3 Reasons Why Customer Service At The DMV Has A Bad Reputation

DMV - Department of Motor Vehicles

DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles

When you think of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), what comes to mind? Perhaps one or more of these words:

  • Frustration
  • Irritation
  • Anger
  • Annoyance
  • Time Vacuum

Driving is a privilege. Going to the DMV to complete a task is a jail sentence.

Why do we associate so much negativity with such a practical part of our life in the USA?


The DMV is like Joan Jett crooning:

An’ I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation!

The DMV doesn’t give a damn because no matter how rude or friendly they are, people will still need them.

But why is the DMV in this position?

After almost a year of working as the Visitor Support Manager for DMV.org, I’m beginning to understand why. Here are my ideas which you may or may not agree with (depending on your last in office license or registration renewal experience).

3 Reasons Why Customer Service at the DMV Has a Bad Reputation


The DMV is a government funded agency. The truth is, they are limited financially in what they can and can’t do. Each state oversees their own DMV system, which means that some states may have better self-service websites, call centers or branch offerings than other states.

  • The CA DMV only has one toll-free number to call, resulting in Los Angeles-style traffic phone jams. While they do have a queue call-back option, you’re still waiting for over an hour in some cases.
  • The Ohio BMV is surprisingly set up with an effective online chat system as well as phone and email for their customers.
  • The Nevada DMV has the technology for you to hold your space in line while at an office (so you can go gamble?) then will text you when your number is called.
  • The NJ MVC only offers appointments in 3 locations in the entire state…and only for inspections. Other visits require the “first come, first served” wait-in-a-line-the-size-of-the-Jersey Shore.
  • PennDOT has a phone tree that will keep you listening to an automated message for the same time it will take you to eat and digest 10 cheesesteaks.

So you see, the options vary and many states could definitely hop on the train to improve.

Training & Empowerment

Now we’re getting into the good stuff: why are the representatives so rude at the DMV? We could boil it down to uneducated, unintelligent people and perhaps in some cases, that’s the cold truth. Ideally, there are genuinely good people working at the DMV who want to help people. Or, perhaps I’m just too much of a dreamer?

  • Lack of knowledge base resources equal higher wait times. If they don’t have the ability to find answers for their customers, they may give up faster because they feel helpless. Then, they pour that on the customer.
  • Proper service training can set a representative toward success in their job. Without it, they may feel helpless (yes, that word again) and choose to close off toward the customer because they do not know what to do and have no resources to ask.
  • If the management/leadership team doesn’t care, the representatives won’t care either.


Driving can be seen to many as independence. We drive to work to make money to put food on the table for ourselves and our family. Without a license or valid registration on our car, we can’t drive and we’re screwed.

DMV agents deal with high emotionally charged subject matter day in and day out.

If they are not emphatic in nature or they were not guided toward best practices about understanding their customers, they simply will not care.


Every so often, I receive visitor stories about positive customer experiences with their local DMV. These stories are like a breath of fresh air!

But sadly, in most cases, I hear the negative side of things.


I’m sure there are many, many more reasons why the DMV customer service could use a boost…and I’d really love to hear YOUR feedback! Please leave a comment on this post and share your thoughts!




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  • Great post, Jenny! Well Oregon DMV wasn’t much better but it was nice to see the wait times at all locations and drive to a small nearby town that had a short wait time. There were only 2 kiosks! The lady behind the counter still made me want to cry though 🙂

    • Jenny Dempsey

      I am quite delayed in replying here, but hey, thanks for your comments. That’s a bummer about the tears, but I do hope they at least have tissues. 🙂

  • Thanks for your effort!
    I do all within my power to keep my interaction with the DMV on a net-basis (i.e. on-line) however, the last few in-person visits which includes today’s was simply toxic, hostile, and overwhelmingly discouraging. I certainly hope your research yields positive results. Thanks.

    • Jenny Dempsey

      Agree with you on this, Ulises. They definitely need more online services all around the DMV offices. Fingers crossed this happens in the future for us to spare visits to such a toxic environment. Thank you for reading my post and for your great comment 🙂

    • Even the phone calls are terrible like imagine being nice just trying to figure out how much is due on some thing and the lady is like today with such an attitude and you ask her another question it seems like she comes back with even more attitude for no reason and my boyfriend told me that you just have to deal with it and stay calm to get the information you need because they can just hang up the phone if they want and I think thats completely wrong but what can you do? It’s not like you can ask for a manager that would make you seem like a Karen but in reality at my regular job, if I got attitude for no reason at a customer, I could be fired for lack of sympathy, and just overall not caring about my job and I really do like this post because it shows how much they reflect all of their emotions back on customers basically because of what they’re going through and lack of professionalism, because of their lack of knowledge in the authority, they hold, makes it OK for them to do so It really is a twisted world with the DMV. But this just proves that no matter what you’re going through just stay humble and push through it.

