District of Columbia

Title Application

Every application shall contain the owner’s full name, address, Driver’s license number, date of birth, description of vehicle (including make, model, year, type of body, VIN, weight, and whether new or used), odometer statement, date of purchase, and from whom it was purchased.

A certificate of title is valid for the life of the vehicle, as long as the title is held by the owner to whom the title is assigned.

If a certificate of title is lost, stolen, or destroyed, a vehicle owner shall make an application for a duplicate title.

Title Transfer of Ownership

An owner has 4 days after selling a vehicle to execute and deliver an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee.

Titles for Mobile Homes

Mobile home must be titled the same as motor vehicles.

Registration Application

The application shall contain the name of the applicant’s insurance company, the policy number, the applicant’s signature, and other things the DMV may require.

Applicants can request 1- or 2-year registrations.

Applicants must secure the title to a vehicle prior to registering it.

Upon completion of the application, the applicant shall receive 1 registration card and 2 registration plates.

Registration renewal is online only.

There is no period of grace for late registration.

All trailers are to be registered, and the procedures are the same as for other motor vehicles.

Registration for Non-Residents

Non-residents may operate a vehicle in the District for 30 continuous days before registering and can extend that period for an additional 180 days by paying a fee.

Non-residents may also purchase a reciprocity sticker that allows that person to operate a vehicle in the District for 180 days. A non-resident may only purchase 1 such sticker per year.

Military personnel may maintain registration in home state.

Registration Type

Class A: Non-commercial passenger vehicle.

Class B: Commercial vehicle, tractor, and passenger-carrying vehicle for hire having a seating capacity of at least 8 passengers.

Class C: Trailers.

Class D: Motorcycle.

Class E: Motorized Bicycle.

Class F: Historic Motor Vehicle.

Emissions Inspection

Motor vehicles and trailers are required to have emissions tested biennially.  New vehicles that have a certificate of origin, pre-1968 vehicles and zero emission vehicles, are exempt from the emissions test process.

OBD is utilized as part of the state emissions inspection process.

Vehicles that fail inspection will receive a rejection sticker and will be permitted to use the vehicle for 20 days in order to have the necessary repairs made to bring the vehicle into compliance.

Visit the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles for more information on D.C. emissions inspection program.

Safety Inspection

Safety inspections are no longer required for private vehicles but are still required for commercial vehicles.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $26.00

Registration Fee: Below 3,500 lbs: $72.00; 3,500 or above: $115.00 – $155.00


Title Fee: $26.00

Registration Fee: $52.00


Plate Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: $20.00

Driver’s License Fee: $20.00

Title Fee: $26.00

Special Plates: $100.00

Plate Disbursement

License plates shall be disbursed at the time of registration.

All vehicles other than motorcycles and trailers shall have 2 reflectorized license plates, 1 on the front and 1 on the rear of the vehicle.

D.C. registration stickers should be placed on the lower left interior corner of the driver’s side windshield.

The color scheme for license plates is red and blue on white.

Personalized license plates are available for a fee.

Plates and special windshield I.D. cards for disabled drivers are available from the DMV.

Transfer of Plates

A transferor must remove the license plates from the vehicle at the time of transfer, and has 5 days to return them to the DMV.

A registrant who wishes to transfer license plates from 1 vehicle to another must apply for a transfer within 5 days of acquiring the new vehicle.

License plates may not be transferred from 1 owner to another.

Personalized plates may be transferred for a fee, but only to a surviving spouse, from a joint ownership of a vehicle to a sole ownership, and from a sole ownership to a joint ownership.

License plates may be cancelled using the DMV online tag cancellation service. Tags must be returned to the DMV or recycled at the Fort Totten Transfer Station on the first Saturday of the month.

Driver’s License Examination

A driving test, vision test (20/40 visual acuity required), and written knowledge test are required for an initial Driver’s license.

Drivers previously licensed to drive in another jurisdiction may skip the driving test unless they have failed the District’s driving test within 6 months or are at least 75 years of age.

Applicants at least 75 years of age are limited to 3 examinations within a year.

Applicants for a learner’s permit must pass the vision and written tests.

An applicant must have a visual acuity of at least 20/40 in 1 eye, and no worse than 20/70 in the other eye, with or without corrective lenses.

To comply with emissions standards, failing vehicle owners must make at least $951 in repairs before receiving a waiver from emission inspection for 2 years.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

The District has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 16, individuals are eligible for a learner’s permit. During this stage, drivers must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.

