Help me navigate the DC DMV
September 6, 2009 7:55 AM   Subscribe

So after three years of living in Maryland, I'm moving inside the District, help me navigate the DC DMV.

Right now my wife and I each have a MD driver's license, and we have a car titled and registered in my name alone in MD. From reading the DMV website, and an old thread here's what I know:

1)I don't need to pay the excise tax
2)I need to get the car inspected, before I do anything
3)The wait will be long and I will want to kill myself

Here's my questions
1)When do I change my insurance information? If I change it before the day I go to the DMV, won't my current MD insurance lapse and cause me problems?
2)What is the minimum set of documents I can bring?
3)Can this actually be done in a single trip?

Anyone who's done this who could walk me through the process?
posted by Bulgaroktonos to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's been a while, but I'll try to answer some of these. Re: getting the car inspected, I've found if you go early (get there ~6:45-7:00am) on a day that is (a) not a Friday, (b) not at the end of the month, I had no real problems.

The problem with this is, after you go through the inspection, then you have to drive around the corner to the DMV office to change the registration. They don't open until 8:30(?). So there's some time to kill. Bring a book, and go get in line by the front door.

This is NOT a complete list, just what I remember. Definitely want to bring the form, the title, the proof of inspection, and proof of insurance. The insurance has to cover DC; you should call your insurance company to ask about your first question. What I ended up doing was having to call my insurance from the DMV, and having them change my policy to DC, and then they faxed a copy to the DMV person I'd been speaking to. There's probably a smoother way to do this.

That's my experience. Maybe someone that's done it more recently can chime in.
posted by inigo2 at 8:48 AM on September 6, 2009

It was a long time ago but I vaguely remember Geico faxing something to the DMV while I was there, too.

My tip is to try to use the Georgetown branch - it's a smaller office, but the lines are miles better. Just be sure that branch does new registrations. (I idly looked at the website and couldn't tell. Call first.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2009

Inspection is done at the Half Street facility. Check here to see a webcam of how long the line is to get it inspected. Get it done at a time when not a lot of cab drivers will be in line. Here's the DMV website.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:32 AM on September 6, 2009

Best answer: I am neither an auto insurance agent, nor am I a DC DMV employee.

The DC DMV shimmy
1. Gather all appropriate items
  • If you don’t possess the vehicle title, you will need to ask the lien holder to mail the title to DMV. (It must be mailed directly from the lien holder to DMV). Do this as soon as possible to allow for delivery of title within the 30 day grace period for registration. You can check your Out-of-State Title Status online to confirm that DMV has received the title from your lien holder before trekking to DMV.
  • Driver’s License:
  • Registration:
    • Original Title/Certificate of Origin
    • DC Driver License*
    • Proof of Valid Odometer Statement (vehicle inspection document*)
    • DC Vehicle Insurance (Letter of Certification from your insurance agent, see below**)
    • DC Vehicle Inspection (vehicle inspection document*)
    • Lien or lessee contract if applicable
  • Credit Card for fees:
    • $72 registration fee
    • $44 driver’s license fee
    • $32 inspection fee (Charged when you register or renew registration, not at inspection)
    • $26 fee for new title
    • Possible $7 fee if you need to request the title from a lien holder
    • Possible $20 lien recordation fee if your car is financed
    • Possible $10 tags fee, unless it is included in the registration fee
  • Other:
    • Book to read
    • Civility, patience, and basic decency—your understaffed DMV deals with asshats all day
2. Take a deep breath, consult your magic eight ball, sacrifice a chicken or equivalent soy product, light a candle, invoke intervention from your deity of choice, chant, wear your lucky crusty socks that you haven't washed since batting .351 in 1992, or do whatever you need to do to prepare for your DMV experience.

3. Get your vehicle inspected at the Half Street station. Inspection is permitted for vehicles with non-DC tags.
  • Go on a weekday, preferably Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. DC DMV suggests 3-6pm, but you’d be wise to avoid rush hour. Try early morning before the AM rush, or late morning after rush. Don’t go at the end of the month or on days that bracket a holiday. You can just show up or schedule an appointment in advance online.
  • You'll wait in line in your car and will be directed into queues and bays. The actual inspection is quick—10 minutes—during which you can wait inside the station and watch through the windows.
  • Upon passing inspection, you will be given a 1-page inspection document to present during registration and a sticker will be placed on the inside of your windshield. You will not be charged a fee at the inspection station—it will be charged when you register your vehicle.
  • Obviously, if you fail inspection, your sacrificial chicken/soy product wasn’t good enough, or the DMV inspector got a whiff of your lucky socks and failed you in an effort to preserve all that is right and holy. In that case, a Fail sticker will be placed in your windshield, alerting other drivers that you are a loser but have been invited to please play again. You will have 20 days to correct the issue and have your car re-inspected.
4. Go to a DMV service branch to obtain driver's license, registration, title, and tags. If you plan on hitting inspection and registration the same day, the Southwest branch is less than a quarter of a mile from the Half Street inspection station and provides title, registration, and tags services. It opens at 8:15am but most branches have a queue that forms before opening. As others have suggested, grab a book and hop in line. Avoid the lunch rush.

* Note: The vehicle inspection document is obtained when you pass inspection. The DC driver’s license is obtained during the same visit for registration, title, and tags.

** Are you maintaining coverage with your current insurance company? If so, you can notify the company (via internet or phone) of your change of address after moving. The applicable adjustments to your premium will be applied, based on your new location, with no lapse in coverage. The company will assign a new agent to your account based on your new address.

Call your new agent and request a Letter of Certification, listed as an acceptable proof of DC insurance. This letter must be on the insurance company letterhead and verify DC coverage dates, vehicle identification number (VIN), make, year of vehicle and DC address of vehicle. Your new agent will be located near your new address, so you can swing by the office and pick-up the letter. You can opt to have your agent mail the letter to you, if you don't mind waiting a couple days—you have 30 days to register after moving to DC. You can also ask your agent to fax the letter directly to DMV if you have the DMV branch, fax number, and contact person. You may find that having all required documents in-hand when you make the dreaded DMV trip is less stressful since it eliminates the possibility of a misdirected or lost fax.

If you are switching auto insurance providers, contact the new company to discuss your concerns about timing the switch to avoid a lapse in coverage.

posted by skenfrith at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can just show up or schedule an appointment in advance online.

Sometimes the scheduling in advance means something, sometimes it doesn't. You're at the whim of the person at the entrance of the lot directing people. Doesn't hurt to do it, though.
posted by inigo2 at 3:40 PM on September 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone, having it broken down by someone who did it, rather than in hypothetical DMV speak was very helpful. We're moving our stuff this Friday, so hopefully I can get all this done next week.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2009

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