5 Ways to Skip the Line at the DMV

It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what the task, the DMV is a notorious source of exasperation. Between the fluorescent lights, crowded lobbies, and soul-sucking wait times, a trip to the DMV can be an all-day affair you wish never had to happen.

Once you get up to the counter, the battle isn’t over. Often you find there’s a crucial document necessary that you never knew you needed, or perhaps the fee is double what you expected to pay that day.

We’ve got some tips to turn a nightmare into a breeze when it comes to visiting the state office. So, read up, get prepared, and make your next DMV visit one you can leave with a smile on your face.

Here are 5 ways to skip the line at the DMV

Tip #1. Can you do it online?

The most important first step you can take before heading to the DMV is double checking that it’s even necessary. There are a ton of tasks you can complete for the State from the comfort of your own home. Renewing your license, changing your name or address on your license, renewing registration, and paying a traffic ticket are just some of the responsibilities you can complete online, on the phone, or by mail. Check your state’s DMV website and follow the steps necessary to avoid making a trip into the Department of Motor Vehicles. Be sure you’re on the ball if you wish to complete a task online. Some duties require that you renew prior to the expiration of the relevant document.

Tip #2. Make an appointment

If you are heading into the DMV to take a test of any kind, whether that be for your learner’s permit or driver’s license, you are sometimes required to make an appointment. This ensures that the office has the time and resources to administer your exam on the designated date and time. However, for some states, this is not required and is simply a step you can take to avoid long wait times.

Tip #3. Get in line, online

For various mega-centers and Driver’s License offices, you have the choice to get in line online and begin your wait time before you even step foot in the office. Look up the location of the office you wish to visit and find out if they allow online place holding. That way, your drive to the office will already be chipping away at the amount of time you must sit and wait at the DMV, DPS, or Driver’s License Office.

Tip #4. Make sure you have all of the required documents

There’s nothing more frustrating than finally having your number called, only to have to turn around and go back home because you didn’t bring all of the necessary documents. Do your research before you head into the DMV. Getting your license requires multiples forms of identity and residency proof and each state has different acceptable documents that they allow. Look up what you need, what they’ll accept as proof, and make yourself a checklist. This way, when it’s time to go to the DMV, you can verify you’re prepared on your list and arrive organized and ready.

For example, if you are obtaining your learner’s permit in the state of California, you are required to bring the following:

  • Certificate of completion for Driver’s Ed
  • A completed driver’s license application , which can be completed online and must be signed by a guardian
  • Your social security card or proof there otherwise
  • Your original birth certificate or a certified copy (you may also bring a Government ID, Passport, or a Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization. It’s best to bring as much proof as you have. Not having what you need means you’ll have to come back another day.)
  • Proof of your California Residency (need at least one document, likely provided by your parents)
    • Options include a pay stub with your home address, a mortgage bill, a utility bill, a copy of your current leasing or rental agreement, a California vehicle registration, etc.
  • $35 to pay for the exam, your potential 2 retakes, and your permit. This fee must be paid before the exam and will not be required thereafter

Each state has specific breakdowns. Check your state’s website to find what you need to complete your DMV task below:

Tip #5. Bring a form of payment that is reliable

Depending on your state and the task you need to complete, it is not uncommon that you will have to pay a processing fee. For things like licenses and exams, a fee is guaranteed. When you look up the required papers to bring along, your state should include whether or not a fee will be required and the amount. Bring a reliable form of payment so you can be sure the fee is processed and you can leave with what you came in for.

The biggest takeaway we can give you is to do your research! Don’t go into the DMV if it isn’t necessary. If it’s unavoidable, get in line early and show up with all of the required documents to complete the task at hand. Don’t be afraid to call the office and ask questions if something isn’t clear. This will save you time in the long haul. Each state has specific requirements and your state’s website can guide you along to a happy trip to the DMV!

Photo credits in order of appearance: Unsplash , Giphy, Unsplash, Unsplash

Krista Doyle
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