How to Go About Parking in DC
Visitors and future residents of DC alike often ask questions about parking in the city. Parking in the District can be inconvenient at best and expensive at worst if one doesn’t do their research and come up with a plan ahead of time.
In this guide, we want to walk our future neighbors and guests through how to find free, affordable, or convenient parking in the city with a little bit of pre-planning.
Know the Parking Rules in DC
First, it’s important to go over some of the ground rules for parking in the city. The Metro Police Department will ticket those who violate parking restrictions, so parking in restricted areas without a permit is a great way to spend way more than you intended on your trip.
Residential Permit Parking
The Residential Permit Parking Program is a joint effort by the Department of Transportation, Public Works, and Motor Vehicles. The goal of the program is to ensure DC residents can find street parking on their own blocks during critical times, and it covers over 41,000 of the district’s neighborhoods.
Check out this interactive map to find out which neighborhoods are part of the program.
Usually, parking in these areas is limited to two hours during the daytime on weekdays by non-permit holders, but you should read the signage in these areas for specific details.
Metered Street Parking
There are tens of thousands of metered street parking spots across the District. Be careful not to stay past the time you paid for though. While you might be able to get away with running out the meter for a while in other cities, you’ll almost certainly get a ticket here in DC.
With over 60 million in revenue from parking violations last year, you can imagine that parking enforcement is vigilant in the city – and it will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.
All metered parking in DC costs $2.30 an hour as of October 2018.
Registration of Out of State Vehicles (ROSA)
The Department of Public Works requires those operating a vehicle in public spaces for over 30 days to register their vehicle in DC and display a valid inspection sticker and tags. If you visit DC frequently for longer than 30 days, you can apply for the ROSA exemption. For more information about ROSA exemptions and how to apply, click here.
It is worth noting that a ROSA exemption is not a parking permit or visitor parking pass, and you will still be subject to DC parking regulations and fines.
DC Parking for Visitors and Residents
If you are planning a trip to DC or are moving here in the near future, here is everything you need to know about finding a place to park.
Those visiting the city temporarily and wanting to see all the popular sites will want to find affordable, convenient, or even free places to park. Here are a few tips for parking to help you save time and money on your trip.
Use Public Transportation
The best option for short-term visitors is not to drive or park at all. DC has one of the nation’s most robust public transportation systems. Visitors who choose to take advantage of the Metro and Metrobus should start by getting a SmarTrip®️ Card by visiting WMATA’s website.
You can purchase your card in advance and receive it by mail, or you can buy one at any Metro station. For more information about using the Metro, be sure to check out our DC Public Transportation Guide.
If you are driving to DC but want to travel by Metro while you’re here, consider parking in a residential area in Bethesda or another area outside the city with a Metro station. The Metro stations themselves may also have available parking, but because many commuters park there daily, you will want to get their early in the morning.
Get a Visitor’s Parking Pass
If you are visiting a friend or relative in one of DC’s residential neighborhoods, they can get you a visitor’s parking pass. This pass will allow you to park for more than two hours in RPP-zoned blocks. Click here for more information about how to apply for a VPP.
Use Parking Garages
There are several parking garages throughout the city where you can pay for parking. These garages can fill up or become very expensive when popular events are going on in the area.
Use Popular Parking Apps
Several parking apps help DC drivers find the most affordable parking near the sites or areas they want to visit. Just to name a few, SpotHero, LazParking, and Colonial Parking are some popular options. These apps allow you to find and reserve parking spaces all over the city.
Park at Your Hotel
If you are staying in a hotel, ask if they provide parking. Many of the area’s hotels offer to park for a fee that is substantially less than local garages or feeding several meters throughout the day. Once you are parked at the hotel, you can walk, ride the Metro, or take advantage of Capital Bikeshare to get around.
New residents will likely use all the options above for daily errands and activities, but will also need a long-term parking solution.
DC Apartment Parking
If you are planning to live in a DC Apartment, be sure to find a community that offers a parking space. Many communities offer a reserved parking space for a monthly or annual fee.
If you are moving to a house in a residential neighborhood that participates in the RPP Program, you will get a Residential Parking Permit from the DMV when you register your vehicle.
Rented Parking Spaces
There are many properties throughout the city that will rent parking spaces for a monthly fee. This should be a last resort, as these spots are often expensive and not as convenient as residential or apartment parking.
Don’t Drive at All
Like we mentioned in the visitor’s segment, DC has a vast public transportation system. Many of DC’s neighborhoods are incredibly walkable, and the Metro allows for affordable and convenient travel. Check out our neighborhood guides to find your new home in one of DC’s most convenient neighborhoods – with or without a vehicle.