In the state of Washington, all drivers must register their vehicles within 15 days of purchasing one or of becoming a resident. 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.
You must apply for a license plate if:
You must register your vehicle with the Department of Licensing, either in person or by mail. To apply, please bring the following:
After you have successfully completed your registration, you may apply immediately to receive new license plates in Washington. If you require personalized, specialized, or disability license plates, you may have to wait.
Note: When you title your vehicle, you will be registering your vehicle at the same time.
If you purchased your vehicle from a dealership in Washington, they are likely to handle its registration. If so, you can drive off the lot using temporary plates or tags and wait 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 it. Owners of the previous car must remove or surrender their license plates. Also, you can check the history and ownership of that vehicle online, using the previous license plate number.
There are late fees and penalties if you do not register your vehicle within 15 days:
To avoid these late fees, simply go to the nearest licensing centre to register your vehicle.
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.
It may happen that your plates go missing. Although you don’t have to report your missing plates to the police, doing so helps prevent them from being abused.
When you’re ready to apply for new plates, you’ll need:
Unfortunately, you will not be able to get the same number if your plates were stolen.
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 that your address is correct.
Transferring your plates requires:
If you have no intention of purchasing a new vehicle and transferring your plates, you should surrender your plates.
If you want to personalize your Washington license plates, you can choose your own number code. Here are a few guidelines for personalization:
You can use a license plate search to see what plates are available for you.
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:
Each of these customized license plates requires registration, additional fees, and sometimes additional documentation to be eligible.
Some of the fees associated with your vehicle’s registration will be influenced by the type of vehicle you purchase and by the type of plates you want. The following list outlines some of the fees you can expect:
Please check with your local offices for the exact fees for your vehicle. Fees often vary due to:
You’ll also have to pay taxes and some other additional fees to register your vehicle in Washington.
If you want to know a vehicle's history, you can do an online search of a license plate. You can obtain critical information about the vehicle and its previous drivers.
You can also use this free online license plate search to check for available numbers for a personalized plate.