Let’s face it: Departments of Motor Vehicles have earned a bad rap, whether deserved or not. Waiting in line at the DMV is often likened to having your teeth pulled. They also serve as the butt of many a joke, including the sendoffs in “The Simpsons,” where Patty and Selma work at the Springfield DMV.
But like many aspects of government, Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) are rapidly changing and adapting to new technologies – including digital license plates.
CarInsurance.com set out to determine what drivers think of their DMVs and to rate the states with the best.
In the spring, we commissioned online market research company Slice MR to survey 2,300 drivers from all 50 states on how good a job they thought their state Department of Motor Vehicles are doing. Drivers were aged 18 and older.
For the overall ranking, the scores were determined based on the following data: 40% for overall satisfaction, 20% for the accessibility of DMV offices and wait times, 10% for records accuracy, 10% for staff courtesy, 10% for the DMV’s fee structure and 10% for digital experience.
These are the top 10 DMVs, according to our findings:
- New Mexico
- New York
One fact jumped out from our survey: The top-rated DMVs offer an excellent digital experience.
Granted, not all states are at the same place in this digital journey, but as more states – and drivers – see the benefits, the transformation of DMVs will accelerate.
For example, California drivers can conduct various DMV transactions online. Drivers can register their vehicles, renew driver licenses, transfer vehicle ownership titles, report an accident and apply for a disabled parking permit, all without stepping through the DMV’s doors.
Last fall, California rolled out the ability for its 27 million drivers to begin using digital license plates. Electronic plates replace traditional metal license plates. California joined Arizona, Maryland and Michigan in allowing the technology.
Granted, it might take time for drivers to warm up to improvements happening at their DMVs, but positive changes are afoot.
- States with the best DMVs in the U.S.
- Which state DMVs have the highest customer satisfaction ratings?
- Which state DMVs have the best digital experience?
- Which state has easily accessible DMVs?
- Which state gets you through the DMV’s door and out the fastest?
- Which state DMVs have the most knowledgeable staff?
- Which state DMVs are the most expensive?
- Final thoughts: DMVs
- Resources & Methodology
States with the best DMVs in the U.S.
When reviewing the results of the survey, in addition to having solid digital capabilities, the best DOTs had a few other things in common: good customer services, knowledgeable staff, and, for those that still venture into a DMV office, low wait times.
Below are short profiles on the top 10 and 15 other DMVs that made it into the top 25.
No. 1: Indiana
The Hoosier state ranked first in our survey, with drivers giving it top marks for quick and convenient service and high marks in most other categories. Respondents said Indiana had the third-best website following New York and Arizona.
And regarding how close their BMV office is, Indiana drivers named their state No. 1 for distance traveled. Furthermore, residents said wait times were low and the staff was courteous and knowledgeable.
“The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ mission is to provide customers with best-in-class service. Achieving this mission is only possible because of the dedication, innovation and commitment to continuous growth by BMV employees,” says Joe Hoage, commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “When our associates succeed, it trickles down to benefit our customers. This translates to expanded options for how and when customers conduct business with the BMV by offering online services, in-person branch opportunities, and self-service kiosks across the state of Indiana. We are humbled to receive this recognition and want to thank each of our team members who work each day to support the communities we serve.”
No. 2: Alaska
While Alaska didn’t come in first place in any category, drivers seemed to think their DMV was doing a great job overall serving the vast state – it came in at No. 5 for customer satisfaction. The staff excelled for friendly and knowledgeable service and for making very few mistakes.
The one outlier was proximity to a DMV office – it ranked in the bottom 20 for this metric, which makes sense given the state’s size.
No. 3: Wyoming
Drivers didn’t think Wyoming’s DMV was leading the digital charge into online services, but they did appreciate not having to wait in line and the service they got at their local offices. Wyoming was rated first in the nation for customer satisfaction and scored well regarding wait times and fees.
Wyoming also was ranked No. 1 in the nation for accuracy regarding driving records, licenses and vehicle registrations.
No. 4: Arizona
Arizona has been an early adopter of online services and now allows drivers to perform such common tasks as renewing driver licenses, taking practice driver exams and obtaining official Travel IDs without having to step foot in an office. Drivers seem to appreciate the convenience and also give it high marks for knowledgeable staff.
No. 5: Utah
Once again, Utah didn’t score first in any category but its DMVs were consistently rated highly in most categories, including friendly and knowledgeable staff and document accuracy.
No. 6: New Mexico
New Mexico drivers appreciated the value they were getting for their dollars regarding fees and the generally low wait times. Despite being a sparsely populated state, drivers felt the DMVs offices were well located and ranked it the top state in the nation for this metric.
“This is incredibly gratifying. Our team has been working very hard over the past several years to provide our customers the best possible service we can,” New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division Director Htet Gonzales says. “Our switch to an appointment model has dramatically improved our service time in field offices, and more and more customers are taking advantage of our growing online offerings.”
No. 7: New York
New York has been at the forefront of moving its DMV services online and drivers named it the top in the nation for its digital services. It was third in the nation for customer satisfaction behind Wyoming and Mississippi. On the flip side, it scored in the lower half among state DMVs for the cost of its services.
