Here’s How You Can Avoid the Line at the DMV

It's all about being proactive.

California DMV Wait TimesRichard Vogel/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Unlike waiting in line for your favorite fresh bagels or a new movie, standing in line at the DMV is less enjoyable but still requires patience. Although it’s occasionally a necessary evil, it’s possible to avoid the line at the DMV altogether or shorten your wait time, according to Marty Greenstein, a Public Information Officer for the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Of course, double check the particulars with the DMV office near you.

Make an appointment

Yes, shortening your wait time is as simple as making an appointment. This might be a required step in some states for tests. Even if it’s not, you can make DMV appointments ahead of time up to 90 days before, per the Chronicle. Greenstein notes not to lose all hope if you do come in without an appointment for other matters. “The wait tends to be particularly short on Saturday afternoons after 2 p.m. at the 62 field offices that offer Saturday service,” Greenstein says. Every DMV is a little different, but another DMV spokesperson also told ABC that the first and last days of the month, as well as the day after a holiday, tend to be busier all-around. The weekend is also a bad time for car shopping, too. This is the best time of the week to buy a car.

Look into your online options

It might not even be necessary to step foot in the DMV, depending on what you need. There are a lot of things you can simply do online like renewing vehicle registrations or changing your address. It is necessary to come in for a few things, like getting your REAL ID driver license or ID card, Greenstein says. You can still quicken this process and save time by submitting your application online before going to the office.

Get in line before you’re in the office

Again, depending on your state, it’s possible you can get in line for the DMV without physically being there. Some states have a texting program which alerts people when their turn is coming up. This program helps people save time and avoid lines, but unfortunately, not all states participate. If you’re waiting in your car for the text, make sure you’re not doing these 13 things in your car.

Come prepared

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail—or in some cases, preparing to wait in a line at the DMV for no reason. If you don’t have the proper identification and documents necessary, you’re just wasting time for yourself and others in the line. The DMV offers helpful checklists like this one so you can prepare. Make sure you reference the one for your particular state DMV office. Similarly, make sure you have an acceptable form of payment such as cash, a check, a money order, or an ATM card as credit cards aren’t currently acceptable, Greenstein says. Now that you know how to save time at the DMV, here are 10 ways to save 10 minutes, daily.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest who previously wrote for INSIDER, the Food Network, POPSUGAR, Well + Good, Westchester Magazine, and more. There's also a 90 percent chance Emily is drinking tea right now, but when she's not writing away about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.