A Washington DMV license plate can be obtained through the Washington State Department of Licensing (WA DOL). In addition to obtaining WA car registration plates, the DOL provides Washington state drivers license holders with a straightforward process for renewing, transferring and replacing plates regardless of the reason behind these transactions.

To complete car plate services, you need to follow the steps and pay the fees outlined by the DOL. Information on how to go about getting license plates online and how to get your car tags by mail are included below. Continue reading the following sections to get answers to your Washington State license plate questions.

Types of License Plates in Washington

The WA DOL offers a standard DMV license plate as well as a variety of special plates that represent different affiliations and groups. Special design new registration plates come with an increased fee paid at the time you get license plate registration and each year when you get license plate tags.

As this fee typically goes back to the organization or cause featured on the license plate, most drivers do not mind the added expense to support a favorite cause. Designs represent dozens of colleges, universities, branches of service, military awards, children’s charities, animal causes and other special interest groups.

Other car registration plates include personalized plates, where you choose a unique combination of characters to spell a favorite name or phrase. These are usually printed on the standard Washington mountain plate.

The DOL provides a look-up tool online to see if your specialty license plate idea is available. WA DOL also offers disabled parking plates to those with physician-verified mobility issues who need access to handicapped parking spaces.

How to Apply for a License Plate in Washington

If you need to know how to get a license plate in Washington, you should know that the first step is to complete an application. This is best handled in person at a Washington vehicle licensing office.

Before you get license plate approval, you must hold a valid WA driver license. If your vehicle is less than 10 years old, you must include an odometer disclosure statement with your DMV license plate application, which can be obtained at your local vehicle licensing office.

If your car is dated 2009 or newer, it must meet California emission standards. Moreover, if you live in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish or Spokane counties, you may need proof of passing an emissions test before registering for new plates. Then, you will be required to complete the Vehicle Title Application form and submit it with the associated fees.

How to Renew License Plate Tags in Washington

You have three options to renew a license plate tags in Washington when registrations expire annually. Renewing a license plate can be done online through an official WA DOL portal, in person at a vehicle licensing office or by mail.

The DOL provides a handy car tag renewal calculator to figure out how much your fees will be, including your Regional Transit Authority (RTA) excise tax where applicable. Make sure your address on file with the DOL is correct and that you have obtained any required emissions testing before renewing your tags by any method.

If wondering how you should by mail, note that there is no central WA DOL processing address. Send your plate renewal request to your local vehicle licensing office address instead.

Most Washington vehicle owners typically go through the registration renewal process at the same time that they renew their license plates.

How to Replace License Plates in Washington

Replacing license plate tags that are lost, stolen or damaged is something that is required as soon as you notice the need. To replace license plate tags, visit your local vehicle licensing office with your vehicle registration card, driver license and the remaining tag or tags, if available.

In the event that the tags are lost or stolen, you must also complete an affidavit of loss and sign it in front of a notary public. If you are wondering about how to replace registrations other than in-person, note that you may mail in your request to your local vehicle licensing office. Online replacement services are not currently available in Washington.

How to Transfer License Plates in Washington

You can transfer a DMV license plate registration to another car after selling a vehicle, or you can dispose of the car registration plates properly. DMV car tag transfers will generate a new title and registration and can only be done by the registered owner.

When transferring plates in WA, you may do it in person, online or through the mail. To get plate transfer approval, you must submit a copy of the registration for the vehicle you want to the plate transferred to, a letter indicating your request, the license plate number, your current contact information and payment of the fee.

Washington License Plate Fees

When registering DMV car tags for the first time or renewing them, fees and taxes vary according to the type of registration and your county of residence, but start with a base registration fee.  When replacing plates, whether online, by mail or in person, the fee is the same. There is a separate fee that is applicable to vehicle owners who are transferring car title and license plates.

License Plate Lookups in Washington

Information about a specific Washington DMV license plate can be obtained by submitting a Vehicle/Vessel Public Disclosure Request. Provide all the information requested and fax or mail it to the location provided on the form. Note that each application is reviewed for permissible uses allowable according to state and federal laws, and your request to plate history information may not be granted.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.