Department of Motor Vehicles Tips

You know you dread it.  You’d rather have an anaesthetic-free root canal.

So here are some tips to help get you through renewing that driver’s license in Florida. Please note that the requirements vary from state to state and country to country so check with your own DMV and good luck with that.

1) Have your junk in order. In Florida that means you need:

-Primary I.D. in the form of:  Certified US birth certificate. Don’t even try with one issued by a hospital.  They will look at you like you were not born on this planet. Bring a valid US Passport or Passport Card.  Or you can bring the Form-N-500 or Form N-570. I know you have that handy.

-Proof of Social Security Number.  This could be a Social Security card, any SSA-1099, any 1009 (not handwritten) and a W-2 or a pay check/stub.  Wouldn’t you love to see LeBron go in with his pay stub?

-Two “proofs” of residential address. In this category, you have 22 choices. With 21 other options, I wonder how many people show up with their Transients – Sexual Offender/Predator/Career Offender: – FDLE Registration form completed by local sheriff’s department. But fair is fair.

2) Make an appointment. “I got there at 6:00 a.m. and there were already 30 people camped out there” said Emily Taffel-Schaper who recently renewed her license and could not get an appointment until December. “People who were there at 6:oo a.m. were still there at 5:00 p.m,” she said.

My opinion: make two appointments–one for now and one for 8 years from now.  Our licenses are only good for 8 years.  So by the time you get your first appointment, you should be up for renewal already.

3. Try to make your appointment right after you take a vacation. One last bit of advice. Before you go to DMV, make sure you take a nice long vacation. Then at least you’ll have a fairly decent picture for those 8 years.

Now the fun begins. What are your experiences at your DMV? Good? Bad? Stories to share? How about trying to call them? It’s your turn and drive safely. ~Mike

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25 Responses to “Department of Motor Vehicles Tips”

  1. Need help switching my plates and license over to FL - Miami Beach 411 Says:

    […] […]

  2. vicequeenmaria Says:

    I’ve heard a few people mentioning going to Homestead or some other small town in Florida to get their license renewed with very little wait time. Might as well go on a road trip instead of standing in line!

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Sounds great. What I’m gleaning from both comments here and from misc emails/texts is that unfortunately the heart of the 305 has the most “room for improvement.”

      Even Florida City showed up as better. So great idea! Pick your road trip and head north or south.


  3. Tweets that mention Department of Motor Vehicles Tips « Mike LaMonica's Blog -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Craig Agranoff, Beber Silverstein, Jarret Streiner, Emily Taffel-Schaper, MikeLaMonica and others. MikeLaMonica said: Department of Motor Vehicles Tips. Chime in! […]

  4. mobikeith Says:

    Hey, MLM’

    Maybe that’s your experience in the “magical” provincial capital, but up here in the 561, our DMV experience is a “walk in the pahrk.”

    You walk in, a greeter gives you a numbered ticket ( no corned beef, though ), you sit down in the spacious waiting area, and within a New York minute, you go to a specified window whrere you are greeted by a cheerful clerk, who is waiting with baited breath to assist you.

    Once your business is complete, on the way out, you are given the opportunity to ring a real bell to show how much you liked the experience. ( Sometimes when I have some time on my hands, without any business to conduct, I go into the offices, just to ring the bell ! )

    Go north, young man, to the world of civilized municipal services.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Hi Keith-

      Your DMV experience sounds more like happy hour at Ned Devine’s. Maybe I’ll try driving north for my next appointment. But I’ll see you before that.



  5. Six Hours at the DMV : Ryan Scott Miller Says:

    […] hours at the DMV.  I tweeted about it a few times and was asked to share my experience on another blog. I decided to include my comment […]

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Ryan, thanks for leaving your comment in all it’s vivid detail. Wow. And to think, we actually pay them for this service.

      I can’t speak to healthcare, but maybe a baby aspirin might be good prophylactic advice. Thanks again for sharing your experience.


  6. Ryan Says:

    I literally spent 6 hours at the DMV yesterday. I moved back to California after living out of state. It is such a cliche that the DMV is the embodiment of inefficiency but it’s so painfully true.

    I had to park a street over because there was no parking. I waited in a hour long line to get to the front desk and get a number. I had to go get my car so I could wait in a line to have VIN verified. I then waited an hour and a half to have my number called. Registered my car and then set about getting a California Drivers License. I was sent to the back of a line that wound outside.

    Halfway through the line the security guard had a break in the line from the door to the inside, probably for fire code reason, but it opened up the line inside for 4 line cutters. This whole time I was being patient and even pleasant with my fellow line mates. The cutters set me off a bit and not just because they cut but the security guard who was the author of the whole mess tried to chew me out saying that he knew where the end of the line was and there hadn’t been any cutters!

    I saw what must be the DMV manager or supervisor watch as the whole place descended into angry bickering among everyone from the workers, the line, the security guard, the cutters…it was a mess. Eventually he devised a Post-It note number system so as to insure line integrity. First and only sign of initiative to fix or improve a broken system.

    Did I mention there was only ONE camera?! Eventually, I took my picture only to then be directed to another line for a written test, another line to have that graded, and a final line to get my temporary license. Line line line line! It was bad enough that a kid was able to pull out a DMV Test Prep book and use it as he took his test.

    It was a horrific experience. Early in the wait, the Post-It note manager made several announcements about how long the wait is and offered to schedule appointments for another day. #1. I am NOT taking another day off work to come back and deal with this again. #2. I spoke with a few individuals that HAD appointments only to be shuffled into the same lines with the same wait! #3. Only at a government agency could you pitch inefficiency to turn away patrons! No business could survive!

