How to Prepare for Your First-Ever Visit to the DMV

If you've never been to the DMV before, chances are that your expectations differ a bit from what you'll actually encounter during your first visit.

You've already got enough on your mind, with the written and road tests on the horizon. Why worry about what the visit will actually look like? Here's what to expect during your first visit, so that you'll be prepared for whatever the DMV can throw your way.

Book Your Appointments Early

The DMV can be a very busy place, so if you're going to book an appointment, you'll want to do it way ahead of time. We just checked a local DMV, and the earliest appointment we could book was more than a month and a half from now. In the past, we've seen full three-month gaps between the booking date and the appointment date. In any case, it's better to be safe than sorry. Plus, if your appointment is a full two months away, it gives you plenty of time to prepare for your written and driving tests and fill out the appropriate paperwork.


Don't Come Empty-Handed

The better prepared you are, the less likely you'll be caught off guard by a stressful surprise at the DMV. For one, most states have their driver's permit applications online for you to print out and fill in. If possible, it's great to have that ready to go, so you don't have to worry about it in-person. You'll also need to bring some kind of ID, so the DMV knows you are who you claim to be. Requirements will vary from state to state, so do a quick Google search to find out what's needed for yours. They may also want a certificate stating that you've passed driver's ed, or a written permission slip from your parents. It depends on where you live, so find out the rules first and follow along.

And if you need glasses to see, make sure you bring them, even if you're not taking the driving test that day, because they'll be testing your vision before everything else. It might also be wise for your parents to bring cash or a checkbook, because depending on the DMV, they may not accept debit or credit cards to pay any fees associated with your visit.


(Zootopia via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


Expect to Wait, Even With an Appointment

Just because you've booked an appointment doesn't mean you'll necessarily get to waltz right in and get to your tests. Even with an appointment, busier DMV offices can take upwards of half an hour to see you. You'll likely have to take a number and sit in a waiting room for a bit. If you're prepared for it, you might find the entire situation less daunting.


(Beetlejuice via Warner Bros. Pictures)


Don't Have an Appointment? Bring Something to Do

Not all of us have a month or more to wait for a DMV appointment. If you absolutely must show up to the DMV without an appointment, err on the side of caution and block out at least a couple of hours—maybe three, if you live in a highly populated area—for your visit to the DMV. Since you might be sitting in that waiting room for a long while, bring something to keep you engaged during that time. Maybe you want to do homework or study up if you're about to take a written or on-the-road test. Make sure that your phone is fully charged because batteries seem to drain at a faster rate when you're super bored. Waiting won't be fun, but it's more manageable when you know it's coming.


Don't Take Grumpiness Personally

The DMV is not known for smiling, enthusiastic employees. You might find that some of the people you interact with there can be a bit curt and grumpy, and you'll be a lot happier if you can acknowledge that their apparent misery has nothing to do with you and everything to do with monotonous, repetitive work. Try putting on a cheery attitude if you can. While there's a small chance that might put an irritable clerk in an even worse mood, it's more likely that they'll appreciate the smile and feel a little less cantankerous when they're dealing with the next person in line.


Look Cute

When you're worried about passing the tests required to actually get your license or permit, your looks might be the last thing on your mind. Still, if everything goes well, you might be taking your driver's license photo at the end of the visit, so it doesn't hurt to look cute. Avoid a white top so you don't look like a floating head, or a black one that will wash you out, and don't overdo your makeup or hair. Last but not least, you should practice that winning smile to ensure that you'll look great in your license pic.


(via Shutterstock)


If you're concerned about your driver's license photo, click HERE for more tips on how to look great in yours.