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Illinois License Plate Fees For Some Trailers Have Jumped 555% In 2020; 'It Just Boggles The Mind'

By Tim McNicholas and Lana Hinshaw-Klann

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you own a trailer, the new license plate fee might empty your pockets starting this year.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Tim McNicholas introduces you to a man who is putting the new license fees under a microscope.

Mike Smith takes his boat down to Shelbyville every summer. He questions the new license plate fee for the trailer that hauls it.

The state has increased the fee for a trailer license plate by $100, regardless of the weight class.

For the smallest class of trailers – 3,000 pounds or less – that means the fee jumped from $18 to $118.

Trailer Fees

"I'm down here for three to four days, eight days a year, and it's going to cost me $20 a day just for the license plates? I don't burn that much fuel a day when I'm down there fishing," Smith said.

The fee hikes are part of a new infrastructure bill the Illinois General Assembly approved last year, to fund improvements to roads and bridges.

"I'm not arguing that you don't need money for infrastructure. Most people aren't," Smith said.

Smith said the higher fees aren't fair.

Lawmakers raised the fee for all sizes of trailers by $100. Simple, right? Not really.

The largest class of trailers, TN Class (36,001 - 40,000 lbs), had their fees go up about 6.7% The smallest class of trailers, TA Class (3,000 pounds or less), saw a 555% increase – from $18 to $118.

"That's insane. It makes no sense whatsoever," Smith said. "It's really immoral to raise something 555%. It just boggles the mind."

His brother had the same complaint. He owns two trailers. His recreational trailer's license plate fee is unchanged, at $30; but he will pay the new $118 fee for the small standard trailer. The state defines recreational trailers, which didn't see a fee increase, as those used primarily for camping equipment or motor homes.

"Renewal fees in four years will cost as much as the darn trailer cost. It's just absurd. It's craziness," Smith said.

Smith said the law increasing trailer fees needs a rewrite.

"They didn't do their homework. They didn't pay attention to what they passed. We're trying to bring it to their attention; so that they can go back, correct it, and do the right thing," Smith said.

Proposed legislation introduced in the Illinois House would reverse the fee increase for the smallest class of standard trailers, returning it to $18. The rest of the trailer fees would stay where they are after the $100 hike that went into effect on Jan. 1.

The measure has been sitting in the House Rules Committee since October.

Illinois State Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville), who was recently added as a co-sponsor, said the "rushed process" of approving legislation in Springfield is what leads to unintended consequences like the monster increase in the license plate fee for small trailers.

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