By Kurtis Ming

Chris Gerdes still remembers the first time he drove his father’s new 1993 Honda Accord.

“Yeah, the seat’s ripped,” Gerdes said, walking around the car, now with 19 years of rust, mechicanical problems and upholstery tears. “As you can see, it’s seen its better days.”

When his father, who had lived for years in Colorado, passed away in 2009, the car was now Gerdes. He brought it back to California, registering the vehicle with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

He never expected to be overpaying every year, because the DMV had valued his car at $16,200.

“It’s got a lot of sentimental value, but it’s not worth $16,000,” he said.

It’s cost Gerdes about $400 in registration costs over the past three years, he said — money that’s become more and more important since he lost his job.

But the DMV wouldn’t reduce the value of his car.

“I’m having to sell me and my fiance’s stuff, just to make ends meet,” he said.

Drivers in California are required to pay 6.5 percent of their vehicle’s value, decreasing every year you own it.

When Gerdes registered his car, he had to enter its value. The DMV told CBS Sacramento Gerdes had claimed it had a $100 value.

The Kelley Blue Book value, however, was about $544 trade-in value as of publication date.

“The vehicle value should have been based on the current market value,” said Jaime Garza of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Regarding the $16,200 value, the agency said, “It appears there was a keying error made.”

The DMV agreed to reduce the value and refund $438 dollars for the past three years.

Gerdes said that money will help him and his new fiance.

“It feels good. It’s really nice to have it fixed,” he said.

So how can you get your car’s value reassessed by the DMV?

According to state law, the DMV only adjusts the value upon sale or registration — otherwise it doesn’t have to update the value.

State law also makes clear that sales to certain family members do not result in value readjustment.

More information about California’s vehicle license fees (VLC) can be found on the DMV website.

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