy cargo van for our personal use. It's not for commercial use. We can't claim the van for commercial use, but the city is charging us higher commercial rates for the license plate and registration. Our license plate has numbers first and letters second, instead of letters first and numbers second for privately owned vehicles. My wife talked to the receptionist at the dealer and was told that other people who bought vans for personal use also were getting commercial plates, and she was going to check. But she never got back to us. This doesn't make sense. How can the city just do this? Is there a new law?

Answer: It's not really a matter of commercial use, but the weight of the vehicle that determines what the fee is.

You've since informed us that the dealer erroneously identified your van for commercial use, resulting in the higher fee.

But this gives us the opportunity to explain how the city determines how it levies registration fees for motor vehicles.

Trucks, other freight-carrying motor vehicles or multipurpose motor vehicles that weigh 6,500 pounds or less may be taxed at the lower passenger vehicle rate only if they are used for noncommercial purposes.

Under Section 249-13(b) of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the owner, which cannot be a company, also must certify that the vehicle is not being used for commercial purposes, said Dennis Kamimura, administrator of the city Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division.

“;Trucks and other freight-carrying motor vehicles that are registered to a company are always charged the commercial rate,”; he said.

Kamimura pointed out that prior to 1978 all trucks were charged the commercial rate whether they were registered to an individual or to a company.

Apparently to acknowledge the popularity of trucks being purchased by individuals and used solely for noncommercial purposes, the law was amended to allow charging the lower rate for noncommercial use.

Regarding how license plate numbers are assigned, Kamimura said that vehicles charged at the passenger rate have license plates that begin with three letters, followed by three numerals.

License plates with three numerals followed by three letters designate vehicles charged at the commercial rate.

All trucks, other freight-carrying motor vehicles and multipurpose vehicles that weigh more than 6,500 pounds should have license plates with three numerals followed by three letters.

Vehicles that weigh 6,500 pounds or less may have either type of license plate, depending on their usage.

Q: Can you find out what the tall contraption that was recently erected near the entrance to Maunawili is? After it went up, a “;For Rent”; sign appeared.

A: That “;contraption”; is a French-made crane, owned by Pacific Crane and used for construction of high-end homes, according to Eric Marcom, company president.

The tower crane, about 78 feet high, is “;one of a kind”; and just being stored at the Maunawili site.

“;I'm not building anything there; I'm just storing it there”; until the next project, Marcom said.

The “;For Rent”; sign has been taken down because the crane is not for rent, at least for now.

Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).