North Carolina could be losing millions from unregistered vehicles on the road

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Is the price worth the tag?

An ABC11 I-Team Investigation is revealing an increasing concern among some government officials that North Carolina drivers are not renewing their vehicle registrations and paying their fair share.

"I live here too. I drive around and I see the expired tags," Marcus Kinrade, Wake County Tax Administrator, told ABC11. "As a taxpayer, someone who renews my tags on time and pays my taxes, it's frustrating."

State law mandates drivers register their vehicles before driving on the road; a valid registration must include proof of insurance coverage and full payment on property taxes, which in Wake County is $0.72 for every $100 of value.

Some counties also require vehicles to pass an emissions test to qualify for the registration.

According to Kinrade, the property tax revenue generated from vehicle registrations totaled more than $84 million last year, or 7.5 percent of Wake County's entire tax base.

"It funds the Wake County Public School System, it funds the libraries, it funds the parks, it funds the sheriff's department," Kinrade said of the tax money collected. "All things that people like to have and seem to want."

Indeed, Wake County in particular is enjoying a surge in new residents - more than 56 new residents every day. Still, the data shows only about 13,000 new cars registered.

In the Town of Cary, where the population has soared 43 percent in 10 years, only 2,000.

Kinrade said Wake County hired SAS to dig into the numbers and see if its professional analysts could read into data about unregistered vehicles on the road.

"The question is are people on expired tags? Do they have out of state tags or are they consolidating their vehicle fleet?"

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol issued 107,725 registration violations in 2019, but there are multiple types of violations:

  • Expired registration
  • Fictitious registration
  • Failure to display a registration tag
  • Improper placement of registration tag
  • Failure to register with DMV
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