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The Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, is a government agency that helps with licensing and motor vehicle registration. If you buy any sort of new car or used car, you will probably have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles at some point. Or, when you first start the journey to getting a driver’s license.

What is the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV?

What is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?
A vehicle registration sticker from March of 2017 | Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The Department of Motor Vehicles is normally at the state level, but that doesn’t apply outside of the U.S. In other places, the DMV is at a provincial level. While not all of these agencies actually use the Department of Motor Vehicles name, all of the agencies do similar things. That usually includes getting vehicles registered, issuing driver’s licenses, and getting handicap placards. The staff can also help with license plates and doing vehicle inspections in certain states.

Depending on the state, the DMV might go by something different. The Division of Motor Vehicles is responsible for registration renewals, driver licensing, road tests, and vehicle sales in Alaska. This system is called the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) in Florida. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has links to all 50 states DMV links, plus the DC DMV information.

Hawaii doesn’t have a state agency that performs such duties. It is the only U.S. state that doesn’t have such a system in place. Instead, the local governments perform DMV functions.

Many of the Department of Motor Vehicle services are online

Due to the pandemic and partially due to the Department of Motor Vehicles trying to streamline things, people can do many of these services online. This includes renewing or replacing driver licenses or ID cards and renewing or replacing registration. You can also pay citations online for certain circumstances and change your address on file.

You may also schedule appointments online now, so the wait is less in person. While the MDV is known for having a very long wait, scheduling an appointment can help reduce the time spent at the DMV.

In some instances, another section of the government helps with emissions inspections. In Virginia, for example, the Virginia State Police and the Department of Environmental Quality do the emissions testing and inspections on vehicles.

Traffic laws differ from state to state as well

Like the duties of the DMV, traffic laws vary from state to state. If you have recently moved to a new state, it is good to check the local Department of Motor Vehicles to get more information. For the most part, residents are required to change their address after 30 days. The vehicle registration should match the new state.

If you have any questions about vehicle and license-related issues, your local DMV might be able to help.


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