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DMV Study: Why some states have longer wait times at the DMV

As a response to decreased customer satisfaction with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), DMV.com has conducted a study to examine DMV wait times. The study, which was conducted over an 8-month period, was designed to highlight the differences in service quality across states. The results are compiled by state, and are illustrated in the graphical-map below. The study revealed that the average American will wait 44 minutes before receiving service at the DMV, while the average wait time for a given state is 34 minutes.

Results Map

The map summarizes the average time that a customer must wait, in a given state, before receiving service at a DMV office location. States that are colored dark red experience the longest wait times, while yellow states offer the shortest. Some states, which are identified with gray coloring, did not have sufficient data and were excluded from the study.

Comparing the States

The map reveals that wait times are geographically clustered. States in the West have the longest wait times, while those in the Midwest have the shortest. With an average wait time of 10 minutes Kentucky is the top performing state, followed by Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio and Indiana. The longest lines in the country occur in West Virginia, where the average driver will wait over an hour to receive service. Nevada, Louisiana, California, and Connecticut rank just behind West Virginia.

Surprisingly, states with larger populations do not have longer average wait times. In fact, the opposite is true. The average wait time for the five most populous states is 39 minutes, while the average wait in the five least populous states, for which data was collected, is 46 minutes.

Analyzing the Discrepancy 

DMV wait times appear to be independent from demand. In Tennessee, the average wait time is 44 minutes, 37% above average. Research shows that this is due to understaffing and old technology. The state uses a 30-year old computer system and aims to attend only half of its service counters. Improved wait times require investment. In Nevada, one of the poorest performing states, a pilot project has been launched to allow customers to wait for DMV services outside of the office. Drivers can call to receive a line-up number, and they will be contacted when their appointment approaches.

In Kentucky, DMV responsibilities are shared by the state’s Court Clerks, Transportation Cabinet, and State Police. And like many other well-performing states, Kentucky offers kiosks for drivers to perform routine DMV services autonomously.

In the past two years, Washington has dramatically improved their wait times by privatizing DMV testing services.

In 2013, DMV.com published a study to explore the effects of licensing DMV services to private third parties. The study found that 65% of Americans are open to the idea of privatizing some DMV services. The new Wait Times study reveals a positive correlation between long wait times and customer support for privatization. States with long wait times are more inclined to support third party privatization: 80% of the five states with the longest wait times would encourage the effort.

A similar relationship was discovered for investment in online DMV services. States with above average wait times are more likely to support bringing DMV services online. In states with shorter wait times, customers were less inclined to bring activity online. This relationship is present in 68% of states.

To continue the analysis, DMV News will feature a state-specific analysis every day. Check DMV News regularly for a comprehensive report on your state.

Jordan Perch at G+

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