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California DMV Virtual Office | All You Need To Know Before You Go
Recently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles launched a program called the Virtual DMV Office. The program is designed to be operated as an online platform for vehicle owners to complete DMV vehicle registration transactions which would otherwise require an in-person visit; effectively allowing complex DMV tasks to be performed while safely social distancing at home or work. Transactions such as title transfers, personalized license plate requests, registration renewals and replacements (which are not eligible for regular online service) can now be performed through the virtual DMV portal. Since the launch of the program, there have been hundreds of reviews regarding the DMV's virtual office program. Thus far, not too many looking promising. I understand there are penalties for filing certain DMV documents late. I'm hoping to find out if it'll be worth my while to entertain the "new" way we visit the California DMV.
The Pros and Cons of the DMV Virtual OfficeThe new DMV virtual office system allows customers to register, renew, replace, transfer title, and complete other vehicle registration transactions directly through the DMV website, eliminating the need to visit a DMV branch office. The reasons for the new virtual DMV launch are obvious. Covid-19 safety concerns and DMV operational expense. Thus far however we've only found a handful of vehicle owners having posted positive reviews or discussions (Reddit mainly) regarding their experience with the new virtual office system.
Most customers encountered issues submitting their applications, experienced long delays in DMV response time, and have eventually been led to the conclusion that its virtually (no pun intended) impossible to perform any of the acclaimed registration transactions efficiently through the portal. Here are the main pros and cons.
In defense of the CA Department of Motor Vehicles, the system is fairly new and DMV employees do need a bit more time to adjust to the new digital norm.
PRO 1 - It's free. Hands down this benefit far outweighs the rest... considering unfortunately that most reviews don't mention too many others, meaning "pro" comments. We'd love the state's system to work flawlessly, but usage is free, and there are an overwhelming number of users. Imagine the longest DMV line you've seen. Now multiple that image by 100,000. The new total system queue is in the millions.
PRO 2 - No DMV in-person visit required. The new virtual DMV office eliminates the need to visit the DMV in-person. The system functions, as its name implies... virtually. You can communicate with a DMV agent through email and via document upload. The communication is not in-real time, so there will be a delay back and forth but ultimately you will be dealing with an agent without needing to see them face-to-face. We can only imagine the number of Covid-19 infections avoided thanks to the new system. Two thumbs up for this pro, and thank you DMV!
CON 1 - The number one complaint is communication. The virtual DMV platform is designed for email communication only. No specific response time or order completion date is given after order placement, nor are customers given a direct phone number to speak with the DMV representative assisting them. Vehicle owners have reported title transfer applications taking months to complete, and at a minimum, 8 weeks for the processing of vehicle registration renewals having the most minor correction needs, i.e. mailing address update, proof of insurance request, above average late penalties, and similar. Situations requiring address updates have specifically been reported as troublesome for newly relocated Californian's. Recent moves combined with DMV communication delays have left paperwork being mailed to incorrect addresses.
CON 2 - The second complaint is speed, efficiency. In the old days, we'd be able to simply visit the DMV (in the really old days there was even rarely a wait), take a number, and see a clerk. The transaction was handled then and there. Maybe you'd need to bring in a document or two, but if you were able to return to the office the same day, the clerk may have even let you keep your place in line. Well with the advent of the virtual DMV office there is no one to see, and worse yet, no speedy communicate channel. Inevitably the process has taken an exponential turn towards longer than normal "wait times". One commenter put it simply... "it feels like a waiting game."
Is anyone eligible to use the virtual DMV office?
The California Virtual DMV office has a handful of eligibility criteria. This inevitably means that not every vehicle owner is eligible to use the online service although the criteria are pretty easily achievable. Ineligible customers will be given an in-person appointment. You'll need to first submit an application through the virtual DMV office and await a response from a DMV agent. After an agent has thoroughly understood your request and you've provided all necessary support document(s), they will make a determination on whether your need warrants an in-person DMV visit. If they determine that your transaction cannot be handled online, you will be allowed to request an appointment. Please do not visit a DMV office without having used the DMV "virtual" office first. Walk-ins are not currently being accepted and appointments for vehicle registration services are limited.
