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.
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:
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.
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:
The payment for your vehicle’s registration will vary with the vehicle type, size, and license plates.
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:
Some of these organizational plates require $100 to order. A portion of this money goes toward helping and sponsoring these organizations and charities.
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:
You can look up available license plates in Washington D.C. online
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:
Note: You are not permitted to transfer your standard plates to a new owner—you have to surrender them.
You are required to cancel and surrender your plates if you:
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.
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:
For the replacement fee, you are able to pay with cash, credit card, check, or money order.
The following are just some of the costs and fees associated with registering a vehicle and obtaining license plates in Washington D.C.:
For renewals, you can pay online using a credit card, or send check or money orders by mail.
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.