moving to DC with a car {how-to}

okay, so it would be a lot easier to be in this city without a car – between metro and buses and most things being walkable, i could so happily part ways with my little honda. but, my job is in northern virginia, so i have to have a car – lucky me, i get the reverse commute, so my drive will always be against traffic. huzzah!

that being said, i had some serious stress dreams about moving to a new city with a car. the top things that freaked me out?

1. vehicle inspection. thanks to my last car, i am CONSTANTLY paranoid about inspections (though, that car always passed inspection…not so sure it always should have!). Virginia does a safety inspection, DC does an emissions inspection, and i had no idea what that meant.

2. insurance! AUGH. it would be more expensive, and that scared me.

3. parking. just. it terrifies me? i hate parallel parking, i sort of assumed that there would never be a place to park, and getting towed is not a thing i ever want to experience.

tuesday (before the holiday, because y’all, let’s be grown-ups and get things done), i got up early (6:15, ew) and got myself together and set off on My Great Vehicle Adventure. and i figured…nowhere on the internet did i find useful information on moving a vehicle to DC. so, i’m making it happen. in order, with your vehicle-from-elsewhere, here’s what to do – and expect!

insurance

the first thing i did was set my insurance up to transfer to a new agent (from one in Charlottesville to one in DC – i just called my then-agent, said “i’m moving”, they sent me a list of possible agents here, and i picked the one closest to me). the new agent then called with my estimate – solidly twice what i paid in Charlottesville, but also what i was expecting. they set my insurance up to be valid the day i moved here, and sent me proof of insurance.

vehicle inspection

in DC, it’s just an emissions inspection – in layman’s terms, DC wants to be sure your car is not polluting too much. this is going to be a hysterical moment when you pull up to the DC inspection station (there is, as far as i can tell, just one. which i find ludicrous) – pro-tip: don’t turn on K Street, go down I Street, because you will have to wait in a line of cars that wraps down Half Street (this goes between K and I) and around I Street, and it’s just easier to plan to approach from I Street.

blue dot is me, red dot is where i needed to be. heck of a line, y'all.

blue dot is me, red dot is where i needed to be. heck of a line, y’all.

i waited in that line for about ten minutes (SO MANY EMISSIONS, RIGHT??), then was ushered into the waiting-for-a-garage-lane line, which is four lines all aiming at the garage (which has 4 lanes for non-appointment-making people, and 4 lanes for appointment-making people. and if you make an appointment, it’s a different entrance, i assume – i made one, but it was for July 11, and when i spoke to the DMV, the woman i spoke with told me to just show up early, and i’d be fine. which i was).

waiting. a lot of waiting. and drinking really strong iced coffee, which gave me the shakes

waiting. a lot of waiting. and drinking really strong iced coffee, which gave me the shakes

 

i waited for maybe 15 minutes in that 4-lane line, then a very nice mechanic took my car (after i was waved into a garage lane), i went to a waiting room and watched my car get inspected. this took 15 minutes, tops. the guy drove my car out, handed me my “passed” paper, slapped a sticker on the windshield, and i was off.

one car in front of me: very close to inspection

one car in front of me: very close to inspection

the DMV

first off. my GPS sent me on the one route i didn’t want to take to the DMV – through downtown DC. THANKS. that was terrifying and i thought i might take out a tourist. there are a lot of DMV locations in DC – i picked the one that was less than a mile from my place (off Rhode Island SE). parking was limited – metered parking, but i took a chance and paid for two hours, and i was good to go. i got there at 8:13, and they opened at 8:15, and good lord, the line wrapped around the building completely. it moved quickly – i was probably in line for about ten minutes before i got my number. then i waited for maybe 20 minutes. i was getting a DC drivers’ license (and turning over my VA license), registering my car, and getting parking permits. all in one fell swoop. here’s what i needed to have in hand (and did, because i was on my a-game)

  • old license
  • birth certificate (i had my “birth registration card”, which was fine) – i was also told by one person that i needed this and my passport, so i had both, but only needed to show this card as part of getting my license
  • SSN card
  • vehicle title
  • proof of insurance for your car in DC
  • two applications: one for license, one regarding title/tags (which they gave me when i got my number)
i sat next to a very nice man who needed to replace his DL, and we made fake bets about who would get called first. i won.

i sat next to a very nice man who needed to replace his DL, and we made fake bets about who would get called first. i won.

this went pretty smoothly. you have to take a vision test, and i swear to you the machine i used was wonky, because it took three tries to get it to show all the numbers i had to read. the guy clearly thought i was hiding my glass eye or something. IT WAS JUST A WONKY MACHINE, I’M NOT BLIND. the license cost $44 (what. the. eff.), and i paid for that first (and popped over to the next counter for a hot second to get the least flattering photograph i’ve ever seen taken, and my license printed), while he entered my title information. the DMV website told me i would pay $388 per year for parking. i paid $275 for two years of registration, inspection, and parking, so i have no idea where $388 came from.

the hardest part of this whole process was getting the license plates off my car – my landlord had to help, because one bolt was really not budging, and i was starting to look like a criminal who stole license plates but also really sucked at her line of crime.

anyhow. all in all, it took about two and a half hours (including driving to the inspection station from my house, to the DMV from the inspection station, and from the DMV to my house). not as terrible as i expected. if you move here, and you have a car, just be prepared for waiting a bit in some places, come with everything you need to prove you’re you, and that the car is yours, and it should go relatively smoothly.

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