The DMV Hacks Every Smart Angeleno Should Know

How to make the whole DMV thing slightly less painful

Going to the DMV is never fun. Still, there are ways to save time and make the experience slightly more enjoyable than living Dante’s Inferno.

  1. Make sure you actually have to visit. California drivers can auto renew their licenses online or via mail.
  2. Use any perk you’ve got. AAA members can register cars, pick up a disabled placard, replace lost plates and transfer an out-of- state-vehicle at their local AAA office.
  3. If an in-person visit is required, make an appointment. Slots fill up fast, and the walk-in line can feel longer than the one for Space Mountain. An appointment is your fast-pass.
  4. A car city like L.A. has a perk—plenty of DMV locations to choose from. If you can manage a trip to the Westside, the Santa Monica location is considered the city’s best. It has the highest DMV Yelp rating in the city (four stars!), a spacious free parking lot and beautiful outdoor murals.
  5. If you’re not going to Santa Monica, monitor the DMV’s estimated wait times online to see when each location is fastest. As a rule, try to avoid making the trip after 3 p.m., when school and work begin to let out. Once those post-car pool Priuses hit the parking lot, you’re toast.
  6. If you need to take a test, study ahead of time to avoid a return trip. The DMV has practice tests and the driver’s handbook online for free.
  7. Don’t be the schmuck who brings a credit card to the DMV— it only accepts debit cards and cash.
  8. Find out what paperwork you need ahead of time, and bring everything with you. You will get turned away if a single page is missing, and then you’ll have to go back. Get the checklist of what you’ll need here.
  9. Make your experience more pleasant by finding a nearby place to get a great snack. Tacos Punta Cabres is only a couple blocks from the Santa Monica DMV, and the Culver City location is right by Samosa House and Bharat Bazaar. The Hollywood DMV’s nearby neighbor Grub is perfect for post-visit comfort food, and there is always elote from the Corn Man after a trip to the Lincoln Heights office.
  10. Sell your car, and never look back. You’re free now. Free.