No. 8: Ohio
Ohio’s DMV didn’t come out on top in any particular category but fared well in most. It was near the top for friendly, knowledgeable staff and few mistakes, minimal wait times and for having convenient locations.
No. 9: Georgia
Georgia drivers said they were getting good service for their money at the DMV and also appreciated wait times. It also scored highly in overall customer satisfaction – fourth in the nation behind Wyoming, Mississippi and New York.
No. 10: Idaho
Drivers gave the state’s DMVs high marks for having friendly and knowledgeable staff, digital experience, low fees and minimal wait times.
“The Idaho DMV is all about enhancing customer experience. We are proud to provide positive and efficient customer service online at DMV.idaho.gov and in our county DMV offices,” says Lisa McClellan, Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles administrator.
11. South Carolina
14. North Dakota
24. South Dakota
25. North Carolina
Which state DMVs have the highest customer satisfaction ratings?
The biggest knock against DMVs is typically having to wait in line for long periods of time.
Wyoming is a big state with a small population base. It’s the second least densely populated state behind Alaska. And while it may not be leading the charge in transforming to digital services, its residents appreciate how quickly they can get into their local office and get a transaction done – it was ranked best in the nation in this category.
Here’s a list of the top 10 states for customer satisfaction:
- New York
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Which state DMVs have the best digital experience?
New York is one of the states rapidly adopting digital technologies.
It is now possible for New York drivers to perform such common tasks as renewing a license or registration, changing addresses, scheduling a road test, paying a traffic ticket and ordering a personalized license plate entirely online.
Drivers appreciate this convenience, giving the state’s DMV the highest ranking for its website and digital offerings. New York was followed by Arizona, Indiana, Nevada and California in the top five – see the top 10 states below.
- New York
- Washington (state)
- North Carolina
Which state has easily accessible DMVs?
Regarding the distance drivers have to travel to access DMV services, 24% of drivers said their closest DMV office was less than 5 miles away; 36% said it was 5-10 miles away and 25% said it was 11-20 miles away.
Here’s a list of the top 10 states for distance driven to the DMV:
- New Mexico
Which state gets you through the DMV’s door and out the fastest?
Online services aren’t the only means to serve drivers more efficiently and conveniently.
Indiana for example, has been a leader in offering a wide range of DMV services through self-service kiosks. The state now has kiosks in more than 50 locations, including convenient spots like grocery stores.
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles says more than one million transactions were completed in 2022 via the kiosks. It expects that number to grow as it expands the program rapidly.
Drivers seem to appreciate the service, ranking Indiana first among DMVs for having the shortest wait times.
Here’s a list of the top 10 states for low wait times:
Which state DMVs have the most knowledgeable staff?
Being able to get the correct answers and access the right services quickly is a key factor in driving customer satisfaction. We asked drivers how they rated staff at their state’s DMVs for being knowledgeable and courteous and making the fewest transaction mistakes.
Most states did quite well in this area, but Hawaii came out on top with drivers complementing it on friendly and error-free service.
The top 10 DMVs for knowledgeable, courteous staff:
Which state DMVs are the most expensive?
While most DMVs rated highly for knowledgeable staff and few errors, the same could not be said for how drivers felt about the fees they were being charged. Some of the lowest approvals were registered on this question.
Twenty percent or more of respondents in Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Nevada said their DMV’s fees were “excessive.” And that’s not surprising when looking at just the cost of registering a vehicle. It cost around $150 to register a car in Illinois, more than $120 in Connecticut and $76 in New York.
However, drivers in Mississippi, where it costs just $14 to register a car, felt they were getting the best bang for their buck, coming in first in our survey.
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
Final thoughts: DMVs
DMVs are evolving rapidly, adopting a range of online services, digital technologies and self-serve kiosks to get you in and out the door faster or to avoid having to go to an office entirely.
It might take a while for DMVs to get over their bad reputation, but if further positive changes continue, drivers might begin seeing their DMVs in a whole new light.
Resources & Methodology
- Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “BMV Expands Kiosk Program.” Accessed June 2023.
- Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration. “MDOT MVA Launches Driver’s License and State ID in Apple Wallet.” Accessed June 2023.
- New York Department of Motor Vehicles. “DMV online transactions.” Accessed June 2023.
- Simpsons Wiki. “Department of Motor Vehicles.” Accessed June 2023.
- New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division. “Motor Vehicle Division NM.” Accessed June 2023.
- Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles. “Idaho Transportation Department.” Accessed June 2023.
CarInsurance.com commissioned Slice to survey 2,300 drivers from all 50 states on how good a job they thought their state Departments of Motor Vehicles were doing. Drivers were aged 18 and older.
The survey, conducted in the spring of 2023, polled 2,300 drivers nationwide. For the overall ranking, the scores were determined based on the following data: 40% for overall satisfaction, 20% for the accessibility of DMV offices and wait times, 10% for records accuracy, 10% for staff courtesy, 10% for the DMV’s fee structure and 10% for digital experience.