California’s DMV Lines Are Growing – What Can You Do About It?

California's DMV Lines

California’s DMV Lines

Extremely Long DMV Lines in California Have Driver’s Frustrated

Have you been to the DMV lately? If not, consider yourself lucky, and also consider yourself forewarned. Lines are longer than ever, reinforcing the Department of Motor Vehicle’s reputation as a black hole where operations move at a glacial pace. The increase in wait time is partially being impacted by Californians applying for new federal ID’s (Real ID’s), which will be required in order to fly beginning in October of 2020. The Real ID act was introduced in 2005, which gave the DMV ample time to prepare for potential problems. Despite the lead, it appears they have been less than proactive as long lines crawl along every day, with California drivers growing more and more agitated. 

Wait Times for California’s DMV Lines Are Up Almost 50%

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, wait times for California’s DMV lines have increased by 46% statewide, with a 60% increase in the capital city. State legislators are investigating what led to the problem and are actively seeking a solution, beginning with an audit. This June, the agency was given $16.6 million by the state to support with the shortening of wait times, and over the past year has hired 500 new employees with a goal of hiring 230 more.

The Real Problem – A Misleading System

When you arrive at the DMV, you wait to get a number and then you wait longer to have your number called. The current DMV timing system considers “wait time” as how long it takes between getting your number and then having your number called by a DMV clerk at the window. It does not include the time it takes for you to actually get your number, which in some locations can take upwards of an hour.

What the DMV is Doing About It

The people of California have spoken and they are none too pleased about the exorbitantly long lines they are forced to wait in to renew licenses, registration, and to procure their new, Real Federal ID’s. With so many upset drivers as well as legislators calling for more efficient use of funding, the DMV responded by adding services on Saturdays – now available at select field office locations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are also extending office hours in 14 of their field offices to accommodate extremely high volumes. With an increase in employee overtime hours, continued hiring of new employees, and a reassignment of 225 headquarters employees to support in inundated field offices, the DMV hopes to significantly cut down on wait times.

How You Can Stay Ahead of the Lines

If you are headed to the DMV for a new or renewed license, they now offer an option online to fill out a driver’s license or ID application in advance. And the early bird still catches the worm, so if you can be on-sight when doors open at 8 a.m., you will have a good chance of getting in and out more quickly than lunchtime hours or later in the afternoon. Due to California’s DMV lines being so long, it has become more and more difficult to secure an appointment in a timely manner – especially if your registration is due to expire. Unable to secure an appointment before their registration expiration, drivers are arriving to the DMV without an appointment, adding to the already unmanageably long lines.

The Bottom Line

This summer, the DMV experience has been exceedingly unpleasant for California drivers, but hope may be on the horizon. A Republican senator from Laguna Niguel, CA aims to impact the DMV’s ineffective patterns by introducing a bill this November that will give drivers a 90-day extension to renew their licenses set to expire in 2018, as well as drivers needing to register their out-of-state vehicles. It’s a big mess, but the DMV knows it needs to alter its system and procedures. Hopefully 2019 will bring for the DMV shorter lines, more efficient processes and happier customers and employees.

March 29 UPDATE:

Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed Friday to add $168 million to the budget of the California Department of Motor Vehicles for more hiring and improvements to keep reducing wait times at field offices that ran up to six hours last summer. Click here to read the full article at


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