A new online option is helping drivers tired of waiting in long lines at the Missoula County Division of Motor Vehicles avoid the trip altogether by allowing residents to secure a title for their new vehicle from the comfort of their home.
The online “title by email" option, launched by the Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer’s Office in mid-December, helps residents who purchased their vehicle from a dealership or financed it through a bank get their title and plates mailed to them.
"Basically, they don't have to come into our office, they don't have to find parking, sit and wait for a few hours, or make an appointment," said Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant. "We just email them."
Missoula County is the first in Montana to offer the online titling services. Eligible drivers can head to missoula.co/titlebyemail to complete the process via email and text.
Vehicle owners are eligible to complete the online process as long as their title paperwork was submitted directly to the Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer’s Office by their dealership or bank. In-person visits are still required for anyone who purchased their car through a private party transaction, such as buying a vehicle from a friend or on Craigslist.
The county Clerk and Treasurer's Office, located on the first floor of the Missoula County Courthouse Annex at 200 W. Broadway, helps process vehicle registrations and registration renewals for the Montana Department of Justice. It does not issue driver’s licenses. Missoula residents who need to obtain, renew or replace a license through the state of Montana can visit Driver Services Bureau at 2681 Palmer St., No. 1707.
Gernant said the online titling service can save people a lot of time, especially during the summer when people tend to buy more ATVs, boats, trailers and cars, and the office has more titles to process.
Still, wait times are unpredictable at any time of the year. On Tuesday, Tina Gottried was told she would have to wait an hour and a half to secure a new title. She left after waiting about 20 minutes and came back on Wednesday when the wait time was shorter. Gottried said she was unaware of the online option but would "absolutely" use it in the future.
"Anything that makes it easier is great," she said.
It may take a few days for drivers who complete the online process to get their plates through the mail, in comparison to getting plates the same day from visiting the office. However, filing online can save people from multiple trips if there are issues with their paperwork.
"Instead of you coming into our office and us telling you there's something wrong, we can look over it and email a document that whoever needs to fix the mistake can sign electronically," Gernant said.
Gernant said the online service also cuts down wait times by allowing employees to process paperwork when it's slower, and allows people to take their time choosing from the nearly 300 different Montana license plates featuring rivers, mountains, trout and grizzly bears, among others.
Missoula County residents can also renew their vehicle registration online, through a service that has been available for several years. Several conditions still require in-person registration, such as when a person's deadline to renew has passed or if they have changed their name or address. Those conditions can be found on the Missoula County Motor Vehicle Division's website.
If someone does have to make a trip to the office, they can still cut down on their wait time by making an appointment through Missoula County’s Virtual Queue at getintheline.us.
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