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In the state of Washington, all drivers must register their vehicles within 15 days of purchasing or becoming a residence. Failure to do so leads to additional fees and charges.

You can register your vehicle at any of the local offices, either in person or by mail.

Sample Washington License Plate

Applying for License Plates in Washington

You must apply for a license plate if:

  1. You have purchased a new vehicle
  2. You are a new resident to Washington

You must register your vehicle with the Department of Licensing which can be completed in person or by mail. To apply, please bring the following:

  • Bill of sale
  • Vehicle title
  • Emissions certification
  • Odometer statement
  • Payment for registration fees

After you have successfully completed your registration, you may be apply to receive new license plates in Washington, immediately. If you require personalized, specialized, or disability license plates, you may have to wait.

Note: when you title your vehicle you will also be registering your vehicle at the same time.

Registration for License Plates in Washington

If you purchased your vehicle from a dealership in Washington, they are likely to handle the registration of your vehicle. If so, you can drive off the lot using temporary plates or tags and wait a about a week for your license plates to arrive in the mail.

If you purchased your vehicle at a private sale, you have 15 days to title and register your vehicle. Owners of the previous car must remove or surrender their license plates. Also, you can check the history and ownership of that vehicle using the previous license plate number online.

There are late fees and penalties should you not register your vehicle within 15 days:

  • $50 fee on the 16th day
  • $2 everyday after, up to $125 max.

Simply go to the nearest licensing centre to register your vehicle to avoid these late fees.

Renewing Washington License Plates

You must renew your vehicle’s registration before the expiration on the tags. It is best to renew your license plates before the expiration date to avoid additional fees.

Lost or Stolen Plates in Washington

It may happen that your plates go missing and while you don’t have to report your plates to the police, doing so prevents them from being abused.

When you’re ready to apply for new plates, you’ll need:

  • Valid ID
  • Completed Form TD-420-040: Affidavit of Loss
  • Payment for fees:
    • $5 Service Fee
    • $20 to Keep Current Plate #

Unfortunately, you will not be able to get the same number if your plates were stolen.

Transfer or Surrender of Washington License Plates

You are permitted to transfer your license plate to another vehicle that is titled and registered in your name. You can do this either in person, online or by mail and you must confirm your address is correct.

Transferring your plates requires:

  • Proof of registration for the vehicle receiving the plates
  • Payment for transfer fee: $10
  • Letter of intention for license plate transfer, including:
    • Updated mailing and residence address
    • License plate number

Alternatively, if you have no intention of purchasing a new vehicle and transferring your plates, you should surrender your plates.

Personalized License Plates in Washington

If you want to add some personalization to your Washington license plates, you can choose your own number code. Here’s a few guidelines for personalization:

  • Plates must have up to 7 characters
  • Characters include: letters, numbers, spaces, hyphens
  • Cannot use indecent language or profanity
  • Same license plate numbers will not be issued

You can use a license plate search to see what plates are available for you.

Customized License Plates in Washington

There are many license plates with unique designs for organizations, charities, universities, community groups, parks, and more. The following is a list of some of the most popular customized plates available in Washington:

  • Music Matters License Plates
  • We Love Our Pets License Plates
  • Washington State University License Plates
  • Central Washington College License Plates
  • Gonzaga University License Plates
  • Seattle University License Plates
  • Animal Style License Plates
    • Orca
    • Elk
    • Deer
    • Bear
    • Eagle
  • National Park License Plates
  • Marine Corps License Plates
  • Military ID License Plates
  • Military Emblem License Plates
  • Classic Car License Plates

Each of these customized license plates requires registration, additional fees and, sometimes, additional documentation to be eligible.

Summary of Fees for License Plates in Washington

Some of the fees associated with your vehicle’s registration will be influenced by the type of vehicle you purchases along with the type of plates you want. The following provides an outline for some of the fees you can expect:

  • Title Service Fee: $12
  • Registration Service Fee: $5
  • Transfer Fee: $10
  • Fee to Keep Same Plate Number: $20
  • Standard Personalized Plates:
    • Cars: $84.75
    • Trucks: $84.75
    • Motorcycles: $66.75
    • Trailers: $72.75
  • Special Designed Plates:
    • Cars: $124.75
    • Trucks: $124.75
    • Motorcycles: $106.75
    • Trailers: $112.75
  • Fees for some specialized plates:
    • Cars: $72.75
    • Trucks: $72.75
    • Motorcycles: $54.75
    • Trailers: $60.75

Please check with your local offices for exact fees for your vehicle. Fees often vary due to:

  • Vehicle weight
  • Type of Vehicle
  • Area of residency
  • Number of plates required

Additionally, you’ll have to pay taxes and some other additional fees to register your vehicle in Washington.

Looking up License Plates in Washington

If you want to know the history behind a vehicle, you can perform an online search using a license plate. You can obtain critical information about the past driver and vehicle.

Additionally, you can use this free online license plate search to check for available numbers for a personalized plate.