Every state is handling DMV services differently during the coronavirus pandemic. That little sticker on your license plate or in your windshield might as well have eyes the way it seems to remind you that your car registration has expired or is about to.
Normally, this would be as easy as a trip to the DMV — or the BMV, as some states call the governmental office that handles vehicle titling and license plate issuance. But with the coronavirus dominating our news cycle, these are hardly normal times.
Many states have substantially increased grace periods for things like new and used car registration, renewals, and driver’s license services. For instance, California has issued a 60-day grace period, which could be extended. On a federal level, the deadline for getting a Real ID to get on a plane to enter a federal building has been pushed back by one year.
That’s not universally the case, though, especially for transactions that can be handled online, like most typical car registration and driver’s license renewals. The first thing you should do is check to see if whatever DMV services you’re requesting can be handled online — even in brighter times, doing mundane things like a car renewal on the Internet can be a big time saver.
Most physical DMV locations are now closed, although some states such as California, Florida, Colorado, Hawaii and West Virginia have kiosks located in everything from government buildings to grocery stores that can handle some more complex functions and will usually issue you the license plate stickers and registration cards you need to keep on driving legally.
If you find yourself using one of these kiosks, be sure to maintain the six feet of social distancing highly encouraged by the Centers for Diseases Control, and make sure to thoroughly scrub your hands after you use the machine. Wearing surgical-style gloves while operating the machine is a smart bet too.
If you live in an area where emissions tests are required and your car is due, facilities where those inspections are conducted have generally been grouped with "essential services" and are thus open for business. Typically, these facilities require you to let an inspector move your car around, so exercise extreme caution when you get your car back by disinfecting any touch points such as the steering wheel, gear lever, and door handles, and let the cabin air out for a while before you re-enter. If the tester — or anyone else in the facility — is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, we strongly encourage you to find another time to have your vehicle tested.
Any DMV services rules are subject to constant change, so the best thing you can do is look at your local DMV’s website or call their information line for the latest information.
Looking for more info relating to you, your vehicle, and the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out more of Autotrader’s Coronavirus content.