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Washington D.C. Buying a Vehicle

Home 9 US State 9 Washington D.C. DMV Services 9 Washington D.C. Buying a Vehicle
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Residents of the District of Columbia must title and register new or used vehicles, motorcycles, boats, RVs or trailers. A title requires proof of ownership, such as a signed title transfer from a seller, and a registration requires you to obtain the title before you get the registration and subsequent license plate. The following information will help you to better understand the titling and registration process at the Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DC DMV).

Obtaining a Title and Registration for a Vehicle Bought from a Car Dealership

When you buy a new or used vehicle from a car dealership in the District of Columbia, you will obtain a Certificate of Origin from the dealership. The Certificate of Origin is the legal equivalent of a title until you obtain an actual vehicle title and registration from the DC DMV. You must provide certain documentation to obtain the title.

Required documents include the current title or certificate of origin from the car dealership, a bill of sale and proof of insurance. You also need to provide a proof of valid odometer statement that declares the indicated mileage if it has not exceeded 100,000 miles.

Either a lien contract or a lease contract also might be required if you financed or leased the vehicle for which you are obtaining a title and registration. The vehicle must be insured and you must provide proof of insurance to obtain the registration and a license plate.

Obtaining a Title and Registration for a Vehicle Bought from a Private Party

When you buy a vehicle from a private party, the legal owner needs to sign over the title so that you can obtain a title and registration. The seller must sign the title and include the mileage from the odometer and a bill of sale indicating the selling price. The bill of sale helps the DC DMV to determine the proper tax amount prior to issuing a license plate. You will need to insure the vehicle prior to obtaining the registration and license plate.

Filling Out the Title

You will need the seller to print and sign his or her name on the title when transferring it to you. The title will include the odometer statement to help thwart potential fraud by prior owners or new ones if you sell it after a year or two of ownership. A bill of sale will help the DC DMV to determine the proper tax to charge when you register the vehicle after officially obtaining the title.

Registering the Purchased Vehicle

You must go to a DC DMV service center to register a vehicle. The District of Columbia requires current and valid registrations on all vehicles that are driven, parked or otherwise garaged and stored within its boundaries. If you move to D.C., you have up to 60 days to transfer the registration to the District of Columbia and obtain local license plates.

Submitting Payment

The DC DMV accepts payments via credit card, debit card, personal check, money order or a cashier’s check. You can pay online, in person at a service center or via mail.

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Last Verified:
Sep 13, 2022