Renewing about-to-expire California Driver's License
September 6, 2018 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: My current driver's license expires after the 11th. I renewed my driver's license online a month and a half ago, but it was sent to the wrong address; now it appears I need to go in person to update my address and renew it. What are my options for handling this as easily as possibly? I'm in SF.

My understanding is that something didn't go right when I did my change of address, and it's not possible to do a change of address and renewal at the same time online.

The options I know about so far:

Having checked the nearest DMVs, appointments are not available until early December; I've gone ahead and made one for Daly City in any case. It will be within 90 days of my license's expiration.

I have to go through in Larkspur tomorrow for another obligation, so I'm intending to get there early (very early) to try the Corte Madera DMV. This isn't optimal, because the other obligation is camping and I'm biking there. A person who will be going with me has offered to watch my bike and camping gear. Is there anyway very nearby (I'll have to walk after leaving my bike with them) that isn't aggressively unpleasant for them to wait with bike&gear, and am I correct in my belief that I can reasonably expect to have a <1 hour wait and <2 hour visit in total? I would not be able to be at the Corte Madera DMV until around 2pm.

I attempted to make an appt with the SF DMV, but they don't have any appointments available. Like, at all.

Things I'm less sure about:

It seems that if you're a AAA member, you can do some driver's license bureaucracy through them and it sounds like it sucks less? Is it possible they would be able to handle the address change and the renewal, either before or after the license expires? If only before, would it be possible to become a member in that time interval? My understanding is that AAA costs 50-100 a year, and if I can make this problem go away or shrink for that amount, I'm happy to do it.

My understanding is that if my license expires, but I get it renewed within 90 days, I might have to do more paperwork and pay a small fee (~35 dollars) but otherwise I wouldn't be expected to retake the written test (probably) or the driving test (almost assuredly). Is that correct? That I can't drive while it's expired isn't a problem; I don't own a car, and when I do need one, my partner prefers to do the driving anyway.

My overall question(s): Is my plan to go to the Corte Madera DMV tomorrow destined to be unpleasant or fail? Is my backup plan of an appointment in December okay? Am I overlooking any more pleasant options?
posted by you could feel the sky to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was in a similar predicament as you (had to do a renewal of an expired license AND an address change AND there were no appointments available). What I did was do the change of address first, ( can't remember if I had to do this online or by mail) then renew online (all within the 90 day period). Got the new license to my new address without a hitch.
posted by all the light we cannot see at 2:40 PM on September 6, 2018

I'm dealing with the awfulness of the myself. I made sure to get an email confirmation of my own DMV appointment in case I get pulled over (lapsed registration in my case). Also, for vehicle registrations, the Oakland Coliseum one has relatively quick appointment times right now- I just signed up on the 4th and they gave me an appointment for the 12th. It sounds like inordinately high demand for drivers license appointments due to Real ID are the issue, so I don't know if you'd have the same quick turnaround on a license appointment there as I did for registraiton, but have you checked that one?
posted by twoplussix at 2:49 PM on September 6, 2018

as far as waiting til December:
-it's inconvenient to have an expired license when dealing with banks or other private situations where ID is required

-it sounds like yours was actually renewed but you don't have the physical card. If you get pulled over while driving, the cops will have that in the system. I know your mileage may vary (such as in profiling traffic stops if driver is non-white being pulled over by a racist cop, etc), but your license shows up as being actually renewed when the cop runs your ID, the result is probably a fix-it ticket at worst if even that. They know about the DMV issue with the long times for appointments, it's been front page news for months and they've been pulling over people with troubled paperwork for months. They have tons of discretion about this sort of thing.
posted by twoplussix at 2:56 PM on September 6, 2018

Best answer: It sounds to me like your friend has already renewed their license, but essentially it is lost. Unfortunately the only way to replace a lost card is to go into the DMV. There is a $30 fee.

California AAA apparently can handle change of address but NOT renewal or replacement of a lost card. My experience has been that you can join AAA and access their benefits immediately, however it doesn't seem to be worth it to me.

I looked at the current wait time for Corte Madera DMV and it honestly does not look too bad to me - as of 2:30pm on a Thursday the non-appointment wait time was only 45 minutes. Note that this is the wait time from when you first get to the front counter and get a number, to when you get called up to a service window, so there may be extra wait time to get to the front counter. Make sure your friend brings accepted proof of current address (I brought my lease and a utility bill just to be safe).
posted by muddgirl at 3:01 PM on September 6, 2018

Unless you want to go to the DMV an additional time in the next two years, consider getting a Real ID when you're there.
posted by homesickness at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2018

AAA membership is instantaneous, so if you want to pursue the AAA option, you could go, join and get services immediately.
posted by citygirl at 6:44 PM on September 6, 2018

I just got a duplicate license at the Oakland Claremont branch a couple of weeks ago. I did the replacement CDL application online, printed out the confirmation, got there at 4pm and was done by 5:30. Waiting until the end of the day was my tactic because it seems they start working with a bit more urgency at that time. Not sure if that saved time or not but I thought I’d be there much longer than I was. Also I received the replacement license in the mail exactly one week after I was at the dmv which seemed really quick.
posted by JenMarie at 7:57 PM on September 6, 2018

Response by poster: To update:

It seems their license was technically renewed, but lost, so they had to go in person.

They decided to get up early and go to the SF DMV without an appointment, rather than try Corte Madera this afternoon, just to get it over with. They were in line at 7:15, given a number before 8 (they said that someone was processing the line before the DMV opened), and had paid&left by 8:30 (they had filled out all the forms at home, which probably helped).

Out of principals/stubbornness/they have a passport, they decided to not get a Real ID.

Everything's worked out! Probably.
posted by you could feel the sky at 8:48 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

For future reference, if you have complex q's about your driver's license situation, you can call the DMV hotline and the agents there can help you figure out what to do.

I recently had to renew and decided to deal with getting a RealID at the same time, and I had to straighten out a situation that I wasn't notified about, which is why I called. I had to go in a second time, but they were able to find a cancelled appointment slot to fit me in earlier than I otherwise would have. If you do call them, I recommend doing it early in the day; especially lately, their phone queue gets hammered.
posted by Aleyn at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2018

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