Image via Unsplash by Kelly Sikkema
We’ve all heard horror stories from our friends and family about going to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Maybe you haven’t gone except to get your license or permit when you first started driving, and you probably went with a parent or guardian. Now you may find that you are moving from one state to another because of school or a new job. You may want to register to vote, or you need to transfer the title of your car from your parents to you. All of these require a trip to the DMV, and there is a lot you need to know and paperwork you need to prepare before you even step foot in one. One missing document could cost you everything—seriously. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to survive the stressful visit to the DMV.
1. Research, research, research.
Different states have different rules and regulations about what you need to bring when you go to the DMV, so don’t just assume you’ll only need your license and registration in order to do everything you need to do for your car, especially if you’re transferring documents from one state to another. Doing your research ahead of time helps you to find out what documents you’ll need, but more importantly, the additional forms you’re going to need to fill out. Most of the forms you’ll need can be printed from your state’s DMV website, so you can print them at home, fill them out, and save precious time for when you finally arrive at the DMV. Checking out the DMV website will also allow you to get an idea as to how much your trip is going to cost so you’re not shocked at the clerk counter later on (spoiler alert: the DMV can be expensive).
2. Bring every document you’ve ever owned.
This may sound a bit dramatic, but seriously, if you forget to bring one thing, your entire trip will have been for nothing. The DMV is strict about its document requirements, especially when proving your residency and identity. If you do your research (step one) and go to your DMV’s website, you will be able to see what documents and forms you’ll need depending on what you plan to do. For example, if you need to change your license from one state to another, you’re going to need some kind of proof of your new residence so they can put the new address on your license—something like a credit card bill or utility bill. If you need to prove your identity for what you’re doing, you’ll most likely need your original social security card, birth certificate, or passport. That’s another thing about the DMV: they do not take copies. Every document has to be the original, which can be a major pain. If you need original documents, you’re probably going to want to talk to your parents, they most likely have those tucked away somewhere safe for you (hopefully). If they can’t find your original documents, you can order them online from the government, but it may take longer than you’d like for them to reach you.
Know before you go that some tasks at the DMV are trickier to complete than others, like how getting a REAL ID (a license you can use to fly domestically starting October 2020) requires more documentation than if you were applying for a standard license. So, make sure you know exactly what you want and what you’ll need to bring in order to get it. Otherwise you’re going to be leaving empty-handed.
Image via Unsplash by Kelly Sikkema
3. Stay calm and be the best DMV customer ever.
Adulting is hard, especially at the DMV. You’re going to be waiting for what feels like an eternity (most likely one to three hours) just to talk to someone, so make sure you do some breathing exercises and bring a book or your homework so you can pass the time without ripping your hair out. Now imagine how much harder it is to deal with angry people screaming at you all day because they were unprepared, had a long wait, or made an error with a document. That’s what the clerks at the DMV deal with every single day, so be the best customer you can be and work with them calmly through any issues you have (though hopefully you don’t have any). At the end of the day, the clerk is going to give you the information you need to get everything taken care of whether it happens right then or when you come back with more documentation.
If you stay positive, organized, and calm, you will survive your trip to the DMV. Just make sure to bring any documentation or proof that you need, and keep all of your receipts at the end just in case you ever need to prove you went.
Sarah DeLena is currently studying for her masters in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. She hopes to become an editor of YA literature, her favorite genre, own at least two golden retrievers, and further the legacy of the Oxford comma.