From the Forum – Buying a car in DC

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Buying a car in DC

“I am a first time car buyer that lives in the District. Are there any car dealerships in DC proper? Does anyone have any recommendations for reputable car dealerships nearby? ”

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86 Comment

  • i had a really good experience with fitzgerald auto mall in wheaton and gaithersburg – wheaton location is right next to metro.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Ditto. I personally haven’t purchased a car around here, but multiple friends have had good experiences with Fitzgerald Auto Mall.

    • Me three. Have bought two cars from Fitzgerald and would happily buy again.

    • I didn’t purchase a vehicle @ Fitzgerald but took mine there for service for years and was very happy. Convenient to get to without a car as well, it’s right next to White Flint I think.

  • I don’t know of specific car dealerships in DC, but I would first consider what type of car you want. We purchased a mazda from the Browns Alexandria dealership (Anthony was the salesperson) and it was truly a no-BS sale. I would highly recommend them if you are looking for a mazda. There is also a carmax in Maryland, but my experience was that the carmax price was very similar in price to a new car since we were only looking at cars a few years old.

  • I’m in the market, and am wondering whether there is anything I need to know regarding sales tax when living in DC but buying in MD or VA.

    • I can’t remember any specific details about sales tax but I bought my car from a relative on the low thinking I’d pay cheaper tax on it…nope, you pay tax based on the KBB value not the sale price.

      Also, have all of your ducks in a row regarding paperwork before you get there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people get a number and wait for hours only to be told they were missing something. The website is incredibly helpful.

    • If you’re buying from a dealership (at least when buying new, and I’d assume when buying used too), they handle all of the stuff as far as D.C. tax, D.C. title, etc.

      • Correct. You pay for this, but it’s a huge help (compared with actually going to the DMV (although the Ft Totten one has been pretty good.))

        • I’ve found the one at Rhode Island Row to be pretty good too (given you go at the right time…which is the case for most!)

        • I think I paid my dealer $100 for this service when I bought my car 10 years ago .. and figured it well worth it.

      • Agree with textdoc.
        I bought my first car in DC two years ago, and I was totally worried about this (main concern was whether I would be double taxed – state of purchase, then when transferred to DC). I don’t remember how worked out other than was a total non-issue. Any dealer in area will be used to selling to customers in DC and will be able to handle all questions.

      • I bought my car over the summer from Maryland, and the dealer handled everything with the exception of the initial inspection. The only issue I had was that they over-estimated the taxes I would have to pay in DC, but I was issued a refund and it was no big deal. It was a very easy, smooth process, and this was a dealership in Timmonium, and I imagine dealerships closer to DC would handle it even more smoothly. I did not pay an additional charge for this.

    • We recently bought a car from a Dealership in Bethesda, MD (Jim Colman Toyota). The dealership handled all the sales tax and car registration stuff. You just have to do the inspection.

      I will say that if you buy a car with 40 mpg or greater fuel efficiency you are exempt from DC sales tax. We bought a used Prius and saved something like $700 by not having to pay sales tax. If we bought it new we would have gotten a discount (or maybe even free) auto registration.

    • Here’s a link to the fees you should expect when registering a car in the district. Note that the excise (sales) tax is paid to DC only if you haven’t registered the car in your name previously (ie new or new to you car). If you are just moving to the district or happen to buy and register a car in another state before moving here, you pay the sales/excise tax to that state and not again to the district.
      http://dmv.dc.gov/book/vehicle-fees/vehicle-title

  • There are none that I am aware of. Hit the suburbs up and get something that’s small enough to parallel park and cheap enough to get dinged up from people hitting your bumpers trying to parallel park.

  • jim_ed

    The short answer is no, but the long answer is also no. There are still some used car lots left around town, but as an industry they have a very dubious history in DC. Cars are one of those things you’ll need to head to the suburbs for. As far as recommendations, that’s entirely dependent on what type of car you’re looking to buy, new or used, and budget.

    • DC had a few dealers up until not that long ago. Martens VW which was one of the oldest dealers in the area was the last to go. They also sold Volvos. Paul Brothers, which sold GM cars merged into the Chevy Chase dealership in Bethesda. Curtis Chevrolet’s location became the Georgia Ave Wal-Mart. The land was too valuable for all these places, I suspect, and the family owners had no fresh blood to take over. Smaller, family owned dealerships that carry just one or two makes have been dying out for years. Longer ago, there was a Ford dealer near the Aboretum.

    • False. Tesla is downtown.

