How to Get a New Driver's License
Preparation is the key to sanity.
Do you dread going to the DMV? Do you have nightmares about standing in those long lines, only to get a number so you can stand in another line? Do you gasp yourself awake thinking that everyone else in your county also needs a license on that day (or to do those other things there)? Do you toss and turn, thinking of getting to the DMV office and realizing you forgot your birth certificate? Mygod, do you even HAVE a BIRTH CErtIfiCAtE?!
Maybe it's not like nightmare scary, but there is no doubt that going to the DMV generally sucks. Here are the steps of what usually happens (I wish someone told me this plainly.):
- You get in line to get a number. If you made an appointment, you get in the shorter line. If you did no make an appointment, you get in the longer line.
- You go up to the qualifying person to get a number. He or she will look at your documents to make sure you have the right documents. If you do, he or she will give you a number. If you do not they may let you go get it that day and come back later and not have to wait in line again.
- You wait with your number until they call it.
- They call the number, you go to that counter.
- You give them your number and your stuff again. They will ask you questions, you will answer them.
- They will take your picture and make your license. Smile or not. I didn't, I live in Miami. I thought it only appropriate to look like a criminal.
- You pay the lady. The prices are listed on a document they often call a "Fee Schedule".
- You will go sit and wait for your license to be printed. Then they will call your name and give it to you and you are done.
HERE are some tips for making the regulatory nuisance a little gentler on your sanity. (I also wish someone told me these plainly.) The people who work there don't want you to wait either: It makes you grumpy and then you're mean.
- Fill out forms ahead of time. Most websites will allow you to fill them out ahead of time.
- Do your research ahead of time. Each state's DMV has a website - use it! Florida's DMV has a great tool called "Gather Go Get" for creating a checklist of exactly what you need to bring. Just a hint, most states need (a) proof of your Social Security number, (b) proof of your citizenship, and (c) two documents proving you are a resident of that state.
- Bring all of your confirmation numbers, even if you do not have a printer. Text them to yourself so you know you have them. Or do it the old fashioned way and send an e-mail. Or there's this thing called paper, and another thing called a pen. Sticky pads, too. Remember? On your real desktop.
- Bring extra. I almost had to leave and come back because of a document mix up. Wasted about 37 minutes. It could have been avoided had I just brought everything on the list that I actually owned, in excess. As fellow Hubber RetailPrincess mentioned, you might want to bring some extra cash, too.
- Bring money. Which reminds me, bring money! The office I just went to definitely had a sign that said "DOES NOT TAKE VISA"! Luckily, I lost my Visa (it's so easy to leave the BOA card at Irish Pub) and happened to have my ONE Mastercard in my wallet.
- Make an appointment! My appointment was at 12:30pm and I was out of there by 1:45pm. That time includes about a half hour wait in line, a 20 minute wait for the supervisor because of a mishap with my documents (yes, that means I had a 17 minute long argument with the qualifier person), 15 minutes processing, and then waiting for my license to print. When I left, a girl who walked in just after me had not even gotten inside yet.
- BE NICE! As I said before, the people who work in the DMV don't want you to wait either. It is not their fault that it might take all day. It is not their fault that there are potentially not enough staff in the office. It is not their fault that the regulations are as they are. Just be nice.
- Make the appointment at a good time. Mine was at 12:30 and they announced that a bunch of people were on a lunch break. The wait didn't seem that long to me, but maybe it would have been shorter if my appointment was at a different time.
Anyway, here is how my experience went: I made an appointment three weeks ago for 12:30 p.m. I arrived at 12:15 p.m. with my documentation and two confirmation numbers: one for my appointment and a second for my application confirmation. I walked past everyone outside, fighting the mob mentality to just hop in the huge line. Inside, I ASKED QUESTIONS, instead of being silent like everyone else and figured out that I could stand in line in there instead, which put me quite a few spots ahead of other people with appointments. Then the girl at the first counter told me one of my documents would not work and that I would have to go and get another. I, however, chose to ask the supervisor, and told the girl, POLITELY, that I would like to see what she said if she could let her know I had a question. The supervisor eventually came out, and I eventually got my way, saving several headaches. They gave me a number and since I had an appointment and had filled out my application online, I only had to wait through three other people. The waiting room was full. I left an hour and 45 minutes later.
Happy DMV visit.