  • In this stage, individuals may not drive between the hours of 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and must accumulate at least 50 hours (10 at night) of supervised driving that is certified by a parent or guardian.

After holding the learner’s permit for 6 months, drivers are eligible for an intermediate license.

  • For the first 6 months, intermediate license holders may not carry any passengers (except drivers 21 and older and family members). Thereafter, drivers may transport no more than 2 passengers under 21 (except family members).
  • Intermediate license holders may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m. From September to June, they may not drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights.

At age 18, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license. In the District, all license applicants must hold a learner’s permit for 6 months, regardless of age.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

Each application shall include the applicant’s full name, date of birth, sex, social security number, address, and brief physical description of the applicant.

Applicants for a learner’s permit or driver’s license must display a birth certificate and social security card or other documentary evidence of the date of birth and social security number of the applicant, but an applicant for a renewal license or an applicant with a valid out-of-state license need only show a social security card.

Applicants under the age of 18 must have consent from a parent or guardian.

Each license shall include the licensee’s full name, address, social security number, date of birth, physical description, expiration date, a distinguishing number assigned to the licensee, and a signature of the licensee.

Each license will also contain an imprinted photograph of the licensee, with a profile of the licensee if under 21 years of age, and a frontal photograph if the licensee is 21 years of age.

Driver's License Renewal

Driver’s licenses shall expire on the licensee’s birth date occurring in the 8th year of the license term.

Any subsequent renewals may be renewed for up to an 8-year period ending on the licensee’s birth date.

For every other renewal, an applicant may renew online or by mail if the license holder already holds a DC DMV REAL ID and so long as he or she certifies that he or she meets the visual requirements, and that there has been no change in his or her physical condition.

Licensees who have reached the age of 70 have the following renewal requirements: at age 70 or the nearest renewal date thereafter, the applicant shall complete the eye test and may be required to pass the reaction test, and must show a physician’s certification that the applicant is physically and mentally competent to operate a motor vehicle.

Each person applying for a renewal must pass a vision test.

Types of Driver’s Licenses

Commercial Licenses:

  • Group A: Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 lbs.; where the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs., or is a semitrailer or trailer with 2 or more axles.
  • Group B: Any single vehicle with a GVWR greater than 26,000 lbs. and any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVWR.
  • Group C: Any vehicle that is designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is used in the transportation of materials classified as hazardous in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

Non-Commercial Licenses:

  • Class D: All non-commercial motor vehicles, except those in Class M.
  • Class M: Motorcycles.
  • Class N: Mopeds and motor-driven cycles.

Distracted Driving

The use of a hand-held cell phone and text messaging while driving are prohibited. Drivers with learner’s permits and school bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones of any type while driving. Distracted driving in general, which is defined as inattentive driving while operating a motor vehicle, is prohibited.


No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.

Impaired Driving

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). Utah’s per se limit is 0.05 BAC. All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

Washington, D.C. requires the use of ignition interlocks for impaired driving offenders.

Move Over Law

Law requires drivers vacate the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles making use of audible or visual signals, if it is safe to do so. If not, drivers are required to proceed with due caution, maintaining a safe speed for road conditions, until safely past the authorized emergency vehicle.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers.

The fine for drivers and passengers for not using a seat belt is $50 and two points. The fine for failing to secure a child passenger is $75 and two points or a $25 child restraint safety class for a first offense. A second offense is a $75 fine and $25 child restraint safety class. A third offense is a $125 fine. A fourth and subsequent offense is a $150 fine.

Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense.

Riding in the bed of a pickup truck is prohibited, except for employees on duty.

Child Passenger Safety

Children ages 8 until 16 are required to be restrained in a child restraint or seat belt. Children under age 2 and less than 40 lbs. and 40 in. must be rear-facing.

Children under age 8 are required to be restrained in a child restraint.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

All drivers must stop between 15 and 50 feet of a railroad crossing before safely crossing it, in any of the following circumstances:

A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal gives warning of an approaching train,

A crossing gate is lowered or human flagman gives a signal of an approaching train,

A train approaching within 1,500 feet emits an audible signal and is an immediate hazard, or

An approaching train is plainly visible and in hazardous proximity to the crossing.

School Buses

A driver of any vehicle shall stop the vehicle at least 15 feet from a school bus when its warning light is flashing, unless the vehicle is on the other side of a divided median.