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  • I feel if I’m more respectful to the agent I’m talking to then something should be done about it & it should be some way you can report that person cause that person might be a racist or etc.. & that goes for anybody rather you work for the Government or not. Cause if I say Thank you very much & they don’t respond & just hang up then that job is not for them.

  • DMV in Fredericksburg, VA – few reps here are pleasant. Some have an authority complex if you don’t kiss their …you get the picture. I’ve been coming here for a very long time (over 20 years) over the years. I was told today the lady at the front desk did not “have time” to answer my questions. I was respectful and polite.

    One of the representatives in Fredericksburg DMV refused to help my brother (after waiting in line forever) claiming he did not have the proper paperwork. He even called ahead of time to make sure he had everything he needed and got three different answers from three different people. He went to the Stafford, Virginia DMV with the same paperwork (same day) and was helped with no issue. There seems to be very little accountability for good service in general, in my experience. I always set low expectations and standards for service here so I’m not disappointed.

  • I waited for three hours at the Largo MVA to renew my license as it had to be completed in person. When it was finally my turn (why is there not some way of letting people know how much longer they will probably be waiting?), I was told erroneously that they were not taking credit cards. You’ve got to be kidding me!!! It turns out they had made a mistake, and I was eventually helped. Any company with this horrible customer service would be out of business. Ridiculous. This job should be handled by a private company. Capitalism would fix these problems right away!

  • I thought I was doing the correct and honest thing. My wife passed away in Jan. of 2017. I assumed I wanted her name off my car title. Woe-what a mistake. AAA Motor Club could not get it for me, after paying them $47.00 dollars for services. AAA told to go to the DMV. After waiting my turn, waked up to someone and was rudely cut off when I started speaking, The annoying clerk saying” we can’t help you with a title! Got to Northeast Tag and Title” ! After paying Northeast Tag and Title $74.50, Still no title for my vehicle. What is a state agency a such as a DMV for anyway? is it another group of idiots stealing our tax money for a salary? We all know our esteemed state legislature is one the highest, if not the highest paid bunch in the nation. I wonder if they would have to wait as I am doing now. I totally regret my action of thinking I want to be honest. What will I do if I need my title for insurance or trading my vehicle in on a new one?

  • For most of the Californian drivers, paying a visit to local DMV office is a headache. There are other alternatives to going to DMV office personally. Avail the online DMV services for saving your precious time and efforts. There is a lot you can do online such as renewal of license, renewal of vehicle registration and change of address and more such.

  • The DMV in Tupelo ms is the worst with the worst customer service instead of doing their job they have time to sit and talk about people

  • Our DMV in Idaho was horrible. I went two different days and checked with them prior the first day to make sure I had all my paperwork and the after waiting for over an hour with my daughter who had to be pulled out of school. They said I was missing something. I went back the next day with everything on their list and waited with my daughter another hour, missing school, and they said or rather yelled, “it should have been done yesterday.” The thing is, I contacted the state and was told I was ok to still get the permit. It’s SO frustrating! Why can’t they treat people with human decency. I left in tears and will never set foot in there as long as those two ladies are employed there. (I live in a small town.)

  • If I have a job at the DMV I would treat every customer with respect because it’s the right thing to do on the job and it’s good to be friendly to the customers because you’ll get a good reputation that way and get promoted and if not then it’s the opposite. And I think every DMV employee should give more respect to customers.

  • Most customers are pretty friendly, but on occasions you get one that is self absorbed, coming in without an appointment and wants what they can’t have, blaming others for their ignorance, when there’s a plethora of information on the world wide web.

  • I’ve been to the DMV three times now every time I go they come up with some kind of an excuse I need to be evaluated I get there I stand in line get up to the window they tell me all the evaluators are in a meeting I’ve wasted my time plus the individual’s time that took me down there because I do not have a license it’s getting rather annoying that’s the third time now I just want to get my license back and go on with my life

  • First of all the website is hard to handle. I was finally able to pay for new tag yr 23, by electronic check. 10 days later I get my tag and then another letter saying I was turned over to the collection office for payment. I immediately mailed them a check and was told I had a week to pay or license would be suspended. Thought I already paid, and why did they send a tag if they didn’t have payment. So after a week of stress my check finally went through. Too bad they treat elderly people that way. The bank said they never received an electronic check.

  • This new law requiring a paper trail for every marriage, divorce marriage divorce resulting in a last name not matching your birth certificate from 72 years ago is an affront to women. Like the hags at the DMV don’t dream up enough to smirk about. They will never pass up a chance to make people feel stupid.

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