The DMV sucks, amirite?
July 8, 2010 12:09 AM   Subscribe

Having lost my wallet three times in six months, I need to streamline the process for replacing a Driver License and dealing with the California DMV as much as possible.

As far as I can figure out, I have to go to the DMV office in person to apply. (The DL-44 form has to be submitted in person.) When I go to the DMV without an appointment, the line is forty people long and takes hours. When I go with an appointment, it generally takes an hour, but it takes about three weeks to get an appointment, even though I check four possible DMV offices.

This delay is usually quite worrisome. For work, I often travel and sometimes have to rent a car. Rental car companies won't let you do this without something current from the DMV. In Lost Wallet Saga #2, I lost it on Tuesday and had a trip the following Monday. My longest unscheduled window on Wednesday and Thursday was two hours long. I went to the DMV as quickly as possible during that break, but I still had to leave before they called my number. (Of course, I was also free all day Friday, when DMV was closed due to budget cuts.) I traveled without a license and ended up paying for some long taxi rides in the other city.

So, Mefites, any tips? Ideally, I'd like to go online, click "I lost my Driver License," and have a new one sent. That seems impossible. Barring that, I'd like to keep about three valid licenses with my spare keys at home. Barring that, I'd like to find some super-quick DMV or a way to get last minute appointments. I've tried Claremont, El Cerrito, the Oakland Coliseum, and Davis. Claremont's waits are the worst, but the others were roughly the same. I live in Oakland and either work in Sacramento or from home, so I could go to a number of DMVs.

Since once every three years, the DMV somehow becomes an enormous headache to me, if you want to share non-DL tips for dealing with the DMV, go ahead. I'm sure I'll use them in the future. I'd practically pay cash* for the direct phone line to some efficient insider. *Once my new ATM card arrives, that is. Also, given how cumbersome this is, if you know of any (savvy and moderate) efforts to Reform the DMV, let me know! I might become a card-carrying member.
posted by slidell to Law & Government (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Last time I had to go on short notice, I hit the Claremont office at 8AM on a Thursday and got through in around an hour or so. I'm not aware of any better options.
posted by Lazlo at 12:27 AM on July 8, 2010

Not trying to be snarky, but would it not be easier and more helpful to try to reduce the chances of losing your wallet? May I ask what keeps happening to it?
posted by Diplodocus at 12:33 AM on July 8, 2010 [10 favorites]

I don't think you're appreciating the security concerns here. You can renew a license by mail or over the internet because the old one has expired, but you have to go in person to get a duplicate because that scenario creates the possibility of two valid licenses for one person existing at the same time which is not allowed: they have to void the old one in their system so that if somebody is found driving around with it, it can be flagged. There is a huge potential for fraud here (selling IDs to illegal immigrants is big business) and there is no way that they will ever condone more than one valid ID existing for any one person at a time, so I think you should just completely forget about the possibility of having backups or of not going in person. The duplicate ID process is not designed to be a frequent thing.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:36 AM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: would it not be easier and more helpful to try to reduce the chances of losing your wallet? May I ask what keeps happening to it?

Diplodocus, you raise a good point. I've been trying to figure this out myself. I lose my phone or keys almost never, but I lose credit cards and the Driver License more frequently for some reason. Episode #1: likely dropped the card while walking in a parking lot because I likely had not put the DL away and was just holding it with a stack of papers. Episode #2: don't know. If I remember right, I lost the entire wallet, but I can't remember how. I have several bags, like a laptop bag, a purse with my cell phone and keys, and a gym bag, so I thought I had it until I finally sat down and looked for it, by which point I wasn't sure where I'd left it. Episode #3: I was biking and the entire wallet worked its way out of my back pocket. My remedy has been to buy a regular size wallet with special slots (instead of cutesy zipper bags where the essential cards get mixed up with cash, receipts, and unimportant things like coffee frequent buyer cards), to always always put the card back before leaving a counter (or never take it out of the glossy window), and to eliminate the purse and always put the wallet and keys in the same pocket of the laptop bag.

The new system was actually working great until the bike ride.
posted by slidell at 12:52 AM on July 8, 2010

I think you need the pain of getting your licence renewed, in order to keep you improving your wallet system until you stop losing it. It sounds like you've got off to a good start with that... just keep going!

