How to Get an Auto Dealer’s License in Rhode Island

December 21, 2023

Team ACV




How to Get an Auto Dealer’s License in Rhode Island

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If you’re looking to open a vehicle dealership in Rhode Island, you’ve come to the right place. The process of getting your dealer license can be tedious, as there are many steps involved. But we’ve compiled a step-by-step list to help you get through the process and start operating your business as soon as possible. 

Steps to Getting Your Dealer License in Rhode Island

1. Choose Which Dealer License You Need 

If you plan to sell four or more vehicles within one year, you need a dealer license. Auto dealer licenses in Rhode Island are issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles, which offers several types depending on which vehicles you intend to sell. The first step is choosing a path for your business so you get authorized for the right type of dealership. The options are: 

  • New vehicles only
  • Used vehicles only 
  • Both new and used vehicles
  • Motorcycles

Regardless of which one you choose, the requirements in the steps that follow are exactly the same.1

2. Register Your Business With the State 

Rhode Island has a handful of required steps you have to complete to establish a business and then apply for your license. The steps may vary depending on the size of your business and how many employees you have, but this is generally what you can expect to do: 

  • Obtain a Retail Sales Permit by submitting a Business Application and Registration through the Department of State. 
  • Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) through the IRS. 
  • Contact the State Department of Revenue to file for a W-4 Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. 
  • Find out whether your city requires a local business permit and obtain one if needed. 

3. Establish a Permanent Business Location 

To begin operating a dealership, you must have a location set up when you apply for your license. This location must meet a handful of criteria to qualify as a viable site for doing business in this industry. Ensure your location has the following characteristics:

  • At least 2,400 square feet of enclosed floor space used exclusively for selling vehicles 
  • At least 2,400 square feet of outdoor space in the lot to display vehicles 
  • A sign that is at least 24 square feet 
  • A working telephone 
  • A letter of approval for the zoning in your town 
  • A service repair area to perform maintenance 
  • A place to display your dealer license2 

4. Secure Pre-Licensing Approval

Before you can get your dealer license, you will also have to complete these extra steps, which may differ from the requirements in many other states:

  • Get the dealership name approved by the RI Dealers’ Licensing and Hearing Board. 
  • Make an appointment with the secretary to finalize approval of your application once an investigator reviews your application. 
  • Get a letter of intent from the manufacturers you wish to sell if you are a franchise dealer. 

5. Get Proof Through a Financial Statement

You must have a financial statement created by a CPA that is signed and notarized. You will also need to get approved for a line of credit of $50,000 in the dealership name.3 

6. Secure an Auto Bond

You will need to get a bond for the value of $50,000. The amount you actually pay will only be a percentage of this total value, based on your personal financial details. 

7. Submit All Paperwork & Fees

In addition to everything outlined above, you will also need to submit: 

  • An employee report that lists all current employees of the business and their driver’s license numbers 
  • BCI Authorization form for each owner 
  • A copy of the formal lease agreement for your location and four pictures of the outside to show the full building and lot 
  • Proof that you have dealer plate insurance coverage
  • Proof of your telephone number

When you compile your application package,, you will need to include a check for the value of $301.50 made out to the Dealers’ License and Regulation Office.

Then, you can submit your dealer license application and all documents to: 

State of Rhode Island 
Division of Motor Vehicles Dealers’ License and Regulation Office 
600 New London Ave. 
Cranston, RI 02920

Once your application is received, it will be investigated, and you’ll get a date for a hearing in front of the Board. 

This is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about dealer licensing requirements, please seek the assistance of legal counsel.

Get the Best Used Car Inventory in Rhode Island From ACV Auctions

Once you’re approved to sell vehicles in Rhode Island, partner with ACV Auctions to propel your business forward. Using our online auctioning platform, you can secure the best used car inventory in Rhode Island and other states. Each of our vehicles is individually inspected by a trusted member of our team, and we include condition reports with each car to prove it. Work with a team you can trust and register with us today


  1. Bryant Surety Bonds. (2022). “How to get a Rhode Island Dealer License” Bryant Surety Bonds. Retrieved December 6, 2023.  
  2. JW Surety Bonds. “Rhode Island Auto Dealer License Guide.” Risk Strategies: JW Surety Bonds. Retrieved December 6, 2023. 
  3. Lance Surety Bonds. (2023). “The Complete Rhode Island Dealer License Guide.” Risk Strategies: Lance Surety Bonds. Retrieved December 6, 2023.