  • I was told there were no car dealers in the district proper because we have some law saying that only banks can offer financing and most people don’t plunk down cash for cars. this was when i was trying to get a new cell phone, and t-mobile sent me to VA to pick up the actual phone (same thing with financing…)

  • Jack Taylors Toyota in Alexandria.
    Did a ton of researched, shopped all around the area and suburbs before going there. Went in knowing how to negotiate, having already walked away from several extremely pushy dealers. They countered my offer with a significantly LOWER offer, because having the sale and a satisfied customer was important for their books (to be nominated for some award). Stayed late after closing, gave me a great loan rate, free service plan, the works. Unexpectedly great experience. That was 5 years ago.

    • +1

      We still use them for service, always easy to deal with. If you want to shop around, there are a ton of other dealerships if you keep going down Route 1 past Old Town once you get out there.

    • I bought my car (new) from Jack Taylor Alexandria Toyota ten years ago.
      .
      I went via their “Internet dealership” rather than dealing with their in-person salespeople. Not sure if they still have that as an option (and the guy who I dealt with is no longer there).

    • +1. I just purchased a new Toyota from Jacks on Black Friday. They were great to work with and since I’m in the military and a resident of Alaska they did all the paperwork to title it there, saving me over $2k in taxes. Great people to work with who went the extra mile that we didn’t get from other dealerships in MD and VA.

    • +1 we bought ours from there in October 2014 and continue going there for service.

  • No more dealerships in the District proper. The last, a VW dealership in NW, moved out a year or two ago. If you’re buying new, you have to hit the burbs. Vehicle registration from out of state is really pretty easy so it’s no big deal. Just make sure you get it done within 30 days or you risk collecting tickets for ROSA violations.

    As others have asked, what kind of car are you looking for? Do you have off street parking? If not, are you eligible for a Residential Parking Permit? It changes block by block and even house by house so do your homework.

    If you’re parking on the street, definitely recommend the used route and something not too hard to park.

    • Not true, Tesla is downtown.

      • You keep saying that, but I’d guess that someone buying their first car is probably not going to plunk down $70k + on a brand new Tesla. Yes, the dealership is there, but it’s not practical for most normal people’s budget.

  • Well, there is one place you can buy a new car in the District, but it’s not for all budgets:
    https://www.teslamotors.com/findus/location/store/kstreet

  • Tesla on K St. Tesla is a good first car.

  • Has anyone used Costco or Consumer Reports to buy a car?

    • We have used USAA, which I think is a similar service to Costco. (they put out a quote request for local dealerships for the specific make/model you want, and then you just wade through the responses to pick which you want. we played 2 or 3 off one another and got a very good deal.)

      • Interesting… I was trying to do this on my own 10 years ago and got very few responses, but presumably dealerships would be more responsive to USAA, Costco, et al. contacting them on an individual’s behalf than to an individual.

        • jim_ed

          USAA and others just use TrueCar, which anyone can use. Though if you’re planning to finance through USAA they’ll give you an even better rate if you give the dealer the USAA paper work.

          • Interesting. A friend used True Car directly. It was a horrific experience – they gave her contact info to like a dozen dealers who then all called and emailed her incessantly despite her requests for them to stop.

    • Haven’t used Costco but AAA also has a car-buying service where you pick out the car and get the bottom line price up front which you then take to the participating dealer. Free service for AAA members.

    • saf

      I used the car buying service through my credit union. Free and fabulous.

  • Used car dealerships scattered around DC. Check Alexandria suburbs, Arlington, Falls Church. Whatever you do, haggle, because you WILL get the car. However, don’t expect much in service after you sign on the dotted line. I made the mistake of buying a car from Prestige Certified Motors in Falls Church (car runs fine, just needs light tune up) and everything you hear about used car salesmen is true. Except the quintessential creepy salesman in a peak lapel jacket two sizes too big is now a 25 year old Indian kid dripping in shrunken Ed Hardy. You leave feeling sort of used and disgusted with yourself. Yay!

  • I bought my car from Stohlman VW in Tysons Corner, and had a really good experience there. The salesman was nice, knowledgeable, and low pressure. If you’re interested in a VW I recommend them. Tysons is good because they have one of just about every type of dealership, so you can try out lots of different makes. I was able to drive just about every type of hatchback sold in a single day out there. The only bad experience I had was at the Scion dealership, where the salesman was an aggressive jerk.
    .
    Any dealership in the area should be able to handle the DC registration and RPP for you. You’ll get a temp tag from Maryland or Virginia, use your guest RPP for a couple of weeks, and then get permanent DC plates. The taxes all get paid as part of the deal.

    • Now that I’ve thought about it, you should probably take my advice with a grain of salt. It’s been seven years since I bought my car, so the salesmen I dealt with are likely long gone. Time flies.

