Moving to Washington D.C. with a Car

August 1, 2015

A few notes on moving to the District (DC) with a car. DC, I presume due to the high rate of transiency, is really strict about having people register their car within 30 days. The have ROSA (Registration of Out of State Automobiles) teams that go out at night, particularly Sunday night, to look for cars that are parked in DC consistently over a 30 day period. If you really do live outside DC, you can file for a ROSA exemption. However, this article assumes you are moving to DC.

Parking
In the short term, you probably need a place to park your car. If you don’t have off-street parking where you live, you’ll have the joy of finding a spot on the street. Depending on where you live, this can be challenging. Much of DC is covered by Residential Permit Parking (RPP), which allows residents to purchase a parking permit which allows them to park in a particular zone. Here’s the map, with zones from 1-8. You can ignore the letters after the zone. Important to note that people without permits typically can only park for two hours per zone per day. It doesn’t matter if you move your car. As long as it’s in the same zone, you have a max of two hours total per day. The exceptions are metered spots (as long as you pay), the few spaces that don’t require a permit (some blocks), and after hours (weekends, holidays, and after 8:30pm until 7am the next morning).

You can only get a RPP if your car is registered in DC, for $35 per year (in 2015). What is useful to note is that you can get a visitor parking permit good for up to 15 days from the local police station if you have proof of DC residency, such as a lease. If you’re temporarily staying with someone in DC, they can get a visitor parking permit for you.

Another note about parking – street sweeping. Most streets are swept twice, once on each side, typically on different days. There are signs posted indicating the day of the week and the time window for sweeping; your car must not be parked there during those hours! Parking enforcement shows up in force to ticket violators! Street sweeping is suspended during the winter and holidays, so you don’t have to worry about it then, but don’t get caught when they start up again in the spring!

And another gotcha is Temporary No Parking signs. Residents can get Temporary No Parking signs for things like moving and special events from the city. They have to be put up 24 hours in advance for metered spaces and 72 hours in advance for non-metered spaces. This means that you need to check on your car at least every 3 days to ensure someone hasn’t posted a No Parking/Reserved sign.

Driver’s License, Title, Registration, and Parking Permit 
If you line up all your ducks in a row, you can take care of driver’s license, title, registration, and parking permit all in one trip to the DMV.

Vehicle Insurance
You need to have DC vehicle insurance. I just called my previous company and they set me up. Don’t forget to cancel your old policy when your new policy goes into effect! They should refund you for any premium payments you made for the portion of the policy after your cancellation date.

Vehicle Inspection
You have to take your car to the DC inspection station to have it checked for safety and emissions. It’s good for two years. There is one Vehicle Inspection Station for the city, located in southwest DC. They’re pretty fast, with inspections taking 10-15 minutes, but the lines do get long. I recommend going early on a weekday; it’s best if you can get there before they open. There will be a line of cars waiting. Appointments are possible as well, but those get scheduled further out.

Assuming you pass, you’ll get an inspection sticker on your windshield and a print-out/certificate of your test results. Keep this – the DMV gets it electronically, but it helps to have it in case something goes wrong. Also, there’s also a chance you might move to Virginia or Maryland and I know at least Virginia will honor a DC inspection, as long as it’s within a year and you have the certificate.

Documents
For your driver’s license, there’s a whole laundry list of things you need:

  1. Proof of Identity – typically a passport, birth certificate, or state ID that meets REAL ID standards (star on your drivers license).
  2. Proof of DC Residency (2 required) – Lease and renter’s insurance was fastest for me. Utility bills and bank statements are acceptable as well. They, of course, have to reflect your DC address.
  3. Proof of Social Security Number – typically your Social Security Card
  4. Proof of driving ability – your previous license
  5. Driver’s license application

For title and registration, you need to have:

  1. The title from your previous state. DC DMV will give you a DC title. Don’t lose this! You’ll need it the next time you move! If there is a lien on your car, you have to submit a request for title.
  2. DC driver’s license – the DMV processes the driver’s license first so you have this
  3. Proof of valid odometer statement – your inspection certificate covers this
  4. Proof of vehicle insurance in DC – from your insurance company; the thing you typically keep in the car.
  5. Inspection certificate
  6. Certificate of Title/Registration and Tag application form – new titles/new tags. Select how many years you want to register you car (one or two) and if you want a parking permit.

The DC DMV also has a Document Verification Guide page to help ensure you have all the right documents.

Going to the DMV
There are a number of DMV offices. Go early, before opening if possible. The initial line is for the information desk, where they will give you a number based on what services you need. They will also check to see if you have the right paperwork. Then there’s a waiting room where you wait until your number is called. You will be instructed to go to a specific counter. They accept cash, check, money order, or credit card (VISA or MasterCard only).

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