“I’m Sorry…This Tax Pays For What??”

In December…the state of North Carolina pried my New Jersey license plates out of my white-knuckled grip and for about $250 I officially became a Southern driver. You can take my plates but you’ll never take my Yankee road rage…

Just last week I received a letter in the mail from the New Hanover County Tax Office…always an exciting find. Turns out I owe over $60 total to the following jurisdictions: New Hanover County, City of Wilmington, and the Wilmington License Fee.

I’ve lived all over the country and I have *never* heard of paying a motor vehicle tax. So I called…..

I’m told that this is a property tax…on my car. Everyone pays a different amount based on the value of their vehicle. They valued my 2004 Scion xA at $7,400. That alone is laughable. Since the Scion dealer first handed me the keys I have driven that thing like Dan Gurney…taking every opportunity to red line it while pulling out of the driveway…gassing it over speed bumps and driving with the E-brake on. If that thing is still worth > $7K…the Scion is the slowest depreciating car on the market.

When I called the tax office to ask exactly what my tax money paid for, the representative first said, “different things.” I asked for specifics. Here is the break-down I eventually got:


34.8% goes to Education

23.4% goes to Human Services

17.6% to Public Safety

11.4% to General Government

7.9% to Debt Service

3.9% to “Culture and Recreation”

0.5% to Other

0.5% to Economic Development


Did you have any idea your vehicle could do so much!? I wonder what “Other” is. I also wondered how much money the County generates off vehicle taxes….(the office said they didn’t know).


If I drive a tractor…do I still have to pay the tax?


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