How ofter is my car going to get towed?
November 1, 2009 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I just moved to Northern Virginia for a new job- how likely is it that my car with out of state plates will be ticketed or towed?

The Virginia inspection law seems very onerous, and I've read horror stories of shady towing companies towing cars without inspection stickers from apartment parking lots even with valid parking passes. My car is registered out of state under my Dad's name and currently has a broken right front turn signal, so it certainly won't pass any kind of inspection at present.

I'm currently renting a room in a residential area about 90mins outside of DC and commuting in towards the city on a daily basis. I haven't had any problems yet and don't expect to get towed from the garage under my office building, but I plan on finding an apartment in one of the NoVa suburbs after the new year and I'm more concerned.

Assuming that I fix the turn signal, how likely is it that I will have problems driving my car around on a regular basis with out of state plates? I REALLY don't want to move into the city and walk out for work one morning to find my car towed by some shady towing company, so I'd like to give them a few reasons as possible.
posted by T.D. Strange to Travel & Transportation around Virginia (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like you have 30 days to get VA tags. I couldn't say what the local mores are wrt your car being "suspicious", but the DMV says you have that window of time, at least.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2009

VERY VERY VERY likely. especially in arlington or alexandria.
posted by dmbfan93 at 11:51 AM on November 1, 2009

If you have non-VA tags, you don't need a state inspection sticker. But, as Blazecock Pileon says, you need to get plates within 30 days if you're going to be a VA resident. Out of state plates aren't really noticed at all in most of Virginia, NoVA and Hampton Roads in particular, since there are enough military members living here that can legally keep their non-VA tags.

You can get an inspection sticker before you have VA plates, if you want. I assume in that case if it fails, it's less of a big deal since they might not even put the rejection sticker that gives you 30 days to get it fixed. (And you'd only be out $16.)

Also, I've never heard of being towed for having no inspection sticker, but I suppose some private parking lots might do that. Normally they still would give a warning.

The VA inspection system is pretty much as non-onerous as a yearly inspection system can be. It slightly depends on the inspector, but it's not that big of a deal. (Depending on where in Virginia you are, 90 minutes from DC barely sounds like NoVA, you have to do emissions inspection every 2 years as well, but for a car built 1997 or later, it's just a matter of them checking the computer and gas cap.)
posted by skynxnex at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2009

also, you shouldn't get towed, but ticketed yes. and if you don't rectify the situation after being ticketed, you will get towed, i believe.
posted by dmbfan93 at 11:53 AM on November 1, 2009

In much of Virginia (and especially in Arlington and Alexandria), you also need to have paid your city personal property taxes (cost depends on the value of your car, and what county you're in), and put the city sticker on your windshield (it goes next to your yearly VA inspection).

If you're regularly parking in one of those counties, for more than 30-60 days, even with your out-of-state plates, you're going to eventually get nailed for failing to pay your taxes and show your decal. That is a ticketable offense, and they will ticket you eventually.

By living in Virginia and not registering your car there, you are (illegally, unless you're active duty or full-time student) avoiding paying the state DMV fees and your local personal property taxes. Your new community has a lot of incentive to find you and make you pay your fair share.

Fix your turn signal, make your car safe enough for the road, and get legal.
posted by toxic at 12:45 PM on November 1, 2009

IANAL but there is one exception to the necessity of registering your car within 30 days that I have successfully used in Massachusetts. Even to the point I have dealt with police that have pulled me over.

You are not required to become a resident unless you choose to be or spend more than 6 months during a calender year in the state. Theoretically, you could only be planning on staying for 5 months (regardless of whether you have a job or not) and would be eligible to maintain your old residency for that time. At that point you could decide to stay and become a resident.

I don't know the details of the parking requirements in your area. You might still be required to get a parking permit or some such, but at least theoretically you can not register as a resident because you are not intending to stay.

Also, fix your turn signal immediately. That is a huge red flag for police. You will get a lot more leniency from police if your car has no visible flaws. It doesn't have to look nice, just maintained.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 1:27 PM on November 1, 2009

Data point to reinforce what is written above: when I was moved to DC for grad school, I borrowed my parents' car (licensed in Illinois) for a short while. I parked it overnight on the street once when I was visiting a friend in Alexandria, Virginia. It was ticketed for being parked on the street without a city sticker. The ticket said the fine could not be paid without proof that the car had been relicensed in Virginia and the appropriate city sticker acquired. When I called to ask how to pay the fine without relicensing a car I had no ability or authority to relicense, I was told I could not do so and that my license plate was now flagged and if I received another ticket for parking on the street, the car would be impounded. Despite my showing proof that I was simply visiting when I was parked overnight. It was crazy. It was unlikely you will get away with an improperly licensed car for long in NoVa; they have a high turnover of residents and it seems they make this enforcement a priority.

Conversely, when my parents' car was ticketed for having an expired Cook County, Illinois sticker after it had be retitled in a suburban county, Cook County simply reversed the ticket.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:33 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lived in a large apartment complex in Arlington for 3.5 years and had a Florida tag the whole time. Of course, I was in grad school the whole time I lived there so your experience might be a little different. I did have to register with the county and pay property taxes. But, I never had my car towed or was asked any questions about having a Florida tag on my car.
posted by Nolechick11 at 3:42 PM on November 1, 2009

crush-onastick- could it be that your drivers license showed you as a resident of DC, but your plates were from Illinois?

Because the scenario you relate seems ridiculous- they can't flag a car legally registered in another state for not paying their tax, unless they have some kind of evidence that the car permanently garaged in the city. Unless you were parking in a resident only area. Or, they have some kind of bluff-calling policy: if you truly are a visitor, you'll be gone soon since you live in Illinois, and the ticket simply disappears. But if you aren't, their policy forces you to properly register your car.

Counter-data: I have parked many, many times in Alexandria overnight, with Illinois plates, and never been ticketed.
posted by gjc at 5:32 PM on November 1, 2009

This may be a very random thing, but thought I'd share...

I used to live in Northern VA, so I still have a lot of friends there. I now live in PA. I was visiting a friend recently and as I was pulling out of her residential neighborhood to leave, I was pulled over by a state trooper. He asked about my plates. He assumed because I was leaving a residential area, that I must have lived there and he thought he could nail me on not registering. Long story short, I had to explain to him where I had been visiting and prove to him that I didn't live there. This was way out in the 'burbs past Leesburg, so they definitely pay attention. I would just pay up to avoid the headache.
posted by fresh-rn at 7:04 PM on November 1, 2009

The DC metro area has more out-of-state plates than any place I have ever lived — including mine at the moment. I would suggest you stop worrying but I guess that is not going to happen ("I've read horror stories"…really? On the internet even?)

1. Fix the bloody turn signal. And use it…that alone will set you apart from a good portion of the drivers in the DC metro area and make you less interesting to the police.

2. Purchase the car from your father for $1 and get it registered. If your father is OK with loaning it to you he will sell it for a dollar. Sell it back when you are ready for $2. Profit!

And don't start grousing about a change in insurance rates. If your insurance company gets wind of you not reporting where it is being principally garaged and you make a claim, then you will have trouble, regardless.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:16 PM on November 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can put a car cover on to hide the evidence of your crime, but make sure it's well enough secured that it won't blow off in a strong wind. This is a hassle, but it's cheaper than paying your taxes (and you could still get ticketed while moving, of course).
posted by jewzilla at 9:01 AM on November 2, 2009

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