  • houseintherear

    I replaced my old Honda Fit with a new Honda Fit in the early summer, and had a fairly good experience with Ourisman Honda in Bethesda. I prefer Honda of Bowie but it is absolutely not convenient for public transit, which made me use Ourisman this time. They did haggle but were not rude or demeaning to me as a woman who went alone to buy. I was there for about 4-5 hours in total, an hour for test driving, a couple hours for haggling, leaving, having them call me to come back, etc., then a couple hours to finalize the sale. They also do free oil changes for life, which means you have to wait many hours BUT it’s in the heart of Bethesda with two movie theatres, many restaurants, and a book store right there. They will take care of the financing and paperwork, or you can set up financing with whomever you want before you go (my preference). They have a person whose job it is to deal with the DMV, yay. Taxes will be the same no matter where you pay them. Sometimes you pay the tax at the DMV, like if you buy a used car, or sometimes the dealer takes it. Good luck!

    • I’ll second Ourisman Honda in Bethesda, mainly for the convenience of its location, but their staff is nice too. Their service center opens at 7 am on weekdays, so when we have to get the car serviced its convenient to be able to drop it off in the morning, hop on the Bethesda metro, and get to work at the usual time.

      • And I’ll third Brown’s in Bethesda. If you’re single, or part of a one-car couple, it’s convenient to use a dealership that’s Metro-accessible. (Though of course you’ll want to find a trusty independent mechanic too).

        Make sure to know whether your address qualifies for a Residential Parking Pass, and have the dealer file for that along with the DC registration. My DC plates didn’t come before my temp plates expired. But it was simple to get them extended at my district police station.

        And, Don’t Drive Off That Lot without having arranged your auto insurance!

  • anonymouse_dianne

    My sister recently bought a used car from Car Max. They had a great selection including Honda, Toyota, Chevy and Ford. She went with the Ford. And they take care of taxes and licensing. I think there’s one in Rockville.

  • I bought my car through Chevy Chase Acura in Bethesda. They took care of all the registration related stuff. I drove off the lot with temporary MD tags, they did all the paperwork on DC tags/registration, and I drove back to the dealer a few weeks later to get my plates/stickers.

  • I bought from a Koons dealership. I was opposed to the idea of a behemoth car dealership, but because it was a behemoth the salesman I dealt with was not hungry and therefore not pushy or trying to scam me. I knew what the used cars I was looking at were going for, Koons’ price was very fair, and they threw in some stuff none of the smaller dealers would have (another expensive remote entry key, cosmetic touch-ups).
    Any reasonably-sized dealership will be able to handle getting tags, etc. for you. Know what the fees and tax should be (Koons did try to charge me a higher sales tax rate), but let them do the legwork.

  • Admittedly this is only tangentially related, but does anyone know the story behind Capitol City Auto Sales? I used to walk past it all the time and figured someone would’ve swooped in and developed the property by now, but I do love the sign and the enduring special on Cadillacs.

    • It, the chicken place next door, and the orthodontist two doors down, were all supposed to be part of the Park Morton redevelopment. The last developer has a deal to acquire all of those properties, and they were going to build a large apartment building there. Now there’s a new developer and they’ve decided to build at Bruce Monroe Park instead, so I guess it’ll remain vacant for a while longer.

  • I used Brown’s Mazda in Fairfax and I would highly recommend them. The key is to do as much work up front as possible. On the day I walked into Brown’s, based on research and test drives, I had already picked the car and features I wanted, had already taken that model for a test drive, and knew what a really good price for the car would be. There are a bunch of pricing websites – Kbb.com, cars.com, Edmunds.com, etc. – that will give you an idea for what your car should cost. You can see what a good deal is in your area and use that to negotiate with dealerships.
    If you have a trade in, I recommend taking it to CarMax before selling it to a dealer. CarMax will give you a free quote that is guaranteed for 2 weeks. I used their number to make sure the dealer’s offer wasn’t too low.

    • +1 on taking your trade to CarMax first. I did exactly this even though I had no intention of actually buying a car there (their prices are actually pretty high- I got a certified pre-owned in amazing condition with a three year warranty for $2K less than what they wanted for the same model/year/mileage). The price CarMax gave me on my trade was $1,000 more than the dealership offered and I got them to match it by showing them the written offer.

  • DC1

    Martens VW was probably the last new car dealership within DC. I bought a car from them about 1.5yrs ago before they closed the location. Looking at the paperwork looks like I didn’t pay any taxes? The only additional fee listed is a “License Fee” for $226…. interesting.

    Being that said, the new ownership “Ourisman VW of Bethesda” completely ruined what Martens used to be and their new service department absolutely sucks!

