What does the State DMV do?

Each State has a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This is a state-level government agency that administers the licensing of drivers and is responsible for vehicle licensing. While there are differences in responsibilities from state to state, the typical areas of responsibility of the DMV in each State is as follows:

Driver’s licenses and identification

Because the US does not have a national identification card, driver’s licenses have often become the standard identification card for many purposes. DMV’s have, as a result, effectively become the state agency that is responsible for verifying the identity of persons in their respective states. State DMV’s issue both Drivers Licenses and Identification Cards (for people who are not drivers).

Driver certification

State DMV’s are responsible for administering both the written tests and in-car driver’s tests. Passing these tests is a requirement in order for the DMV to issue a driver’s license to a driver. In addition, some state DMV’s also oversee driving schools and license driving school instructors.

Vehicle registration

State DMV’s are responsible for providing an identification number for vehicles, either with a permanent license plate or temporary tag. The state’s vehicle registration program tracks detailed information such as general vehicle history and odometer history in order to prevent automobile-related crimes such as title washing and odometer fraud.

A number of State DMV’s allow third parties to issue registration materials. These may include businesses and organizations that specialize in processing registration application paperwork. These are often called “tag agents” or “car dealers”. Tag agents are given direct access to DMV systems.

Vehicle ownership/titling

State DMV’s are also responsible for the certification of ownership of automotive vehicles. This is handled through the issuance of a vehicle title. It is important to note that the types of vehicles that are certified by a DMV are different in each state. Typically, State DMV’s do titling of vehicles that are driven on roadways. But, they may also be responsible to title mobile homes, boats, off-road vehicles, and other non-traditional “vehicles.” State DMV’s are also responsible for recording liens made when a vehicle is used as collateral on a loan.

U.S. 50-State DMV links

Alabama Louisiana Ohio
Alaska Maine Oklahoma
Arizona Maryland Oregon
Arkansas Massachusetts Pennsylvania
California Michigan Rhode Island
Colorado Minnesota South Carolina
Connecticut Mississippi South Dakota
Delaware Missouri Tennessee
Florida Montana Texas
Georgia Nebraska Utah
Hawaii Nevada Vermont
Idaho New Hampshire Virginia
Illinois New Jersey Washington
Indiana New Mexico Washington, D.C.
Iowa New York West Virginia
Kansas North Carolina Wisconsin
Kentucky North Dakota Wyoming

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