The DMV is a universally frustrating experience for a majority of Americans. Long wait times, lack of appointment slots, and inconvenient hours are some of the common grievances.
If you’re just renewing a license or ID card, ordering a special plate, or paying your property tax on a new vehicle, you usually don’t have to physically go into a DMV building. You can go to the link here to access these services online.
You’ll have to jump through some hoops if you’re looking to get a driver’s license, either for the first time or because you have an out-of-state license.
Cary is home to 182,000 residents and counting and only has one DMV office (1387 SE Maynard Rd) to obtain your driver’s license. As of the time of this writing (November 30th, 2022), no appointment slots are available.
Luckily, all DMVs in North Carolina accept walk-ins. The one in Cary opens from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM every weekday. However, don’t expect to get there at 7:00 AM and be able to get an appointment. Lines often begin forming outside the door at 5:00 AM – two hours before the actual DMV opens. Typically, they will only accept the first 20 people, and the rest are told to try again later in the day. On Monday, November 28th, there were 91 people by 7:00 AM waiting in a line outside of the DMV. 71 of those people were instructed to come back later.
If you are getting your driver’s license for the first time, you must take a driver’s test. You cannot take the test by walking in, and you must make an appointment.
If you’re trying to get a North Carolina driver’s license because you are coming from out-of-state and don’t have your documentation, you will also be kicked out of line. You will need the following:
- An out-of-state driver’s license
- A social security card or document showing your name and whole social security number (like a W2)
- A document verifying your NC address (like a utility bill or lease)
- A document proving that you have liability insurance coverage from your auto insurance. This is the most commonly missed document. It needs to be printed (the DMV won’t take any digital copies), and even if you don’t own a car, you still need to have it to get a driver’s license.
- You’d need documentation proving your legal status if you weren’t born in the United States.
You can view a complete list of documents on the official website here.
If you don’t want to camp out for two hours outside of the front door, try a more rural DMV location. Some have reported that the Garner DMV (only about 20 minutes southeast of Cary) is less busy and more accessible to walk in.
If you do go to the Cary location, make sure to get there around two hours before they open and to have all of the documentation needed. Bring a foldable chair and water for a more comfortable experience.