Tips for Reducing DMV Wait Times

DMV wait times regularly exceed four or more hours in some locations! No one likes waiting in line at the DMV, and yet it seems impossible to escape.

No matter what time you arrive, it feels like everyone else in the city is also waiting for DMV services. Unless you live in a rural area, chances are the DMV line never seems to get shorter. What can you do? Well, you can minimize your need to stand in line. Not every service at the DMV requires waiting around for an agent to see you. Most DMV offices offer services in person, online, over the phone or by mail.

1. Do What You Can Online

Depending on what you need, you can take care of your documents and registration without stepping foot inside of a DMV office. No one likes waiting in the DMV office, but people don’t always have to. The DMV has automated a lot of its processes so that drivers can complete registrations and renewals online. For example, North Carolina residents can renew driver’s licenses and car registration, order duplicate licenses, pay property taxes and register a change of address online. This means residents can visit their state DMV website to complete services, minimizing the number of people who need to visit in person.

Residents should browse their DMV website to determine what services are available online.

2. Make a DMV Appointment Ahead of Time

Not all tasks can be completed online. Some things, like applying for a driver’s license, must be done in person. That’s okay – you can make an appointment. By calling the DMV to make an appointment, you can skip the process of waiting in line for hours.

You can even make DMV appointments online. With an appointment, you can arrive at a pre-determined time and know that someone is waiting to see you. Of course, you have to be responsible if you book a time slot. Make sure you write down the time and date in your calendar, then arrive at least a few minutes early. That minimizes the risk that you lose your spot and have to wait in line anyway.

3. Complete DMV Services Over the Phone

Speaking of calling to make a DMV appointment, you can also call in to complete certain services. This will vary by state, but it is possible to call the DMV for services such as driver’s license or registration renewal.

This can be either an automated process where you input numbers, or one where you speak to a representative to deliver your information. A phone call can be an easier choice if you simply don’t have time to make it in during DMV hours. This allows you to skip DMV wait times from the comfort of your home. On the other hand, you may be kept on hold for an obnoxious amount of time – but at least you’re waiting at home instead.

4. Submit Documents by Mail

Depending on the state you live in, you may also have the option to complete DMV services by mail. For example, in New York you can renew or replace your license, renew your registration or even request a new title by mail.

Most services that only require submitting a few documents or completing a renewal process can be easily mailed. The downside is that the mailing process is much slower than completing the process online, in person or by phone.

However, if you have documents you know will be expiring and don’t want to rush over to a DMV, you can instead put it in an envelope, mail it in and wait. This is a good choice when you know you have a few weeks to complete the process. If your registration is days away from expiration, a faster option may be prudent.

5. Visit at the Right Time

If you absolutely have to visit in person, you can minimize your chances of waiting in line by picking the right time to go. DMV hours are not necessarily convenient for the 9-to-5 types, which means lines are often busiest at the beginning and end of the day.

They’re especially busiest on Saturdays. However, you can call and ask what time your local DMV office is least busy. Additionally, Google can help you find out what time is the DMV least busy. Mid-morning in the middle of the week will likely be a better time than mid-day on Saturday.

It may be necessary to take time off from work or class to visit the DMV during its quiet hours, but the shortened wait time can be worth it.

6. Visit Another Agency Instead

There is another agency you can turn to for some DMV services – your local AAA office. “What DMV services does AAA offer? It’s not a government organization,” you may say. True, but the DMV is tired of seeing people angrily waiting in line. Therefore in some states, they’ve partnered up with AAA for select services.

You don’t even have to be a member of AAA to utilize this option. However, services vary by office, so it’s best to call your closest AAA to find out what exactly they can do. Generally, DMV services offered by AAA include license renewal, registration renewal and duplicate document requests. This means you can make an appointment with your much less crowded AAA office and complete basic tasks without lengthy DMV wait times.