Home of Record Change: MA to WI

MA and WI DL's as of 2016-2017

This is one change I had been hesitant to make since the day I moved here.  Active duty military and students are two groups of people who aren’t required to make the swap-over right away.  Neither are considered permanent residents of the state which they reside.  Military orders can take you out of a state on short order, and an internship or a transfer of institution could take you out of that state.

The average traditional student (younger and fresh out of high school) will relocate temporarily to the state of study and live in either dormitories, or some kind of campus housing.  Come summer time, they will vacate and head back to their home of record (most people just know that as “home”).  I’ve been a non-traditional student considering I am working on my second degree, and I chose to live in University Housing for the first two semesters.

Up to this point, there were three things keeping my home of record in MA:

  1. When I resigned from QCC, I was able to keep my health insurance benefits active as long as I were a MA resident.  I mostly kept it active in case an accident arose.  When I resigned, I was informed from the HR department that in order to keep my coverage active under COBRA after moving to Wisconsin, I would have to pay the out-of-state rate.   To keep what I had wouldn’t cover anything much beyond an emergency.I made a phone call to the people who managed the plan and they mentioned that to keep my vision or dental benefits, I would need to submit a letter requesting to be switched to an out-of-state network.Since medical, vision, and dental were all separate things, I inquired further.Their out-of-state medical was nearly double what I was paying as a state employee (which makes sense because the state was subsidizing it while I was an employee), but dental and vision were less than $100.  When I asked about the dental and vision portions for out-of-state, the dental only covered routine cleanings and the vision only covered a set of glasses, and the service area was much smaller.After having this phone conversation, I decided to look into insurance as a resident.  Dental and vision insurance in Wisconsin showed to become cheaper if I were to do it as a resident.  I didn’t bother to research medical because I knew that would be delving into Obamacare.  Needless to say, when I learned that it would become both cost-prohibitive and the coverage area would shrink, I stopped paying and let them terminate me.
  2. Prior to coming out here, I had a look at my driver’s license, plates, gun permit, and inspection sticker.  License and registration would expire by the time I arrived in Milwaukee and inspection sticker within the same frame of time.WI didn’t accept my MA gun permit and I hadn’t yet purchased a firearm, so the fact that it would expire in 2020 was moot.The dates above gave me cause to convert, but it would have involved me spending at least two weeks in WI with an expired license and plates; all you need to do is get pulled over once and you’d be screwed.My dad and I did some research online and there was a form I could send the MA DMV that would exempt me from the inspection requirements until I came back after graduation.  Additionally, I was about to receive the renewal paperwork for my auto insurance and at the time, I didn’t know what would be available for auto insurance in Wisconsin.Add to it that my mom and I decided to switch vehicles, which added another year to both my registration and inspection sticker (since vehicles registered in MA have to be inspected upon change of ownership).
  3. I was iffy on whether or not I would return to MA in the summer via car.  At the time, I had assumed that I would.  I was never 100% certain as to what my future was.

 

At the end of January, I decided to inquire about the costs of insuring my Santa Fe in Wisconsin.  I reached out to three different agents, all informing me that Wisconsin does six-month policies.  They all mentioned to me that auto insurance is a more competitive market in Wisconsin, therefore prompting companies to offer shorter policies.  Using the information on my current policy, all three returned rates that if accounted for a year-long policy, would be about $50 cheaper.  Each also mentioned that my premiums would be higher overall because I was in the City of Milwaukee (makes sense – bigger city, more claims, bigger population density, etc…).

By February 2016, due to the reasons listed in the last paragraph in #1, I stopped making payments and allowed them to terminate me.  While this would leave me without some kind of health insurance, being a student would give me an exemption on my taxes.

Auto insurance renewal would come up in August.  I was in a position where I was going to receive favorable rates due to my driving points.  It would be a difference between the cost to insure myself between the two states.

This led me to table the insurance shopping at least until my time at Kenilworth was up.

June 2016: Fast-forward to the move to Sheboygan.  I stopped to revisit my situation – I was gainfully employed, was about to change addresses, and for the last eleven months, I had been nearly conducting myself as though my home of record was Wisconsin.

Once the move was made and I temporarily changed my address with all the right places, it was time to revisit the auto insurance shopping.  After all, I was now living in a friend’s house, working nearly twenty hours a week, #3 in the above points had faded, but #2 was still in play.  It would still be six months until graduation where I would be-then required to change over.  Still, for all intents and purposes, I had ‘moved’ to Wisconsin, but hadn’t made things official.

After conversing with local friends about auto insurance, I resumed phone calls to the previous insurance agencies I dealt with above.  With the Sheboygan address, my premium quote dropped nearly $100.

June 24, 2016:  I called Boll Insurance, an agency down the street from this house.  After a forty-five minute conversation both on policy and having some friendly conversation, their rates weren’t much different than the previous three.  I then made a call to Commerce Insurance in an attempt to get an estimate of how much my policy would come down come renewal.  The woman I spoke to confirmed that I was the lowest driver point possible and that my premium wouldn’t likely drop by much.  This was all pushing me further in the direction of conversion.  I was also informed that the new premiums were due to be released within a few weeks.  At this point conversion would be based on economics.

June 29, 2016:  I received an email from Commerce with my policy renewal.  I didn’t expect the policy premium to decrease, but I didn’t expect it to increase by $76.  I called Commerce within an hour.  My hour-long conversation with them could be summarized by saying that due to the harsh winter experienced by Massachusetts in the previous winter, all insurance premiums would be raised.  I was actually aghast considering that many states deal with brutal winters, but they don’t raise the premiums on all policyholders.

