Kudos to the AZ DMV

No, that headline is correct -- some crazed hacker has not taken over Coyote Blog.  Having been relentlessly critical of government organizations in general and the DMV in particular, I think fairness demands I post exculpatory evidence when I have it.

This morning we thought my son lost his driver's license (later found).  Dreading the all day trip to the DMV to get it replaced (and no, nothing has changed my opinion that that experience sucks), we checked online for the procedure.  It turns out that we could have applied for a new license over the Internet, and, best of all, if we got the application in by 3:00 today we could have had the license in our hands by noon tomorrow, on a Saturday no less, via express delivery.  That's better than my credit card company does.

Yes, such service is a virtual necessity given how central the government has made the driver's license in so many routine activities (except voting of course, that would be racist!).   But it is still a breath of fresh air to see any state institution match their service to such necessities.  Now, if we could only get the passport process sorted out, but that one is just getting worse.


  1. DirtyJobsGuy:

    Interestingly the DMV here in CT has also gone increasingly on-line. You can renew registrations totally online and get your drivers license renewals at AAA. Car dealers can now do all their work on-line in car licenses etc. The in-person services at DMV have been reduced.

    This is not due to any great philosophical guidance under a small government administration. DMV is a money maker for the state as fees have steadily gone up. By reducing DMV costs more cash is available for more politically favorable activities. This is true of almost all licensing and registration activities. As an engineer I pay the highest registration fees in the US for my Professional Engineer registration. The state provides essentially no services. I have a young engineer in my office who is attempting to sign up for a licensing exam. No one answers the phone and there is no on-line presence.

    Might as well forget the function and just send us the bill.

  2. Agammamon:

    I just replaced my lost AZ license and found out that this month or next you won't even be able to go into the smaller DMV's and get a physical license - it will all be done online and mailed out.

    I've lived in several parts of this country (though I'm from AZ) and have been singing the praises of the AZ DMV since I got my first driver's license.

    My military coworkers complain about the problems they have with doing business with their home DMV and are amazed at the amount of stuff you can do online in AZ. They are amazed when I show them that my driver's license doesn't expire until 2036 - we don't have to come in every couple of years and renew like in most other places.

  3. Agammamon:

    I lived in CT in 2002-2005 and (at least then) the CT DMV was just like what you see in any movie scene taking place in a DMV. Dingy, poorly lit building, long lines to get paperwork to stand in other lines.

    And the taxes - whoo boy! This is the only place I've been that charges property tax for vehicles. Being non-resident military I could get out of paying it, but not out of having to fill out paper work everytime I needed to renew my registration. And the place for the tax paperwork is not the same office or even in the same town as the DMV office.

  4. John Moore:

    For a couple of decades I have been amazed at how good AZ DMZ really is. From early adoption of the internet, to efficient offices, to polite people.

    They definitely break a stereotype.

  5. Mesa Econoguy:

    They’ve done this for quite some time, Warren.

    They even let you use your 15+ year old original drivers license pic – awesome for Leona Helmsley’s PV 60 year DL.


    The public employee union delinquents at AZDMV/MVD/WTF are probably just as likely to steal your online info and sell it to ACORN to re-elect Gabby Giffords.

  6. Geoffrey Steward:

    I grew up in Arizona (Prescott), went to the UofA studying Chemical Engineering, and eventually moved out here to California to work for a large oil company. It is ironic to me that you publish this post because one thing I always debate with friends here is exactly the ease with which I was able to get a license in Arizona. It takes less then 2 days, and the cost is minimal ($3??? last time I bought one).... here in California you can't order on-line (I tried), you have to go in and it costs something like $25.

  7. Mike C.:

    The same is true in VA now. Online license renewal using the old picture, which is on file with them. Takes no time and is delivered very quickly indeed. The physical DMV office now has drive-through windows for things like tags, and they zip right along as well. I was amazed the last time I had to renew my license - it's an unusual occurence to see a noteworthy increase in government efficiency, especially in a governmental division which has been the butt of jokes for decades.

  8. Matt:

    Where are drivers licenses good for only a couple of years? I am in Wisconsin, they are good for 8 years here.

  9. Mark:

    If drivers license distribution was done by private entities you would get your license on the spot. Imagine if the government let go of its monopoly on this process and allowed private companies to perform this function. Most likely you could go to any Kinkos or maybe even a grocery store. They would snap your picture and print out the license, it would not take all day, cost 1/2 as much, and because it is a private entity that wants your business back, it would treat you as a real customer not at a nuisance that government employees do.

  10. John O.:

    This service has been offered for quite a while, back in 2004 I needed an unexpired ID card, as my learners had expired, in order to not get hassled while flying. So my mom ordered me a new one off the website and received it before I flew.

    I'm also happy that some services of the AZ DMV have been competitively off-sourced. Why force people to wait in line to register a vehicle at a crappy DMV building when much of the documentation can be dealt with digitally?

  11. Agammamon:


    When I first got my license (1990) most states had them set with 3-4 year expiration dates. At the time, in AZ, your first license was good for 4 years and after that your first renewall expired on your 60th birthday. Now they just give you one that expires when you turn 65.

    As a matter of fact, even in 1990 AZ allowed military to keep using their expired license (in conjunction with military ID) rather than most state requireing you to come back for renewal.

  12. I Got Bupkis, Fomenter of "small-l" libertarianism:

    Well, allow me to provide a counterweighting Eph You! to the Florida DMV.

    A friend of mine is 85. He generally drives pretty well. He had a stroke with almost no side effects, and then an accident not too long after that stroke, so the FL DMV invoked a requirement that he get a medical approval for him to continue driving. He did so, and submitted the information to the Florida Medical DMV people.

    That was 30 days ago. No response whatsoever from these people. A phone call to them, they tell you to wait **60** days for a response/determination. This is to help them keep a "timely" response. Timely? Timely? 60 DAYS is "timely"? This is such a ridiculously insane level of incompetency even for a government department.

    How the hell do you justify needing 60 days just to have someone check that a medical test has been passed, that the record has been submitted, and then to re-activate the stupid license?

    Just asinine.

    I'm not complaining about the idea itself. It's probably a good idea to require older people to re-check their driving capabilities every once in a while. But to require 60 days for processing a damned form is ridiculous.