Are there normally issues with vehicle owner verification?
Some customers who have tried using the virtual DMV platform to either register or renew vehicle registrations have reported issues with verifying their records online. Many car owners report having encountered initial "error" messages from the website which delayed or hampered the process going forward. These vehicle owners were required to make in-person appointments.
Is the virtual service free?
Yes. Using the Virtual DMV Office service is free of charge for all users. The only fee required, in addition to your vehicle's registration fees, taxes and licensing, will be a credit card convenience fee (around 2-3%), which is pretty standard with government related online payment platforms. Some systems offer ACH payments (electronic deposit from your checking account) at a lesser surcharge. Most however only accept major credit cards. Currently the DMV is accepting credit card and ACH payments.
How long does it take to perform a title transfer through the virtual DMV office?
The average title transfer timeline has been reported as four (4) months. That's sixteen weeks from start (when you submit your transfer application through the DMV Virtual Office Portal) to receiving your new California Certificate of Title. Transferring a vehicle title can become complicated. If for any reason you have missing document(s) or incomplete paperwork, expect the process to be delayed. By the time the DMV notifies you of any error(s) and by the time they receive your correction, even assuming you get everything squared away within the first two or three communications, you start running the risk of acquiring late fees and penalty.
In all fairness, the new virtual system is nothing like being right there in-person, being told exactly what you need to get done plainly and usually walking out with new registration in-hand in one visit. NeedTags can re-create the in-person title transfer experience while you safely social distance at home or work. Learn more about our faster & simpler CA Online Title Transfer service.
How long does it take to renew registration through the virtual DMV office?
Standard registration renewal requests can be placed through the state's regular online registration renewal portal. The timeline for these requests have not been effected much. On average you should expect to receive your new registration card and sticker within four (4) weeks. This is strictly assuming that you are eligible to use the "regular" vehicle registration renewal webpage and have NOT been required to use the DMV virtual office system.
The DMV virtual office system is reserved for those vehicle owners who are ineligible to renew their vehicles through the regular renewal portal. If your vehicle has fallen into this category, it may be due to one of many reasons. Typically the reasons include above average late penalties, lack of insurance, suspended registration, and DMV address updates. These are the main triggers. If you've been directed to use the Virtual DMV Office because of an issue with your vehicle's registration, please allow for slightly longer processing times.
Similar to the title transfer delays noted above, you can expect your DMV registration renewal order to be completed in around six (6) weeks. The greatest challenge being the lack of timely communication. Snail mail is bad, but email communication related to complex registration transactions has actually turned out to be worse. If you're interested in making your registration renewal stress-free, consider allowing NeedTags to do the heavy lifting. Pay your registration renewal fees now, and receive new registration in lighting speed, regardless of whatever's causing a delay in your virtual office application.
Do I need to use a specific browser to log in the Virtual DMV?
No. The site may be accessed via a wide range of web browsers. However the DMV does advise interested customers use the "latest version" of any of the following web browsers: Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Internet Explorer; to access the site.
The California DMV made a great decision by taking their services virtual. The move protects the public through social distancing and saves the state (and its citizens) tons of money by reducing DMV operational costs.
The current DMV virtual office service which consumers are experiencing is being reported as challenging. In time we expect the DMV system and its operators will adapt with new technology and provide a more dynamic virtual DMV experience. The Department of Motor Vehicles is continuously conducting marketplace workshops, seeking private and public partnerships to enhance its reach and broaden its online service capabilities.
We will follow the DMV's progress closely and bring you the latest in developments. In the interim, feel free to visit NeedTags.com to learn more about experiencing simpler, better, and faster DMV vehicle registration services online.