San Jose Kevin

San Jose, California - May 20, 2001 - by: Kevin McIntyre


Up to now I've happily worn my Saskatchewan licence plates here in California; as yet I've never seen any familiar green on white paint but have seen two B.C. tags and one each from Alberta and Ontario. Having out of state plates wasn't a bad thing as I slowed looking for the right exit and wondered which of the four to six lanes of the freeway would suit me best. However, those days were down to the Final Five and it was time to take care of business.




Saskatchewan is likely unique onto itself in North America for registering and insuring a vehicle, one stop shopping at your local SGI office and ten minutes later you're on your way. Growing up with the omni present Hollywood influence, I'd heard plenty about huge lines and bureaucracy at ... the DMV! This was something I wasn't quite looking forward to. By watching local television commercials, talking to others and doing research online the right insurance company was soon found.




The commercial featuring a cartoon character marching across the screen in uniform to the beat of "Call 1-800-General-Now" was never a consideration: their clients are also the ones who know the 24 hour service number to "Bad Boyz Bail Bonds", the Checko, er, Geico ad runs constantly but I've read over the years, they'll give you 15% off if you're a good drive,r but make one mistake and they've never heard of you. Get a ticket, they cancel your insurance and they give out free radar guns to police departments. The clincher on them was my wifes co-worker was broadsided over Christmas by someone who ran a red light. The insurance company totalled the car and after dozens of phone calls they finally granted them a payment way under market value.




I went with State Farm: they have an online price quoter, advertise rarely and cover 20% of the vehicles in the country. Not accounting for the currency exchange, they were only slightly higher than SGI rates with a full package policy and have the no penalty option of monthly, bi-annual or annual payment option, cash, check or VISA. Fifteen minutes in their office and it was a done deal. Aside from the basic "Name, Rank and Serial Number", the questions were "how many At Fault accidents have you had in the last six years?" [Never] "How many licence suspensions have you had in the last six years?" [Never] and "How many continuos years have you held a valid drivers licence?" [24] Next it was off to the DMV.



no different

Their website has links to information on what to bring, locations, office hours and online appointments. Required items are proof of current insurance, your previous registration, title if the vehicle is a resale and proof of testing the California Smog Check, my diesel being exempt. The office was an open floor plan, subtly lit as per the current [manufactured] energy crisis and the lines would be no different than what one would expect in Saskatoon. The form possibly had less questions than SGI focusing mainly on name, address, phone number, VIN, and value of vehicle when new.



blend in

Once those forms are filled out you must drive the vehicle to the back of the building to undergo "verification". This is the part that made me nervous: with a foreign country vehicle I expected a trip to a service station to inspect brakes, exhaust and everything else under the sun. Also, being a disabled driver who drives from his wheelchair I thought they'd have a total fit over that. Again, they could have cared less. He took my form, checked it against my current licence plates, recorded manufacturing codes from the stickers on the door frame and under the hood then confirmed the VIN and odometer reading. While other cars in line had their brake, signal and hazard lights tested along with horn and windshield wipers, he just waved me though on that. I again parked it in the lot, went back into a different line in the building and had a form stamped and my new California licence plates issued. Now, I blend in!




Now its' the drivers licence part to worry about. According to recent news reports, the written test has a 77% failure rate. Oh joy.