Intellectually, I know that insurance companies are for-profit companies and I understand how insurance works as an industry.  I was also slated to move to the best SDIP points I could for the state of Massachusetts.  I was still confused, but I also knew that I would have to talk to my insurance agent to further understand.  That weekend, I was working straight through.  It also coincided with Independence Day.

July 5, 2016:  I contacted the Mass. Division of Insurance.  Apparently, it’s the nature of the beast in Massachusetts for auto insurance to rise annually.  I also learned that the insurance market there had been deregulated in 2008 and the insurance market was opened to companies in other states.  The one thing I had not been aware of was that my agent only wrote policies for a few select companies.  In other words, being with my agent as long as I had been, I was bubbled into thinking that there were only a few insurance companies operating in the whole state.

After getting off the phone with the Division of Insurance, I called the MA DMV.  I had received conflicting information about surrendering license plates when I change over.  A very patient representative informed me that as of January of 2016, Massachusetts no longer requires those departing the state to return them.  In fact, the DMV website only states that you must destroy or recycle them.  As someone that likes to keep things for the sake of posterity, I was pleased.  I also discovered that the Wisconsin DMV doesn’t require you to surrender your license your out-of-state license, but rather they invalidate it before returning it to you.

Armed with that information, I called the local agent in Sheboygan and informed them that July would be the month that I switch over.  Turns out all I needed was my current MA policy and MA license, and within fifteen minutes and two signatures, I would be on my way to start the conversion.

While #2 in the bulleted list above was still in play, I went back and compared the quote I received from Boll with what Commerce had sent me in a renewal and compared the rates in conjunction with some additional discounts that I’d received as a result of being insured 10+ years, good driving record, AAA discount, and possibly other factors that weren’t accounted for with Commerce.

I evaluated my situation:  Part-time working for Kohl’s, about to graduate in December with aspirations to ascend within Kohl’s as I worked on side political projects, and the last time I returned east was Christmas.  It was time to switch.

July 14, 2016:  I made my appointment to switch things over.  I was also informed that once the switchover was completed, I would have thirty days to acquire a Wisconsin driver’s license.  After making a final call to the driver’s licensing department of the DMV, I made my official address change with the USPS.  Until that point, mail was either being forwarded from Kenilworth to the new place, or I successfully changed addresses from the account side from my parent’s house to the new place.

July 27, 2017:  Armed with a new insurance policy, it was time for me to complete the switchover.  Looks like zoning is different in Sheboygan than other places.  The DMV wasn’t much bigger than a ranch house and it was located in the same area as several houses.  I would have expected to find it within a strip mall.

The signs that led to this place signed it as “Vehicle registration and licensing” so I figured this building was a barebones building and a city DMV might be bigger.

Given that I was a new licensee in the state, the woman at the counter took a picture of me, scanned my MA license, and gave me a ticket.

When I was called, I brought my paperwork up to the counter – presented all the documents needed for a REAL ID-compliant license.  The clerk didn’t ask me if I wanted one or not – just proceeded with the compliant one.  I was asked if I had a motorcycle endorsement, which I didn’t, but what I gathered from the question was that they could combine the two licenses into one.

In the end, I was handed a document that contained my new Wisconsin paper title and registration.  After paying, I was also given a document that served as my temporary license until my permanent one arrived.  She also gave me my new license plates and registration sticker.  Being the silly consumer I was, I asked for a Phillips head screw driver; they didn’t have one, but the clerk quipped that it would make some too much sense if they did.

After I returned to the house, I swapped license plates and affixed the new registration stickers.  When you acquire auto insurance in the new state, you have to call your now-former agent to let them know of the change so they can cancel your insurance.  In the age of computers, many agencies may just need email notification, whereas my former needed a phone call.  As far as the MA plates:  One plate is sitting on a small stand as you walk in the house and the other will end up with my parents.  The humor of it all was realizing that I would have to get used to looking for these new license plates.  One thing I did try was to separate some of the registration stickers to see if I could create a timeline.  I was able to scrape off enough stickers to get to the ’03’ sticker from when I first acquired the plates.  MA requires renewal every two years, so it would have been 03, 05, 07, 09, 11, 13, 15, and a now-barely existing ’17’.  I was able to separate 11, 15, and 17 before I realized that trying to extract more would just decompose the rest of them.

The only two things to remain were registering to vote and applying for the gun permit.

Besides driving privileges, the temporary license I was issued served as proof of residency for the sake of voter registration.  Registration was simple – showed my ID, answered a few questions, verified my information, and was given forms that showed me who represented me in Sheboygan.  Turns out that all of the city polling places were in churches.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to pick a party.  It turns out that for primary ballots, they put all parties on the same one.

After one final call back to the Shrewsbury Town Hall to report the permanent change of address, it was just a matter of time before I received my permanent license in the mail.  The letter I received at the DMV stated that I would receive it in 7-10 business days.  That tends to be a liberal estimate considering the speed of mail.  Most people report receiving permanent ID cards for just about everything that has to be mailed within a week.

For what it’s worth, for most people, a home of record change is nowhere near as dramatic or in-depth as I have written here in less than 2,300 words.  I also started around the time I moved to Wisconsin, up until August of 2016.