Sordid tales of DMV related experiences


#1

The discussion around the NY registration process and Mike’s comments about how great an experience it is in NH got me to thinking about my own past experiences. Vastly different state-state… So let’s hear it- have any tales that would make a grown man flinch or cry? :wink:

I spent a large part of my life in WI and back then it was a fairly straightforward process. Although the people behind the desk were not hostile, they weren’t exactly a welcoming committee either. You went to a state run facility (there were many of them), took a number and waited. The process and any associated products were clearly defined and easy to understand. Having regional facilities meant you were going to wait some time to get serviced. Probably on the order of 30-45 minutes worst case. To speed things along, you select the type of transaction and get a receipt for it. If you’re there to renew license plates, the line goes fast. You don’t need to wait for people getting eye exams for new licenses for example. That’s a different line.

I moved to MA and discovered the extreme opposite. You can go to city hall or a regional facility to do any RMV related business. Be prepared to wait. The people behind the counter are bent on imposing their lousy disposition on you. The ticket system is a mess. You push a specific button for a specific transaction. You get a printed slip with a specific number on it. Like the joke about the slots at the post office all dumping into a common bin behind the wall, the transactions are processed in the order they are received. This makes no sense but it’s only the beginning…screw up a form and it’s back of the line to wait again.

One time, a prior owner made a simple mistake on the title noting the date of the transaction. She crossed it out and put in the right date. I thought the RMV guy was going to pop a vein. This title in invalid! You need to get the original owner to reapply or at least notarize the change. Seriously? It’s a date change and it matches the bill of sale. Like any prior owner is going to take time out of their day to get it notarized or a new title. Get real. It took 45 minutes and discussions with the upper eschelon of their management to get them to accept it.

Only once did I have a fairly positive experience. It was as I was leaving the state and turning in my plates. After waiting an hour, a guy came out and was helping someone skirt the line to do something simple. So I asked if I could turn in my plates and he took me out of turn. It took all of 5 minutes although he kept asking why I had so many plates (I like cars!).

Come to NH and I see what it could be like. Any town hall can do car titling, registrations etc. New driver’s license must go to DMV. I head up to Dover expecting the worst. What’s this? Friendly people, smiling and welcoming you. They actually have a greeter that looks at what you want to do and helps get you started. The counter folks are all in good spirits and helpful. maybe 15 minutes tops and I have a new license with a “Welcome to NH!”. Indeed.

Registering a boat in MA is even more frustrating. There are a total of 3 places in the entire state last I checked where you can register a boat for the first time. Had to take a train into Boston, find the place, stand in line…hey, that’s Tom Silva from This Old House in line ahead of me…at least it applies to everyone :slight_smile: Get to counter and find out you have to pay the taxes beforehand. It’s in another building blocks away. Race down there, pay taxes, come back stand in line again…missed train back so had to wait another hour. Ridiculous

Come to NH, town clerk does everything for three boats in 5 minutes. Done.


#2

I have no complaints in our little place in Minnesota. When I was building a house back in 76, I wanted a station wagon to haul things. I found a 67 Buick mid size (whatever that was-can’t remember) with the sky lights and luggage carrier. Perfect. She wanted $250 for it. It was in her husband’s name who just took off and she was trying to cover her house payments. Needed some upholstery, tires, and a complete engine top end rebuild, but still it was a bargain and what I needed. The DMV was no problem. She signed her husbands name and her friend at the DMV notorized it and all was fine. I kinda expected the guy to come looking for me at some point but never did. After tires, $350 for the head and valve work, etc., it was still a reasonable price but the guy had either put a new short block in it or did a total overhaul before he gave up and took off. I coulda used some tools too but she already sold them.

Just a lesson I guess, if you’re gonna take off, use a truck and take everything with you.


#3

Our dmv was open 2 nights till 7:00. Got there at 4:30, of 5 people working 2 went on a 1 hour break, backlog. 5:30 the 2 came back, and 2 more went on break till 6:30, 6:30 all 5 back on duty and cleared the logjam and got everyone out in a half hour.


#4

The trick is to be selective with the specific office that you visit.
In the past, I had been appalled at the glacial pace of things in most DMV offices.
Then, the service manager at the Subaru dealership recommended a particular DMV office where he said that the employees were…pleasant…efficient…and consistently accurate in their work.

