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Washington D.C. (District of Columbia) License Plate Search

If you live in Washington D.C., you must get license plates issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

You can choose your license plates and can look up available plate numbers in Washington D.C.

Sample Washington D.C. License Plate

Sample Washington D.C. License Plate

Applying for License Plates in Washington D.C.

Applying for license plates in Washington D.C. requires you to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (D.C. DMV).

You must register your vehicle in order to receive a license plate and corresponding decals (one for the month and one for the year). These decals determine the expiration of your license plates.

You’ll need temporary tags for your vehicle if:

  • You just bought a new or used vehicle
  • You just moved to D.C. with your vehicle

To receive the temporary tags for your vehicle, you must pay $13 as well as any taxes, registration fees, titling fees, and any other fees. These tags are valid for 45 days.

Note: If you buy a vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will provide you with a temporary plate and assist with the registration of your vehicle. After they are finished, you can return home and wait for your plates to arrive in the mail.

Requirements for License Plates in Washington D.C.

If you bought a new vehicle or you’re a new resident in Washington D.C., you must register your vehicle at the D.C. DMV.

To obtain your license plates, you’ll need:

  • Valid ID
  • Car inspection (i.e., emissions, odometer check)
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Title
  • Payment for fees

The payment for your vehicle’s registration will vary with the vehicle type, size, and license plates.

Customized License Plates for Washington D.C.

In addition to the standard license plates that you can receive, there are also various customized plates. Applying for these plates may require proof of membership to particular organizations or clubs. If eligible, you must pay any additional fees on top of your registration fees before you can receive these custom Washington D.C. license plates.

The following are examples of the plates you can register:

  • Children First Foundation License Plate
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity License Plate
  • Military Veterans License Plate
  • Washington D.C. Historical License Plate
  • Anacostia River License Plate
  • Taxation Without Representation License Plate
  • Washington Nationals License Plate

Some of these organizational plates require $100 to order. A portion of this money goes toward helping and sponsoring these organizations and charities.

Personalized License Plates in Washington D.C.

If you want to have a one-of-a-kind license plate, you can get a personalized license plate. They cost $100, not including the registration fees or additional fees.

To create a personalized plate, you must follow these guidelines:

  1. Use letters, spaces, or numbers
    1. Up to 7 for standard license plates
    2. Up to 5 for motorcycle and disability license plates
  2. Do not use profanity or indecent language
  3. Cannot register a plate number already in circulation

You can look up available license plates in Washington D.C. online

Transferring License Plates in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C.’s DMV allows you to transfer your license plates to a new vehicle. You can apply for a transfer in person, and you’ll require the following:

  • Registration of previous and current vehicles
  • New vehicle title
  • Certificate verifying that vehicle has been inspected
  • Valid D.C. driver’s license
  • Proof of insurance
  • Payment of transfer fee: $7

Note: You are not permitted to transfer your standard plates to a new owneryou have to surrender them.

Surrendering License Plates in Washington D.C.

You are required to cancel and surrender your plates if you:

  • Move outside the D.C. area
  • Cancel your vehicle’s insurance
  • Do not transfer license plates after trading, donating, or selling a vehicle

Under these situations, you must immediately cancel your plates with the D.C. DMV by mail or online.

Once you have submitted your notification to cancel and have received a cancellation receipt, you are permitted to cancel your vehicle’s insurance.

Any fees remaining from the amount paid for registration will be refunded to you if there is more than 6 months left.

Note: It can take up to 8 weeks to process and receive your refund, which will be sent to you by mail.

Stolen or Missing Plates in Washington D.C.

Lost or stolen license plates must be replaced immediately. In Washington D.C., you are required to report to the police if your plates are lost or stolen. When you do, they’ll provide you with a Customer Complaint Number (CCN)—bring this with you to the D.C. DMV.

Applying for new plates requires you to visit the D.C. DMV in person. You’ll have to provide the following:

  • Remaining license plates
  • Valid photo ID (i.e., passport or driver’s license)
  • Police-issued CCN
  • Vehicle registration
  • Payment for replacement fee: $10

For the replacement fee, you are able to pay with cash, credit card, check, or money order.

Summary of Costs for License Plates in Washington D.C.

The following are just some of the costs and fees associated with registering a vehicle and obtaining license plates in Washington D.C.:

  • Vehicles up to 3,499 lbs: $72
  • Vehicles between 3,500 and 4,999 lbs: $115
  • Vehicles over 5,000 lbs: $155
  • Hybrid/electric/clean-fuel vehicles: $36
  • Motorcycles: $52
  • Transfer Fee: $7
  • 45-day temporary registration: $13
  • License Plate replacement: $10
  • Renewal Fees:
    • Vehicles up to 3,499 lbs: $72
    • Vehicles between 3,500 and 4,999 lbs: $115
    • Vehicles over 5,000 lbs: $155
    • Motorcycles: $52

For renewals, you can pay online using a credit card, or send check or money orders by mail.

Looking Up License Plates in Washington D.C.

Wondering whether the car you’re about to buy is stolen? Not sure if the license number you want is available?

You can look up these answers using FindByPlate, a free search engine with access to important information on vehicle ownership, history, and more.