Going to the SF CA DMV without an appointment.
July 26, 2014 5:33 PM   Subscribe

My out-of-state driver's license expires mid-August. I'd like to a get a new one before then, but the "next available appointment" on the DMV website is at the end of August. How likely am I, in San Francisco, California, to be able to get this done without an appointment? What times should I go, to maximize this likelihood?

posted by wayland to Law & Government (17 answers total)
Best answer: Making an appointment at the California DMV just means that you get a somewhat shorter line to stand in. You can show up whenever they're open and get it done. Bring a book.
posted by bac at 5:37 PM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Daly City office has an open appointment on 8/14.
posted by kagredon at 5:43 PM on July 26, 2014

Also, look at DMV sites that are not in San Francisco. I got an appointment at the Los Gatos DMV in 2 weeks earlier this year. Obviously Los Gatos is a bit of a hike but theres a DMV in San Mateo and a few others on the peninsula.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:44 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in California, and an appointment is a guaranteed way (in my area) to avoid about 99% of the stress that comes with dealing with the DMV. I've renewed many a thing this way and I was able to bypass lines that ran out the door. If you can, I'd recommend it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:51 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

An appointment is the easiest way to go. Without one, I'd show up first thing in the morning when they open, before things get as backed up. You can go later as long as you have plenty of time for waiting around, but I wouldn't cut it too close to closing time.
posted by ktkt at 6:11 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Either don't go to the SF DMV, or show up by 5 AM. They open at 9AM and the line is usually around the block. If you bring a friend, they can run down the block to the grocery store for coffee.

I've heard the San Mateo no-appointment line is not so bad.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:30 PM on July 26, 2014

Are you a member of AAA? They handle DMV transactions, no appointment needed, which is an invaluable service. It's not that expensive, so it might be worth joining just for that. FWIW, here in L.A. there's almost no wait if you catch them during off-hours. The last time I went at lunchtime and the wait was about 20 minutes in their nice, air-conditioned office. Seriously. The only time I've been inside a DMV in the last 20 years is for a new license. Just double-check to make sure your out-of-state business falls under their purview.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:30 PM on July 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thirding making an appointment for as early as you can manage it. You'll sail right in past the disappointed crowd.

And yes, go to Daly City. I was in and out in ten minutes.
posted by vickyverky at 6:31 PM on July 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, midweek, and not the last few/first few days of the month.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:55 PM on July 26, 2014

If you don't mind taking BART to the East Bay, you can look for appointments at the El Cerrito DMV.
posted by number9dream at 7:09 PM on July 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

As many other mefites have said, showing up to the San Francisco DMV without an appointment is possible, but not a good idea. You will stand in line for hours.
posted by ryanrs at 7:25 PM on July 26, 2014

I would second the recommendation of looking at other nearby dmvs. Given the amount of time you will save with an appointment, even an hour drive is definitely worth it. Bring your car insurance passport registration and old license if you have them all.
posted by Phredward at 9:59 PM on July 26, 2014

If you don't have a car - the Oakland (Claremont) DMV is probably a 15 minute walk from MacArthur BART. I don't think I waited more than an hour and a half without an appointment when I showed up in the morning before they opened. (I wasn't super-early, maybe 15-30 minutes before they opened or right when they open, can't remember which.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:07 PM on July 26, 2014

Can you get an appointment at a DMV somewhere else in the Bay Area? I had to go to the DMV on short notice when I lived in Fremont, and was able to get an appointment in Oakland.
posted by radioamy at 11:59 PM on July 26, 2014

I always found showing up near the end of the workday was a good strategy. Once they lock the doors at 5pm, they start working faster to process the folks already inside. My experience is dated, though. I left the Bay Area in 2006.
posted by u2604ab at 9:02 AM on July 27, 2014

I recently renewed my license at the Redwood City DMV. My appointment was for 8:20; I got there at 8, there were probably 100 people standing in line waiting for the doors to open. Maybe three of those people actually had appointments, so when the doors opened, I went up to the appointments counter, did my business, and was out the door at 8:17.

tl;dr: look at towns outside of SF, especially early morning appointments. Nobody cared I was 20 minutes early.
posted by ambrosia at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just went to the one in San Mateo to get plates for my car and it took about an hour all told. Not bad at all! Much less than I expected.
posted by Carillon at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2014

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