Getting a driver’s licence replaced in New York City takes 90 minutes – and you are expected to pay to use a pen
- I went to the department of motor vehicles (DMV) for the first time since moving to New York City three years ago.
- It took around 90 minutes from the moment I entered the building to the moment I left to complete the business I intended to do.
- While the experience was better than I feared, it was still a hassle.
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No one looks forward to going to the department of motor vehicles (DMV), and as my driver's license came close to expiring near the middle of August, I dreaded the prospect of my first DMV trip since moving to New York three years ago.
I expected the worst, fearing that attempting to replace my license in the biggest city in the US would require me to wait for hours on end.
While the experience was better than I feared, it was still a hassle. Here's how it went.
I arrived at the Harlem DMV at around 8:50 a.m. on a Monday, about 20 minutes after it opened.
I was worried that it would be packed.
It was busy, but thankfully, it wasn't quite the nightmare that I expected.
I was given paperwork to fill out before I could be helped, but I didn't bring a pen, and I noticed that there weren't any nearby.
It appears that I was expected to buy a pen with change.
Requiring people to carry quarters to buy a pen seems unreasonable.
Had there not been a table set up by a health-insurance provider with free pens nearby, I would have had to leave the building and either buy a pen elsewhere or find a store that would exchange cash for quarters, an inconvenience I would not have wanted to add to the already inconvenient process of going to the DMV.
Once I filled out my paperwork, I stood in a line for the sole purpose of receiving a number that would mark my place in another line.
I moved to the line on the right once it became much shorter. Overall, it took around nine minutes for me to receive my ticket.
Then I moved to the waiting area.
After about 20 minutes, my number was called. I thought at this point that I would be able to complete the entire license-exchange process, but it turned out that I would only get my picture taken.
Then, it was back to waiting for the third and final step. The photographer warned me that the wait would be even longer this time, and he was right.
After a little under 30 minutes, I was finally called up to submit my paperwork to swap my Illinois license for a New York license. After paying a $66 fee (just over R1,000), I was given a temporary license to use for the next two weeks while waiting for my permanent license to arrive in the mail.
Overall, it took almost exactly 90 minutes from the moment I entered the building to the moment I left.
I was relieved that it didn't take longer, but my relief mostly derived from the reputation DMVs have received for slow service. Given that all I needed to do was have my photo taken and submit paperwork I had mostly assembled, the process could have been more efficient.
According to a study conducted by the website DMV.com, which is not affiliated with any government agency, the average wait time at a DMV in the United States was 44 minutes, as of February 2018. I waited about an hour from the minute I got in my first line to the moment I was called up to submit my paperwork for my license exchange. So while I avoided the worst-case scenario, going to the DMV continues to be a pain.
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