If you keep renewing your licence over and over again, surely they'll start suspecting you of running a driving licence production line.
posted by emilyw at 1:13 AM on July 8, 2010

Since you mention purse, I am assuming you are a woman, so I would suggest that you buy a wristlet. Coach has a bunch, but there are many options. It's great because you can hold things on your wrist and even if you stop gripping, it will stay on. Also good for biking.
posted by acidic at 1:35 AM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: i actually went to the daly city DMV today to replace a lost license. a 2.5 hour wait! thank god there's a krispy kreme next door w/ free wifi.

and i have the same problem as you slidell. i seem to always lose my license at least once a year, but more often than not they manage to reappear.

i dont think there's any way to expedite the lost license process. i think you probably knew this before you started your question. maybe you could bribe someone for their place in line? and you know you can check the non appointment wait times on their website right? i think there's even an official iPhone app that tells you all this.

because i had recovered lost licenses, i generally use it as the ones I carry around since the majority of the time my drivers license usage has something to do with liquor being around. Since no one but the dmv or police can tell which license is the current, I always leave my valid one hidden away in my car for safe keeping when I am driving.

But my strategy might not work for you since travel w/ rental cars often.

another thing you're prolly aware of is that when you fill out that license application you have to check a box that acknowledges that you cannot be in possession of more than one license and if you find the old one you must destroy it.
posted by sammich at 2:46 AM on July 8, 2010

You've really got to stop losing your wallet. No amount of fast-tracking your way to a new license and credit cards and whatever else is really going to solve the problem that every time you lose this stuff, you're putting yourself at greater risk of identity theft.

What you need is to establish a routine for yourself, so way of circumventing whatever mental process is making you handle these important items so carelessly.

Some sort of wallet-on-a-chain may be a partial solution; you can clip it onto a bag or a belt loop or whatever's convenient when you're riding a bike. It may not be stylish, but the chain is there: it has a weight and you have to consciously do something with it every time you pick up the wallet.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:26 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just throwing one more suggestion out about not losing it: I haven't lost my wallet in ages (oh, fingers crossed!), because i bought a much BIGGER one. It sounds kind of counterintuitive, since it's more likely not to fit in bags, but it holds everything and it's large enough that I notice immediately when my bag gets lighter without it.
posted by carbide at 6:10 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What time did you go to the Davis DMV? I renewed my license there at around 9:30 on a weekday morning and was the only person in the place. I was in and out in 10 minutes.
posted by apricot at 6:43 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these answers. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to respond. apricot, it was 11am on a March Thursday. Maybe I should give the Davis DMV another shot next week?

I know that the best case scenario is for me to stop losing my license. But I suspect that to really use your time productively to figure out how I can keep from losing my wallet, I might need to do some more thinking and provide more information, so maybe we can address that in a future question and focus on the DMV here?

My current license is already lost, and it'll likely take more than one attempt to change my ways, any and all advice on how to deal with the DMV process itself in the least time-consuming and most convenient way possible would be most helpful. Thank you again.
posted by slidell at 7:10 AM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: Whoops, comma splice typo above. ^ "so"
posted by slidell at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2010

After losing two wallets in a year, I started carrying mine in my front pocket. No problems in the last 35 years, except the time I left it at the self checkout station at the library.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:59 AM on July 8, 2010

it was 11am

My first, flippant thought is "well, that's the problem right there!" In my experience, the best only way to deal with the DMV without an appointment is to be there waiting 10 minutes before they open. They unlock the doors and you're in, out, done. Anything else, and especially anything in the 11am-1pm range (when even more people will be there because they think they can get it done on their lunch break) will take too long and cause extreme crankiness.
posted by Lexica at 9:33 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with the first thing in the morning advice. This has worked for me at various DMVs throughout the years, and I've never waited more than an hour tops.
posted by grapesaresour at 12:51 PM on July 8, 2010

Best answer: It's been a long time since I lived in California (and I never lived in NoCal) and I can't remember if all cities/towns have DMVs. If they do, try smaller towns. Here in BC I went to the Chilliwack Licencing Office (population 60,000+/-) and was in 'n' out in about 15 minutes.
posted by deborah at 2:13 PM on July 8, 2010

I've been in the Davis DMV (recently) in the afternoon and still got out of there in about an hour. It's really the least bad DMV I've ever seen. (Do not go to Woodland, it's terrifying.)

Other than that, there is no expediting the process whatsoever. Not allowed by the law. Sigh.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:49 PM on July 8, 2010

Response by poster: I know you're dying for follow-up on my lost license. ;) I made an appointment at Oakland Coliseum, waited two weeks, and was in and out, counting drive time, in about 80 minutes. It was smooth. Then, my wallet was found(!) so now I have my expired license as backup again.
posted by slidell at 8:41 PM on July 30, 2010

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