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Moving to Virginia with a Car

As with my previous article on moving to Washington DC with a car, here are my notes on moving to Virginia with a car. Virginia actually requires more stuff than DC, annoyingly.

I moved to northern Virginia, specifically Arlington, and my impression is that the police around here are also very interested in making sure you register you car within 30 days. They also have patrols to look for out-of-state vehicles.

If your car was purchased within the last 12 months, you’ll need to pay a one-time Virginia sales/use tax (something like 4.05%). Also, in many localities (cities/counties), you need to pay Personal Property Tax annually that’s based on the value of the car; I paid $33 for a 15 year old car.

Driver’s License, Title, and Registration
If you line up all your ducks in a row, you can take care of driver’s license, title, and registration all in one trip to the DMV. There’s a separate thing for paying Personal Property Tax and getting a parking permit (optional), but that’s locality (city/county) based and can be done online.

Vehicle Insurance
You need to have Virginia 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
In Virginia there are two inspections you need to have done:

  1. An emissions inspection every two years is required for registration in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, or Stafford, or in the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, or Manassas Park. If you were inspected within the last twelve months and have the certificate from one of the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, you don’t need to be inspected for a year.
  2. An annual safety inspection is required by the state police; you get a decal that goes on the middle of the bottom of your windshield. If you fail, you get a rejection sticker and have to get the problems resolved and reinspected with 15 days.

Unlike DC, the inspection facilities are not run by the government and are typically privately run garages. I did the Yelp thing and looked for a place with good reviews. I ended up with Community Car Care in Alexandria, which is decent.

When you pass emissions, you get 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. And your next state might accept it.

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

  1. Proof of Identity (2 required) – typically a passport, birth certificate, and/or out-of-state ID.
  2. Proof of Virginia Residency – Lease was fastest for me. Renter’ insurance, utility bills and bank statements are acceptable as well. They, of course, have to reflect your Virginia address.
  3. Proof of Legal Presence – typically the same documents as proof of identity, but has to show you have a legal right to be in the US.
  4. Proof of Social Security Number – typically your Social Security Card
  5. Proof of driving ability – your previous license
  6. Driver’s license application

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

For title and registration, you need to have:

  1. The title from your previous state or registration card from your previous state. Virginia DMV will give you a VA title. Don’t lose this! You’ll need it the next time you move!
  2. Proof of address – same as the proof of Virginia residency you used for your driver’s license.
  3. Proof of purchase price – only needed if you purchased your car in the last 12 months. This is to collect sales tax on your car. Otherwise, you’ll be asked to sign a statement that you purchased your car over a year ago.
  4. Inspection certificate – needed if you’re using your out-of-state inspection that was done within the last 12 months. I lost mine, so I had to go get an inspection done. The DMV will temporarily register your car for 30 days while you get that done, and then you need to reregister. Fortunately, this can be done online.
  5. Application for Title and Registration – new titles/new tags. Select how many years you want to register your car (one or two). It will ask if you want an electronically recorded title. This is good if you plan to stay in Virginia long term, but if you expect you might be moving, get a paper title so you don’t have to request one when you move.

I don’t believe that they asked for proof of vehicle insurance when I was at the DMV, but you are required to have it and on the registration form you do have to certify that you have sufficient insurance.

Going to the DMV
There are a number of DMV offices. Go early, before opening if possible and preferable on a weekday. Also note that while most offices are open on Saturday, they’re only open from 8am to noon. 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 major debit/credit card.

Personal Property Tax and Parking Permit
As I mentioned above, many localities require you to pay personal property tax on your car annually. Many of them, like Arlington, handle this online. You get a decal that goes on your windshield that local police look for. They also handle parking permits, if required in your area and you have to park on the street.

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