All school buses shall be painted national school bus chrome.

Bumper Height

Modification of original bumper height is permitted.

Headlight Use

Headlights are required to be on when visibility is less than 500 feet. Headlights must be used one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. Headlights must be used when windshield wipers are in use and also in tunnels.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is permitted while driving.

Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted October 15 to March 15.

Glass/Window Tinting

All vehicles other than minivans must have the following light transmittance: the front windshield and the front side windows: 70% light transmittance.

All minivans must have the following light transmittance: the rear windshield and the rear side windows: 50% light transmittance; the front windshield and the front side windows: 55% light transmittance; the rear windshield and the rear side windows: 35% light transmittance; and no tint on the windshield may come down lower than 5 inches from the top.

Video Screens

No television equipment shall be installed in or on any motor vehicle in a location where the reception would be visible to the operator of the vehicle.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are not permitted.

Windshield Stickers

Signs, posters, or other non-transparent materials may not be placed on any window unless authorized by the District.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Motorcycles must have 1 or 2 headlamps; 1 tail lamp and 1 stop lamp; and 1 red rear reflector.

Motorcycle helmets are required for all riders.

Brakes are required on both wheels.

Passengers may not ride on a motorcycle unless there is a seat designed for 2 people, or another seat, along with footrests and handgrips, is firmly attached to the rear or side of the motorcycle.

A helmet is required on each person operating or riding on a motorcycle.

No person shall operate a motorcycle unless he or she wears goggles or a face shield.

Motorcycle Licenses

Applicants for a motorcycle license must fulfill the same requirements as applicants for motor vehicles.

The types of licenses are Class M: Motorcycle; Class N: Moped.

Motorcycle operators are not subject to the minimum insurance liability requirements.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

The maximum noise level for a motorcycle is 83 decibels.

Mopeds & Other

Registration required.

At speeds between 25-35 mph, the headlamp must be visible for 200 feet.

Minimum age to ride a moped is 16. Mopeds must have a headlamp that meets the following requirements: a) at speeds less than 25 mph, the headlamp must be visible for 100 feet; b) at speeds of at least 35 mph, the headlamp must be visible for 300 feet.

The following safety equipment is required: headlight, taillight, stop light, license plate light, ignition lock, horn, brakes, muffler, chain guard, and rearview mirror.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 55 feet (excluding safety equipment and energy conservation devices); trailer and motor home length: 40 feet; width: 8 feet (8 feet 6 inches on certain roads with certain combinations); height: 13 feet 6 inches.

Trailer Brakes

Brakes shall be placed on all wheels, except for trailers not exceeding 3,000 lbs., so long as the total weight on and including the wheels of the trailer does not exceed 40% of the GVW of the towing vehicle, and the combination of vehicles can meet the state stopping requirements.

Each trailer in excess of 3,000 lbs. shall be equipped with brakes acting on all wheels that will be applied automatically and promptly, and remain applied for at least 15 minutes upon breakaway from the towing vehicle.

There shall be a manually controlled device for applying and releasing the brakes that is readily operable by a person seated in the driving seat.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

Any time a vehicle is being towed by use of a hitch, safety chains shall also be used to secure the vehicles.

Trailer Lighting

Trailers have the same headlamp and tail lamp requirements as other motor vehicles.

Each trailer 3,000 lbs. or less must have 2 rear reflectors, and if the towing vehicle’s stop light is obscured, 2 stop lights.

Each trailer or semitrailer exceeding 3,000 lbs. must have 2 front clearance lamps, 2 side marker lamps on each side, 2 rear clearance lamps, 2 reflectors, and 2 stop lights.

Each pole trailer exceeding 3,000 lbs. must have 1 side marker lamp and 1 clearance lamp on each side, and 2 reflectors on the rear.

Trailer Mirrors

Must see 200 feet to rear.

Trailer Speed Limits


Trailer Towing


Trailer Other Provisions

Riding is permitted in towed pickup campers.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be reported when property damage exceeds $250.00.

The deadline to file a report is 5 days.

Liability Laws

Compulsory motor vehicle insurance.

The minimum insurance coverage required is $25,000 for injury to any 1 person, $50,000 for injury to more than 1 person, and $10,000 for personal property damage.

The District has a non-resident service of process law, which allows a person to serve papers against a non-resident with the District for any action that arises out of the non-resident’s use of a vehicle while in the District.