Here's how to get your parking permit and car registration in Boston.
Buckle up — it's a bit of a mess.
Owning a car in the Boston area definitely has pros and cons — most of the cons revolve around the crud you have to deal with upfront. Here are...
5 Ways to Shorten Your Time at the Mass RMV
So you need to deal with the Massachusetts RMV -- you have our deepest sympathies. The Mass RMV is strategically designed to make wait times as long as possible while maximizing the potential for not getting what you want. If you want a smooth, quick, successful experience, follow these four steps and you may have a chance:
1. Use MassRMVWaitTimes.com
Their tagline is 'Take Your Life Back from the Mass RMV." Sign-up for Massachusetts RMV Wait Time and we'll text or email you when the wait time at your selected registry location is humane. It's your life. Take it back from the RMV.
2. Attack When the Lines Are Shortest
The key to not going insane at the Mass RMV is to minimize the amount of time that you need to be there. There is a crucial resource that the savvy Mass. resident can use to get in and get out quickly: the RMV Branch Locator.
This little tool will actually tell you the estimated wait times at your local Mass RMV branch -- huge. Plug in your address and find the nearest one to you -- if you’re in Boston or Cambridge, most likely it will be either the Boston RMV or the Watertown RMV.
Tuesday is the day to go!
Some awesome dude named Alex Patralia built an app that plugs into the wait time data and has mapped it all out. CHECK IT OUT!
3. Capitalize on the Rare 5-6pm Time Slot
Another nifty trick to know is that the Mass RMV is open from 10am - 6pm on Thursday -- breaking the normal cycle of 9am - 5pm on other weekdays. If you can’t make it between normal business hours (like most humans), aim to capitalize on that “extra” Thursday hour.
Note: Be warned, others do know about this rare opportunity as well, so trying to shoot the gap may lead to the Mass RMV closing before you reach the counter -- only attempt when the Boston RMV or Watertown RMV page indicates wait times that can get you in and out in under an hour.
4. Budget Time for Multiple Lines
It would only make sense that if you were looking to register your car and renew your license that you could wait in one line and get it all done -- luckily, the Mass RMV decided to split that into two completely separate lines to increase your wait time and expand your headache. Awesome!
Remember to check the wait times for both if you’re doing both. Then you can appropriately budget your time.
5. Have All Your Paperwork With You
There are thousands (maybe billions) of untold hours spent waiting at Mass RMV lines, only to be upended because you were “missing” just one document -- “missing” meaning that they should absolutely be able to look it up or have you send it after, but they just don’t do that, so...
Triple-check that you have all your paperwork with you. Here are all the links you’ll need regarding car registration and/or licensing in Massachusetts:
Common Forms to Fill Out
Getting a Boston Parking Permit
When and Where to Go
Already registered in Massachusetts? Then apply for your new Boston parking permit online!
If you need to go in-person, knowing when and where to go is key. We know you don’t want to troll the City of Boston’s website, so we’ve done that for you! Here’s the skinny:
- Office: The Parking Clerk Office
- Location: Boston City Hall, Room 224. Directions to City Hall
- Hours: Monday through Friday, 9am to 4:30pm.
What You’ll Need to Bring
Download and Complete the Resident Parking Permit Application
A valid Massachusetts automobile registration showing your car registered and principally garaged in your name from your current Boston address.
Proof of Residency
One of the following proofs of residency bearing your name and Boston address. Must be current (postmarked or dated within the past 30 days). Bills must have the same name as the vehicle registration.
- Gas, Electric or Telephone Bill
- Cable Television Bill
- Monthly Bank Statement (excluding mortgage)
- Credit Card Bill
- Water and Sewer Bill
- Signed Apartment Lease
- Notarized / Signed Rental Agreement
Know When to Renew
- Every Two Years: In Boston, a Boston parking permit must be renewed every two years.
- New Neighborhood: If you’re moving from one neighborhood to another, a new permit must be obtained to park your vehicle in resident designated spaces in your new neighborhood.
- New Vehicle: If you change vehicles you should remove the permit from your old vehicle and immediately obtain a new permit for your new vehicle.
- New License Plates: If for any reason you receive new license plates for your vehicle, you should immediately obtain a new permit as well.
If you still have some questions feel free to call the Office of the Parking Clerk’s Resident Parking Division at 617-635-4682 with questions on how to apply for a permit or visit their website.
When and Where to Go
- Office: City of Cambridge, Traffic, Parking & Transportation
- Location: 344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
- Monday: 8:30am – 8:00pm
- Tuesday – Thursday: 8:30am – 5:00pm
- Friday: 8:30am – 12pm
What You’ll Need to Bring
You’ll need to fill out a Cambridge Residential Parking Permit Application — you can do so in advance.
To purchase a resident parking permit you must:
- Pay $25 — the fee for the permit.
- Submit proof of residency as a Cambridge resident.
- Have your car registered in your name at your Cambridge address.
- Principally garaged at your Cambridge address.
- Pay all outstanding parking tickets and excise tax.
Note about Visitor Passes: Each residential household can obtain one visitor parking permit good in the area in which they live whether or not that household has a car. To purchase a visitor parking permit, all you’ll need is proof of residency as a Cambridge resident.
For more information, feel free to call (617) 349-4700 or visit Cambridge's Traffic, Parking and Transportation website.
Boston's good for car shares too.
According to Walk Score, if you drive less than 2.5 hours a day, you could save money using a car share as opposed to owning a car.
The annual average cost of owning a car is just under $10,000. Steep.
The average hourly cost of a car share is about $10. Crunch the numbers on your hourage and you might find you can sell your car and save money with a car share at the same time!
Here's a graphic on where to find the most car share locations in Boston as well.