    Unlike the experience of many, most of the DMV agents were nice, humorous and sympathetic! That didn’t change the utter waste in time and resources that is everywhere. Just in line I heard suggestion after suggestion from my fellow travelers on how to improve the system. How and why is someone not taking the initiative to make things better!? I ask but really, it’s government, was it any different with the post office? FedEx, UPS, DHL ran circles around USPS until it semi-privatized and incorporated innovation. The scarier question staring us in the face, that we honestly have to answer is, how is healthcare going to be any different?

  7. Blaine Zuver Says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong ,but aren’t Florida license renewals done online ? That’s how I’ve been doing it since 2004 and did it over the phone before that ,since about 1992. Has that changed ? Hope not !


    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Yes as I understand it. I think you get to renew once online and then you have to go in person. And that’s why I suggest planning 8 years in advance. The DMV left a comment and a site that details the specifics for you. I wish I knew why it changed and has become so onerous, but I don’t have a good answer on that.

      Best to you.


  8. EmilyontheAve Says:

    Mike – thanks for the include. My DMV experience was hellish! I needed to renew a license that expired after my birthday. When I called for an appt they didn’t have any available until December so I arrived at 6am (they opened at 8) thinking I was smart. As you said in your post there were already 30 people in line! Once I got to the front of the line at about 10am I was told that even though I had my birth certificate, social security card (with married name on it), my passport, two pieces of mail (also with my married name) and my old expired drivers license which ALSO had my married name – that I could’t do the renewal without my marriage license! So I had to go back home, get that and go back to the DMV. Had to sit in line AGAIN until 12pm when I got a number.

    At 3pm they told us the computers went down and that they might not be able to help everyone by closing time at 5pm. At 5pm they said if we stayed they would help us as the computers had come back up. I met a nice group of people there – we even ordered a pizza for dinner lol and we sat there until 8pm when I was FINALLY helped. Needless to say my photo looks awful (no one looks good after like 14 hours at the DMV) and all I can say is good luck to everyone who has to do theirs soon. Bring every document you can think of and be over prepared!

  9. Courtney Says:

    A few additional tips to add to Mike’s list: (1) Visit before you go to renew your license. The site will help you create a personalized checklist of all the documents that YOU need to bring with you, and I emphasize “you” because it’s different for everyone. (2) If your current legal name differs from that on your birth certificate or passport, you will need to bring documentation to prove your name change. Married women who have taken their husbands’ names are those most affected by this rule. The website provides details on this. (3) You can renew online at every other renewal. Thus, if you obtain a Florida license with the gold star in the upper right corner, your next renewal in 8 years can be online if your name and address are still the same.

  10. Sueanne Shirzay Says:

    Well. My renewal was, like… Done in under an hour? Who cares if my picture looks like Heidi Klum on crack. It’s worth it just to see the expression on the security guard’s face everytime I go to one of my kid’s schools.

  11. Joel Says:

    When I was 16, I went to the DMV in WPB to get my license. I had virtually zero driving time under my belt so I was going to have to wing my driving test. They had a crash course set up behind the building and at one point I had to park between 4 cones. I was in an SUV I wasn’t used to, and I parked successfully in the spot but brushed up against one of the cones with the side of the car. That automatically failed me, which I was not informed of until after completing the test and waiting 20 minutes in the office. Their rules stated that I could literally knock down all 4 cones, but brushing up against one and leaving it standing was an automatic fail. Sure, it was my dumbass fault for having no experience before taking the test, but what kind of backward-ass rule was that?

    Also, while waiting for my results, I got to observe everyone else having their tests administered. An extremely ancient fossil of a man who was on the verge of decomposition was standing in front of the counter with his face pressed against the large viewfinder machine that tests your vision. The DMV worker behind the counter and just a foot away from him said “Ok, Mr. Johnson, the test is complete”. Mr. Johnson just stood there with his face buried in the machine. “Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson!”. He heard nothing. Finally, the lady gets on the PA system used to call out your number. “MR. JOHNSON!!!”. At that point, he finally heard her and looked up from the machine. “Ok, you passed, Mr. Johnson. Step over into this line and wait for your license”.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      I don’t know what the rules were then, but it sounds like their rules were bass-ackwards. I hope they still aren’t, but probably are.

      One word to the wise: startig now (not sure why) you can only renew your license one time online. Plan way, way way ahead and have every record of your life you’ve ever dreamed of ready.

      Click it or ticket.


  12. Beer Drinker Rob Says:


    When I moved from Yonkers, NY to Aventura, FL in 2002, I needed to get a new license. Where? DMV in North Miami Beach, near that Pizza Hut. That place sucks! My wife and I had an appointment, but only because our first attempt was so awful.

    My story? The DMV idiot lady somehow couldn’t read my 12/02 birthday and I ended up with a license a few weeks later with a 12/07 birthday. Well, let me tell you the headaches that has caused. I might be a dummy for not immediately fixing it, but that’s another debate. However, voting (until the much more recent absentee voting) has been very rough as they use birthdate to verify. Plus other things. I still have the 12/07 license.

    Anyway, one last tip. If you have access to a really cute infant that will shut the hell up while you are there, it can be helpful.

    • Mike LaMonica Says:

      Hi Rob-

      I’ll be the first to wish you happy birthday on 12/02. I’m sorry for the hassle. Maybe there is a way for you to change it online? Tweet @FDHSMV and ask. That is their public Twitter feed. I’m sure you can get an answer there. Or maybe they can provide you with a way to do online- without you having torearrange your life.

      Sorry my cute infant is now 5′ 3″.


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