As a result of that recommendation, I have been going to only one DMV office for the past 10 years or so, and I have always had good experiences there. Even the inspection station adjacent to that DMV office is much more pleasant than others that I have visited.

Even though it takes me a little bit more time to drive to that office, the few extra miles is worthwhile, as I actually spend less time overall on DMV business than if I went to a closer location.

If any forum members from NJ want to send me a personal message, I will be glad to share the location of this one exception DMV office.


#5

My strangest BMV experience occurred on January 1, 1969. At that time, the licence bureaus were controlled by the party of the governor and fifty cents from each license plate sold went into that party’s coffers. This is the way things were here in Indiana. I just happened to be driving by the BMV on New Year’s day and it was open. The Democrats still had the Governorship until the next day when the Republicans would take over. I believe all license plates expired on March 1 in those days and everyone had to make a trip to the BMV for new plates. I immediately took advantage of the opportunity.


#6

I had quite the time registering a motorcycle bought out-of-state.

It was a 1972 Honda CB350, purchased on e-bay from a Wisconsin seller. When I went to register, I found out that WI titled bikes by the engine for that vintage, and PA was by the frame. Of course, the engine had been swapped out at some point and the numbers didn’t match–the upshot being that the WI title had about the legal authority of toilet paper!

I ultimately had to go to a police barracks and have them run both VINs, verify neither came up “hot,” and have them make a written statement to that effect. That got me a valid PA title/registration/plate/etc. It was a PITA, but not without reason.


#7

Well in VA,they fine you $5 for coming in the DMV,since I discovered online transactions,I never darken the door of a DMV again and yes ,the area makes a difference,some Folks seem to glory in making your life miserable.


#8

Forgot also we have an extra $10 charge to cover federally mandated rfid chips for a drivers license.Now to get an rfid blocking wallet that can cover my passport also… Bought one it did not work for building access at work, so assuming it did not work for passports and drivers licenses either.

WIKI Numerous articles have been written about wireless identity theft and broadcast television has produced several investigations of this phenomenon.[2][3][4] According to Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, wireless identity theft is “a pretty serious issue” and “the contactless (wireless) card design is inherently flawed”.[5]

Efforts are currently under way to educate consumers as to the vagaries of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) which can pose a threat, as well as attempting to initiate legislation to limit the use of RFID technology by companies and governmental agencies.[citation needed]

Just when you thought you were safer now someone can swipe your information, tin foil wallet cover?


#9

I’ve gotten in 3 somewhat volatile go-rounds with tag agents over the years. Every single incident involved motorcycles so I tend to think there may be a bias against Harleys and unkempt looking riders…

One of them involved a custom Harley I was going to build that was a pile of parts. The engine was '42, the frame a '56, the trans a '48, and everything else was a mixed bag also. Down I go to the tag agent to see about obtaining a title; which for old Harleys is based on the stamped VIN in the engine crankcase. I even carried the VIN crankcase with me.

The agent insisted I provide a frame number which Harleys did not use until about 1970. We went back and forth for 15 minutes with me getting progressively hotter over the “what part of no frame number do you not understand” routine.
The agent insisted that I “grind the VIN off and stamp an assigned number into that spot”.
Not gonna happen. That turns a valuable crankcase into scrap aluminum and any bike caught with an altered VIN boss gets impounded; forever.
They balked when I asked if they would sign an affadavit telling me to butcher a legal VIN and replace it with whatever they dreamed up.

Not to be deterred the agent said that I “can buy a set of stamps and do it myself or have a machine shop do it”. By this time I’m hopping up and down on the chair demanding they call a Harley dealer (any dealer) and ask them about frame numbers. Besides, Harley uses special fonts on their stamps. They’re not the same as ones sold at hardware stores or machine shops.
The agent finally obliged by calling 2 dealers and after getting off the phone said “well, you’re right. The old ones did not have frame numbers”. Finally success…

Not. The agent then insisted again that I provide a frame number…

I just said forget it in a very crude manner and that I’d take care of it in a backdoor manner since they chose to make a legal process such a pain in the axx.


