Is it time to renew your license or take your driving test? You might be dreading your trip to the DMV. With notoriously long lines and wait times, going to the DMV tops most people’s list of least favorite activities.
The good news is there are a few ways you can make your next trip to the DMV more efficient so you can spend less time waiting in line.
1. Go Online or Use the Mail
Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many DMV services that previously had to be completed in person are now allowed to be done remotely. That means you can complete a lot of DMV services online or through the mail. Rather than standing in line all afternoon, try completing the forms you need online or mailing them to your local DMV.
Be sure to print out any receipts or make copies of any documents you send through the mail. Even though services can be completed online, you don’t want to add to a delay because something got lost in the mail and you don’t have a copy.
2. Avoid Monday Mornings
A lot of people head to the DMV at the start of the week to get it out of the way. This leads to a backup at the start of each week. While Monday morning is probably the busiest, you’ll likely see an increased crowd any morning during the week.
Try looking at DMV offices in your areas to see if any offer Saturday appointments. You may be able to beat some of the crowds by going in on a weekend. Most other drivers don’t realize that some DMV offices have added Saturday hours to deal with excess demand during the pandemic.
3. Check Local Wait Times
Many DMV offices let you check how busy they are online. You can easily hop online and check if any offices near you are busier than normal. If you notice your local office is extremely busy, you can skip going that day and wait for a quieter time.
The other benefit of this approach is the time you save by checking lines online. Instead of traveling to your nearby DMV, you can look up wait times online — without leaving your couch. You can use your extra time for other errands or take some time for yourself to relax.
4. Make an Appointment
The easiest way to save yourself some time when going to the DMV is to make an appointment in advance. While it seems obvious, you might think you can simply go to the DMV and make a quick stop. After all, how long could it take to fill out a form and sign it?
The problem comes when you have to stand in line to turn in your simple form. Making an appointment gives you a set time to get to the DMV and could help you skip the walk-in line.
5. Renew in Advance
If you know your driver’s license or vehicle registration is going to come due soon, you might want to renew in advance. It’s common to wait until you get a renewal notice in the mail before going into the DMV. With the current long lines and extra demand, however, it makes sense to beat the rush and get your renewals in order before they’re due.
For example, your license expires on your birthday in two months. Instead of waiting until it’s due, you can renew it now. This gives you the time you need to wait for a day when the DMV is less busy and you won’t have to wait as long to turn in your paperwork and get your new license.
6. Go Later in the Afternoon
It might feel counterintuitive, but heading to the DMV office in the afternoon could save you time waiting in line. DMV offices generally have to serve anyone who is in line when the office closes. That means the DMV is open later than the posted closing time. You can get in line around 2 or 3 P.M. and possibly save yourself several hours in line — while still getting the service you need.
7. Be Prepared with Forms and Documents
One of the most disappointing feelings is waiting in the DMV line for hours, only to find out you didn’t bring the right documents. Whether you’re renewing your license, taking a driver’s test or transferring a title, make sure you have the right documents and forms.
You should be able to find the forms you need on your state’s DMV website, such as the California DMV. You can always call the DMV to verify what you’ll need if you can’t find the answer on the website.
8. Ask Questions
If you show up to a packed DMV, the first thing you should do is ask a DMV employee where you need to go and what forms you need. If you don’t ask, you might end up waiting in the wrong line. After hours of waiting, you get to the front only to find out you’re in the wrong line and have to start over.
This could also happen with forms. For example, you get to the front of the line and learn that you need to fill out a form. Now you have to step out of line to fill out the form and go to the back to turn in your form. Asking for help when you first get to the DMV helps eliminate this problem.
9. Head to the Self-Service Kiosk
Did you know some states, like California, have added self-service kiosks to DMV offices? Depending on the service you need, you can wait in a short line, scan your registration or other documents and pay for services all in one step. This saves you the time of waiting in line for a DMV employee to help you.
10. Don’t Count on Credit Cards
Most DMV services should be able to be paid with a credit card, but you shouldn’t rely on them to pay for services. Card payment systems could go down, leaving you without a way to pay for the services you need. Be sure to bring other payment options, like cash or checks, when you head to the DMV. This gives you multiple options to pay for services and helps reduce the chance that you’ll need to come back at a different time.