California Department of Motor Vehicles

How To Avoid The Long Lines At The DMV

Kim Wonderley
February 08, 2019 - 3:15 pm

Whether it's getting a new REAL ID, or registering a vehicle, many of us dread an unavoidable day at the DMV. KCBS Radio's Kim Wonderley has some tips for making your time there a little less painful.

If you've got business at the DMV, you've heard the horror stories about the wait times. And it's true, they're busier than ever. While there may not be a way to game the system, there are some survival skills you can employ to ease your pain. 

While the DMV awaits word on a proposed budget boost that could ostensibly improve the wait times, Californians with license and registration needs are still trying to budget their time to take care of of business. Here's a few tips for dealing with the DMV efficiently:

Make an appointment to reduce your wait time. If you can't, or it's an emergency, studies show the wait times are the longest on Mondays and Fridays. The shortest tend to be first thing on Wednesday morning or on Thursdays in general. Lunchtime? Forget about it. Some DMV offices like Oakland, San Mateo, Daly City and San Francisco actually post wait times on the website, so check before you go.

Many services can be done online, like vehicle registration and some license renewals, and many DMV offices now have self-service kiosks where you can get your new license plate tags on the spot. The DMV has also rolled out kiosks at retail locations, like Safeway stores, and AAA members have long enjoyed taking care of many routine transactions at their local office.

If you know you're going to need to go in person to renew your license, anticipate and book ahead. This last birthday was my year to get an updated photo. I received the notice from  the DMV, went online to book an appointment, and the first available appointment was in the month after my birthday, meaning my license would already be expired. I ended up going to a smaller office with less demand for my appointment

Remember to fill out your paperwork ahead of time. And it's true: DMV offices still do not take credit cards! ATM cards, cash, or checks or money order only.