#10

I’ve told the story here before, happened quite a few years ago, about how the local DMV clerk was not able to understand my request for the “blue and yellow” license plates. Unless I said “blue and gold”, they didn’t know what I was talking about. The only two choices were “blue and gold” and “blue and white”.

Like I say that was a while back. But I went to the DMV not long ago, overall it went pretty smoothly. But there was one unusual-to-understand event. They allow you to make an appointment now, via a telephone automated system. So the computer on the telephone asks when you’d like to go, and to which office, then it lists the times available, and you choose one. Then it gives you a 16 digit confirmation number. You need that to use the shorter “appointment” line when you get there.

So I arrive, I go to the shorter line, the staff person there asks me for my confirmation number. I read it off,all 16 digits, one by one, and she says it’s not listed. She has a sheet of paper with about 200 of these 16 digit numbers on it, so I presume she just can’t find it. So I hand her the scrap of paper I wrote down when I made the telephone reservation, with the DMV office address, date, time, and confirmation number. She carefully looks through the whole list again – which took like 5 minutes – and says “sorry, your number is not on the list”.

Then after looking at the list one more time and not finding it, this time for another 2-3 minutes, she says “What is your telephone number?”. So I tell her. Then she checks off something on that page, and points me to the window I’m supposed to go to. So I ask her “what about the confirmation number”? She says “you don’t need that, we go by the telephone number”.

I wonder why she didn’t ask me that at first then? And how is it they know my telephone number anyway, since I never told that to the computer … but at the DMV, first principles are: best not to ask too many questions …


#11

Not to veer way off but that blue and yellow plate reminded me of going through the drive up at Mac and asking for a ham and egg McMuffin. She said we don’t have ham. I said what do you have than and she said sausage and Canadian Bacon. OK I’ll have the Canadian bacon instead of the ham. I dunno, I thought it all came from pigs but I guess a pork chop isn’t ham technically.


#12

My experiences aren’t as horrible as some, but I have waited in line for over an hour to experience “our computers are down” and have to come back. I have also seen the poor hapless person missing documents they need to get their license reinstated, etc. wait in line to be told harshly exactly how they’ve messed up, with a pinch of disgust from the shapeless, personality-deficient zombie clerk. I had a friend that worked for the state government and screwed up enough times that he was sent to work at the BMV for punishment. He quit after less than a year, before it sucked the soul out of him.

Nowadays except for license renewals and vehicle purchases I do my registration renewals online.


#13

In my state, 25 or more years ago, it was the driver’s license people. They were not unpleasant nor hostile. They were just plain aggressively ornery. I don’t know that they cursed at citizens, but if not they came very close. And, when they shouted, it was absolutely as loud and shrill as they could make it. Over a simple mistake or misunderstanding.

People kept complaining, and finally an attorney who had been shouted at like that, started an ad hoc organization to demand civil behavior. There were large ads in the major state newspapers. It took a while, but eventually all employees were trained that these were U.S. citizens, not criminals, and that they could deal with problems in a polite manner. By memory, I think they posted signs in all the D/L offices for calling when there was bad treatment.

Of course, people understood these were state officials and any real resistance was a serious attack on a government official. Sort of like the stewardesses on a passenger airplane. (Which is only part of the reason I have not flown since I retired in 1997.)

At the time, I was told the d/l offices were affirmative action. The highway patrol was well paid, and naturally almost all male because of the nature of highway police work. So, they put women in the state d/l offices and paid them the same as the patrol officers. I prefer not to comment on that. Use your imagination.


#14

Had to get the local unemployment office under scrutiny for awhile back in the 70’s(it helped for awhile)


#15

My experiences here in NH have been nothing short of GREAT. Been living here over 30 years and never had a problem.

NY was a nightmare. And from talking with my relatives who still live there,…it’s still a nightmare.

You literally have to take at least a half day vacation to get your vehicle registration renewed. A line starts an hour before the place opens. The clerks are rude and in most cases not helpful.

When I got out of the Army and was transferring the registration of my car from Tennessee to NY…I got to the registrar early. Waited in line for almost 2 hours. Finally I get to the clerk and she looks at all my paperwork and says I’m missing a certain form. So I rush home to find it…get back to the registrar…stand in line for over 3 hours…and get to the same clerk…and now she says I’m missing ANOTHER document. I asked her “Why didn’t you tell me that the first time I was here.”

