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In the US, what is the DMV?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 17, 2024
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In the US, the Department of Motor Vehicles, most commonly known as DMV, is the official agency in charge of anything that has to do with vehicles, from registration of a car to the issuing of a driver's license to safety and emission inspection. While DMV has become the standard denomination for all transportation departments, the truth is that different states have different names for this government office. For example, the DMV is called the Office of Motor Vehicles in Louisiana, Transportation Cabinet in Kentucky, and Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Department of Public Safety in Minnesota.

The DMV is usually a dependent of the state government, except in the District of Columbia, where it is ruled by city government, and in Hawaii, where the county government manages the DMV department. In other states, the DMV is not a separate office, but rather a division inside the Department of Justice (Montana) or the Department of Safety (New Hampshire).

In the US, where there are no official ID cards, driver's licenses have become the standard identification, and so the DMV is in charge of verifying the identity of the driver before the actual issuing of the cards. The DMV is also responsible for issuing license plates and registration stickers for all cars owned by people residing in that state, and also for conducting driving tests (both theory and practical). The DMV is also in charge of bills of sale and title transfers, and to keeping driving records.

The public has a general image the DMV as having slow service and rude customer interaction. It has been satirized frequently in TV programs and comedy shows. In The Simpsons, for example, Patty and Selma Bouvier, Marge Simpson's sisters, work at the DMV and enjoy annoying the customers by asking them to do outrageous things and making them wait weeks for little things like laminating their driver's licenses. Over the last few years, many of the services of the DMV have moved online, helping people avoid lines, and combating this image by making processes faster and easier.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By anon129427 — On Nov 23, 2010

The DMV is also slang among the hip set that identifies the District of Columbia's metro area. DMV standing for DC, and surrounding segments of Maryland and Virginia that are reasonably close for commuting for work or social events.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
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