    I would recommend Stohlman VW out Tysons hands down!

  • Somewhat tangential, but…
    .
    If you’re purchasing a new car, I would consider getting one of those “Bumper Badger”/”Bumper Blocker”-type things. At the time I bought my car, I had a reserved parking space at home and parked in a parking lot at work. Then circumstances changed and I had to park on the street all the time. It’s amazing how many people can’t parallel park properly and will scrape your bumper in the process.

  • I recommend the Toyota Dealership in Alexandria. Good experience and they can do DC tags, inspection etc. Hassle free plus Toyota so reliable and good resale.

  • Avoid Lindsey Ford of Wheaton. I got my last two cars there and have learned my lesson. To start, I have encountered multiple staff there who are disparaging toward women. Literally they showed me where the mirror was for my lipstick when I was asking about the navigation system…

    Also they claim to have a pick up and drop off system for within 10 miles of the dealership. I had to bring the car in for a recall and tried to use that system. They acted like I was asking for something ridiculous, at which point I mentioned that it is on their website. They then told me that while they offer the service, the don’t have the staff to make it work. I asked them if they had ever seen a hot dog stand that didn’t sell hot dogs…they didn’t really get it.

    ANYWHERE BUT LINDSEY

    • I’ll second the bad review of Lindsey. I’m a guy so I can’t speak toward any poor attitude toward women, but I can speak toward their poor post-sales performance. Getting them to get my title paperwork done before the temp tags expired proved to be a serious hassle; I had to get Ford corporate involved in a repair issue when they kept insisting that there was no problem with my transmission, even though I could replicate it on nearly every drive; and they admitted at one point that their service staff knew very little about in-car entertainment systems (ours malfunctioned under warranty). I probably wouldn’t buy a Ford again anyway, but if I did I’d definitely go somewhere else.

    • I was actually going to recommend Lindsey – I got my car there based on referral from three people in my office and they were great. I went to Lindsey Lexus, though, so maybe better service for “luxury” makes?
      .
      If you are looking for a Lexus, I highly recommend Jack Blush at Lindsey.

  • Also if you buy a car in dc (used or new) that gets 40 mpg city EPA rated or higher you DO NOT pay sales tax. Great deal.

  • 39 comments and no “Fooords, Hondas, Chevys, Beamers”? You’re letting me down, DC!

  • Bought two cars from Alexandria Hyundai using TrueCar to negotiate price, and the experience couldn’t have been easier. In and out, including test drive, trade-in and financing, in under 90 minutes in both cases. Very happy with both vehicles–an Elantra and a Sonata–too.

  • At Easterns Motors, yo job’s yo credit. I’d start there.

  • Buy your car in Maryland. You’ll pay between $200 – 300 for them to complete the paperwork (document fee) to have your car registered. It’s capped at $300 in Maryland. If you go to Virginia the fee is $500 – 700. You can get the car for the same price in both places.

    • I have bought several cars in Virginia and the fee was not that high. If anything it is a dealer issue and not with the state. As with anything, you can negotiate.

  • I had a great experience at Honda of Tyson’s Corner. Right off the metro, no BS (and I went in as a fairly young single woman, and they did not jerk me around at all). I’d absolutely buy from them again.

  • Good experiences at both Jack Taylor Toyota and Carmax Rockville.

  • i had a really good experience at DARCARS Volkswagen in silver spring last winter. i had been shopping around a few dealerships in alexandria area and ultimately decided on leasing a VW bc they were running a pretty great national offer. knew i shouldn’t go with the first dealership i spoke to, and after calling around, DARCARS was the only place willing to negotiate with me over the phone (i am lazy but i also didn’t have a car at the time so getting to the dealerships was difficult). not only that, but they beat the national offer by 15%, didn’t make me feel pressured at all, and to top it all off, on the day i was supposed to go into the dealership to pick up the car, we were due to have our first snow storm of last winter. i was nervous (from the south, don’t drive in snow) and they promised to have me in/out before the snow hit. true to their word, they pushed me to the top of the list with the finance department and i made it home as the first flakes were falling.

    my total interaction with them was all of an hour on the phone and maybe 2 hours at the dealership to go through all the paperwork, but i can’t speak highly enough of my experience.

  • Don’t bother with used dealerships. Buy privately. What you save in convenience is really not worth it. Unless you get paid $500 per hour.

    • If you do buy private, either make them get it inspected or yourself (not at DC inspection) but a good mechanic and indicate that it is contingent on a through inspection.

  • You might not believe this but the new Costco sells cars at a huge discount. Because they negotiate with the dealers for a volume discount the prices are really reasonable. You should check them out.

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