It was too late to do anything about it that day…so the following day I arrive early…I only had to stand in line for an hour. Again I got the same clerk…and again she tells me I’m missing yet another document. I asked to see her supervisor. He doesn’t come in til the afternoon. Then I asked her…"What other documents am I missing…She said right to my face - “I don’t know”. This was all before computerization.

Their system was like this.

Person presents Document A to clerk. They then look up in their instructions to verify Document A is filled out correctly. It also tells them I need Document B. But it doesn’t tell them that Document B needs Document C…and that Document C needs Document D…and that if you’re submitting Document D…then you also need Document B1. I had never seen anything that was so screwed up in my life…


#16

While I have done my share of complaining about various government agencies in Mississippi the local tax collector who handles all deeds and titles including automobiles and collects annual taxes on automobiles when renewing the tags runs a tight ship. The tax collector is elected and is the son of the former tax collector so it’s been a family dynasty for many years and he has the place running like a Swiss watch. There are at least a dozen ladies working the counters when needed but when the line is short some windows close and the clerks shift over to processing mailed in real estate taxes etc. Many people rush in on their lunch hour to take care of business and from 11:00 until 2:00 it is all hands on deck and the tax collector stands in the hall triaging peoples problems to ensure they don’t wait in line only to find out they don’t have the proper paper work, etc. and if someone gets belligerent he is quite tallented at getting things quickly settled. We had a local election yesterday and needless to say I voted for the incumbent.


#17

I bought a car back in 2009, financed it through my bank. When I went to register the car, stack of paperwork in hand… Apparently there was a single digit off between the car title and the bank loan paperwork. In fact, it was a “zero” on one, and a “O” on the other. The DMV worker refused to register the car. I got a letter from the bank, stating the “O” should actually be a “zero”; the lady at the DMV still wouldn’t accept it. Finally, I went to another DMV office near my office. The lady there reviewed my paperwork, got me all registered, and on my way in 10 minutes. I’ve never written a check and left so quickly in my life!

More recently we bought a new minivan. At the DMV, I presented all my paperwork to the lady behind the counter. She found that I was missing a vital piece of paper from the bank requiring my signature. This was actually my fault, as I’d seen the form but failed to bring it with me. Without missing a beat… the DMV worker called my bank, got them to fax her a copy of the form, and I was on my way soon thereafter. She was very professional and patient with me, and I made sure to thank her.

It really does depend on where and whom you deal with at the DMV.


#18

@ledhed75 wrote, “It really does depend on where and whom you deal with at the DMV.” That pretty much sums it up.

I live in Northern California, and I mess around with old Honda motorcycles and scooters that I find on Craigslist. If they have valid titles and they are registered or listed as “non-operational” by the DMV it’s easy and I can do it at AAA in 10 minutes. If there is a missing title, but the person selling it is the owner, then there is a fairly simple form that can substitute for the title, and they have to sign an odometer statement that’s on special paper. If there’s been a string of bozos who bought and sold it, and they never told the DMV anything, then it gets really messy and I sure don’t pay much for the bike. It can take months.

At least we can make appointments for transactions, and that usually means you don’t wait too long. And I always try to be light and respectful, even if I know the person is either stupid or a jerk, because my opinion means nothing. They have the power, and I use my smiling, pleasant and helpful self to get what I want.


#19

I think this varies a lot depending on locale.

I also think it changed over time. My earliest experiences with DMV’s/BMV’s were not that pleasant, but have improved greatly - due to complaints? They’ve also automated license plate renewals (by mail), and driver’s license renewal is pretty much an eye test and vehicle dealers can drop off new registrations so they don’t have folks tying up space during the rush.

On the whole, it’s not bad, now.


#20

I agree with CapriRacer on all points.
New car registration and delivery of new license plates are both handled by the dealership, and I can do almost all of my MVC (NJ’s new-ish name for the DMV, following many reforms) business online.

Because there is now a limit on how long your DL photo remains valid, I think that I will have to visit the MVC offices next year, but–other than one visit every 4 (?) years for a new photo, I don’t need to visit their offices. And, when I do need to go in person, I go to a location where I know the women to be efficient and reasonably pleasant.