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Please visit our section on renewing registration if this isn’t the vehicle’s first registration with you as the owner.
First-time registration occurs when you:
- Purchase a new or used vehicle
- Transfer vehicle ownership
- Move to DC
If you’re new to DC, you have 30 days to both title and register your vehicle. There is no time restriction if you’re not new to DC.
When you register your vehicle, you must show proof of having an insurance policy that meets minimum liability coverage requirements, including uninsured coverage. If you don’t yet have a policy, or aren’t pleased with the one you have, head over to our Insurance Center to compare affordable rates.
As is the case with titling, your dealer will handle the registration paperwork for you.
If you purchased the vehicle from a private seller, you must handle the paperwork yourself, and you’ll notice much of it is similar to the paperwork and other documents you needed when you titled the vehicle.
- Locate the vehicle’s title (or Certificate of Origin) and make sure it reflects:
- The correct odometer reading. (If there’s no space on the back of the title for the odometer reading, you must submit alternative proof.)
- The correct purchase price. (If for some reason you’re registering a new vehicle you purchased at a dealership, you must submit the dealer’s Bill of Sale.)
- Make sure your insurance policy meets the required standards.
- If the vehicle is used and doesn’t already have a valid inspection sticker, have your vehicle inspected and obtain proof it passed the inspection. (Don’t worry about this if the vehicle is new from a dealer; the Certificate of Origin will suffice.)
- If applicable, locate your lien contract.
- If applicable, locate your lessee contract.
NOTE: You must also show your valid driver’s license or state-issued ID card.
Check into obtaining a Vehicle History Report if you haven’t yet sealed the deal on the vehicle you want. You won’t need this document to register the vehicle, but it will provide you with valuable information about the vehicle’s past.
The cost to register your vehicle, including purchasing tags, will depend on a variety of factors. Check DC’s fee chart for an exact amount.
You may pay a higher total amount of registration-related fees the first time around because you’re also dealing with titling-related fees, including excise taxes and the fees to record certain information, as well as any extra inspection fees if you’re late, you need an extension, or your vehicle doesn’t pass the first time.
The best way to calculate your exact first-time registration fees is to consult DC’s fee chart.
Additional fees may present themselves in the form of fees for special license plates, fees to record certain information, and fees to order duplicates when your registration information or tags become lost, stolen, or damaged.
You can register your vehicle in person at your nearest DMV service location.
Before you can register it, you must you’re your vehicle inspected for safety and acceptable pollutant levels. The only exceptions are:
- Brand new vehicles from dealerships.
- Pre-owned vehicles that already have valid inspection stickers.
Be sure to check the state’s vehicle inspection fee chart to determine how much your inspection will cost, and keep in mind you must already have tags on your vehicle before you can have it inspected. See below for more information.
The DMV allows you to transfer your old DC tags, if you have them, to your new vehicle. These can be tags from another state, too.
If you don’t have tags, you can request 45-day temporary tags for the purpose of getting the vehicle inspected.
If your tags are expired, you can apply for a five-day extension on registration (this will also allow you some time to get the vehicle inspected). To apply for a five-day extension, simply visit your DMV service location with the old registration, your driver’s license or state-issued ID card, and proof of insurance.
Otherwise, you’ll receive new tags in the mail after you register the vehicle. Remember, you can always order special tags that reflect your organization, your vehicle’s antique status, and your personality, and you can even border your tags with creative frames.
When you receive your tags and stickers, please follow the enclosed instructions for affixing the stickers, or contact your DMV service location.
Chapter 22 of the IRS’s Publication 17 states you may be eligible for a tax deduction if you paid a sales tax on your vehicle. You’ll need a receipt, and there are conditions regarding the amount of sales tax you paid, so it’s best to consult a tax attorney for exact details.
You can legally operate your vehicle now that it’s registered, but make sure you’re prepared for emergencies and safety issues.
Aside from keeping youngsters safe in approved child safety seats and only using a hands-free headset for necessary calls, there are several precautions you can take to keep yourself and your passengers safe and your vehicle operating smoothly.
For example, enrolling in a road-side assistance program will help get you and your vehicle moving again if your car emergency kit isn’t enough, and an after-market auto warranty and an experienced auto mechanic can both help make sure you have the coverage and skills it takes to repair your vehicle.Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks