There can be quite a bit of confusion and misinformation with walk-in wait times at California DMV’s: just when is the best time to visit? And how long can the waits actually be?
We decided to crunch the numbers to understand exactly how long people have to wait at when walking into DMV’s across California. We put together charts that help explain this based on thousands of wait times collected from 11/28 to 12/2 in 2016.
Here’s what we learned. Be sure to read to the end to learn how to cut down on your DMV wait times completely. Also, above all else, book an appointment to cut down on your wait time!
Yes, California DMV wait times can be over 3 hours
Of the thousands of average California DMV wait times we collected throughout the week at around 40 California DMV locations, we can confidently say this: There are some very unfortunate wait times.
In the chart below, we put together the longest 20 wait times over the one-week period. The Los Angeles DMV had 5 of the longest times, and the top 3, including a wait of over 3 hours and 20 minutes on Thursday December 1st.
The Oakland Coliseum DMV had 6 of the longest wait times with the longest there being around 2.5 hours. The other Oakland DMV (2), Poway (2), and Santa Monica (2) also had a couple average wait times over 2 hours. We hope you weren’t one of those people that showed up there expecting a quick in and out.
The good news: You can actually eliminate these wait times with a little planning.
Afternoons are the worst time to go to the DMV
We took a closer looks at Los Angeles since it had the longest average California DMV wait times during our study. As you’d expect, while there can be lineups in the morning when the DMV opens at 8am, it only gets worse throughout the day. If you were thinking you’d drop in toward the end of the day for a quick in-and-out, you may be surprised by waiting until well after they lock the doors for the day.
The takeaway: While you’ll still likely be in a line (especially in a city) if you show up before 8am without an appointment, you’ll have a shorter wait on average. A quick tip: The California DMV offices don’t open up until 9am on Wednesdays, try showing up earlier on those days.
Wait times across locations average out to under 1 hour
Even if you don’t make it to the DMV first thing in the morning, across the 40 DMV locations surveyed, average wait times for the rest of the day are still under 1 hour. That being said, that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in a 202 minute wait at 4pm, like people in Los Angeles did during the survey.
The end of the week has longer wait times
On average, Monday had the shortest average wait at 49 minutes while Friday had an average wait of 75 minutes. So if you’re showing up announced and taking a gamble – and just can’t wait a week for an appointment – time your visit for a morning in the middle of the week.
There are some surprisingly fast DMV locations
If Los Angeles and the Oakland Coliseum locations have some of the longest waits, the good news is there are also locations that consistently had short waits.
The chart below shows the 5 locations that had 95% of the average wait times at 1 hour or less. One of the biggest surprises: San Francisco’s DMV office. The average wait time was only 30 minutes during the survey period.
Conclusions & Takeaways
Wait times are still a major issue especially at a dozen or so urban locations across California. The worst are found in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Going in the morning toward the beginning or middle of the week is a good strategy to minimize the wait times. If you don’t make it first thing in the morning, the average wait times throughout the rest of the day tend to be fairly consistent.
The best news: You don’t have to understand all of these charts to have your wait time be zero minutes. Just schedule an appointment – we even offer an express appointment option! It literally takes 10 seconds, and you’ll be able to march directly to the front of the line.
After your visit, tell us about your experience and if any of these tips worked for you!