State Regulations in Washington DC

Buying & Selling a Car in Washington, D.C.

When you are getting ready to buy or sell a car, be it new or used, it might seem like there are more questions than answers. If you take the time to do your research and base your decisions on facts rather than impulse, then you should be in good shape to find the right car for you.

Depending on whether you're buying or selling a vehicle, along with the asking price, you'll generally need to think about:

  • Sales, use, and property taxes, if applicable.
  • Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration and titling fees.
  • Canceling or purchasing a car insurance policy.
  • Getting a vehicle inspection/emissions test.

There are many places to go to find consumer information about car purchases. The Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) has available a free, online Consumer Action Handbook. This guide has a large, detailed section about buying a new or used car.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has useful information about buying a used car.

You can look up the value of a used car on the Kelley Blue Book website. The site also offers a payment calculator and information on financing and insurance.

Consider buying a vehicle history report for any used car you've got your eye on or for the vehicle you are selling. As a buyer, a vehicle history report/VIN check can give you valuable insights to a vehicle's accident and damage history. As a seller, a VIN check can better prepare you to answer questions that your potential buyer may have.

If you have any questions regarding your specific circumstances or about your particular vehicle, please contact the Washington, D.C. DMV.

Steps for the Buyer in Washington, D.C.

If you buy a new car from a licensed auto dealership, normally the dealer will process the title and registration paperwork for you. If you're buying a used car from a private seller, this process is generally your responsibility.

In the District of Columbia, these are the basic steps that you must follow when buying a car:

  1. Transfer the title.
  2. Have the vehicle inspected.
  3. Get it registered.
  4. Find a car insurance policy.

If the car does not have valid plates, then you'll have to get temporary plates valid for 45 days so you can drive to the inspection station.

D.C. Protections for the Seller

If you are an individual automobile owner and you sell your used car to a private party, you must sign the title over to the new owner. Then you should surrender your tags in person to the Washington, D.C. DMV and receive a receipt.

Be sure to keep this receipt for your records. You will be held responsible for any further infractions that involve those tags if you do not surrender them to the Washington, D.C. DMV and retain the proof that you have relinquished them.

Paperwork Required for a Sale

You do not have to produce the registration at the time of the sale. However, doing so may facilitate the sale by showing the buyer that you've kept up the vehicle's paperwork and there are no back-fees owed to the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

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