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Vehicle registrations need to be renewed regularly. Many states require vehicle owners to renew their registrations every year, although some states offer the option to purchase registrations that last for two years or longer. Most states allow you to quickly renew your car registration online, but you should be aware of the information you will need to provide, the necessary fees and the acceptable methods of payment to ensure a smooth transaction. Our online guide can help you prepare all the required documents and fees so that you can renew your vehicle registration as smoothly and quickly as possible. In it, you will also discover all the steps needed to replace a lost registration and to update your name or address with the DMV.

2. By Mail

Some vehicle owners may prefer to renew their auto registrations through the mail. Certain states will allow their residents to apply by mail, but vehicle owners may need to meet certain eligibility requirements to submit their request. Additionally, the ways in which you may pay your renewal fee are limited to check or money order, and you may experience processing delays due to the time it takes the postal service to deliver your application. Furthermore, you may risk losing your application or registration tags in the mail, adding to the wait time.

3. Via a DMV Office

Renewing your vehicle registration in person at a DMV office is an option if you cannot or prefer not to apply by mail or online. Typically, the DMV will issue your new registration credentials after receiving payment. However, certain states may require you to wait to receive your renewed registration documents in the mail. While visiting a DMV office in person may provide you with more personalized attention, it often involves long waits. Additionally, the office hours of many DMV locations can interfere with your work schedule.


A Washington car registration renewal application must be completed annually. Reminders are sent by mail or email to participating applicants. Certain vehicles may require an emissions test to qualify for a renewal. Test and registration fees vary. Additional state taxes may apply.

Residents can complete a DMV registration renewal online using one of the state’s two website portals. The WA DMV’s License eXpress service allows residents to manage a greater number of transactions and stores information from previous years. The standard system offers similar services but does not require a log in to submit a renewal. If you do not wish to renew online, applications may be processed by mail or in person at a licensing office.

Requirements for Car Registration Renewal in Washington

A WA DMV car registration renewal can only be processed if all of the state’s requirements have been met. If the following criteria applies, you are eligible to submit a renewal application.

  • Your address is up-to-date with the WA DMV. Residents can update personal information online or in person at the DMV.
  • Your vehicle has passed all applicable emissions tests. Depending on the age and location of your vehicle, it may require an emissions test. Not all vehicles require testing. The vehicle registration renewal notice states whether a test is required. Applicants with a License eXpress account can check emission requirements for their cars online.
  • You do not have any outstanding tolling fees or tickets.

In most cases, vehicles must be renewed before their expiration date, which is usually within a year.

What do you need to renew your car registration in Washington?

Depending on the method you use to complete a WA motor vehicle registration renewal, you may need to submit additional documentation. See the bullets below to learn what items are required for each application method:

  • Online – If you renew car registrations online using the standard system, you must have the license plate number, a valid credit card or your bank details, an email address or a printer. If you are using the new eXpress system, you must create an account before you submit an application.
  • By Mail – You must hold a DMV registration renewal notice in order to apply by mail. Payment methods are restricted to checks and money orders.
  • In Person – Applicants must bring payment for their new stickers, as well as proof of identification. An emissions test certificate is not required to renew in person. However, residents are welcome to bring an inspection receipt in case the DMV does not have a record of the inspection. Acceptable forms of payment differ between offices. Additional documentation may be required if you need to validate your address or prove an exemption from excise tax.

Applicants can check their DMV registration renewal status online through either of the two WA portals.

Washington Vehicle Registration Renewal Notice

A vehicle registration renewal notice is sent to all participating applicants. While mailed reminders are automatically sent to current drivers, applicants must opt-in to receive emailed reminders. To sign up for electronic notifications, you must provide the vehicle’s license plate number and your email address. Emailed reminders can be cancelled at any time.

The reminder notice includes the car registration renewal cost, the tag expiration date and information on where to renew. The notice will also indicate if an emissions test is required.

Washington Car Registration Renewal Notice Lost or Not Received

A vehicle registration renewal notice is only required for mailed applications. Therefore, a lost car registration renewal form does not need replacing. If you did not receive a reminder, you may need to update your address at the DMV. Residents with an eXpress account can log in and check upcoming renewal information, as well as all addresses the DMV has on file under their name. If the address on file is old or incorrect, you must update your records before renewing your registration.

Washington Car Registration Renewal Options

Residents may submit a DMV registration renewal online, by mail or in person at a local WA licensing office. Each method requires separate steps. If you are submitting a car registration renewal online or by mail, new stickers will be sent to the address on file within five business days of the application being processed. If you do not receive your new decals after 15 days, you may be eligible for replacements. Drivers who apply in person will be issued with new tags the same day. Similarly, applicants who apply online may choose to pick up their stickers from a local office.

How to Renew Car Registration Tags Online

A vehicle registration renewal online can be processed using one of two ways; through the standard portal or through a License eXpress account.  While the process is similar for both, the eXpress system pre-fills your information and offers more in-depth services. Follow the below steps to renew online.

  1. Log in to the Washington License eXpress account, create an eXpress account or use the standard online portal. The standard system does not require a login.
  2. Enter the license plate number if using the standard system. If you already have an eXpress account, your information will be pre-filled.
  3. Follow the online prompts and pay all applicable DMV registration renewal fees.
  4. Print the receipt or enter your email address to receive a copy.

Note: Residents are eligible to renew car registrations online if their current registration has been expired for less than 12 months.

How to Renew Car Registration Tags by Mail

Mailed car registration renewal applications must include the reminder form. Send the DMV registration renewal notice, along with a check or money order for the renewal amount to the address listed on the reminder. Do not send cash in the mail. If your vehicle requires an emissions test, you must bring it to a testing center before sending in the renewal notice. Once an emissions test is complete, the DMV is automatically notified. Additional postage fees may apply.

Where to Renew Car Registration Tags in Person

Residents may apply for a car registration renewal in person at their local licensing office. If an emissions test is required, bring your vehicle to an inspection center before visiting the DMV. Once a test is complete, the results are automatically sent to the DMV and should be on record before you arrive to renew your tags. However, it is recommended that you bring the test receipt in case the results are not uploaded in time. Provide the DMV with your driver’s license or ID card and pay the renewal fee. Your new stickers will be issued the same day.

Military & Out of State Vehicle Registration Renewal in Washington

Members of the military may apply for a DMV car registration renewal extension if stationed outside of state. If your tags have been expired for less than 12 months, you may apply for a one-year extension by mail or in person. To apply by mail, send the following items to any Washington licensing office.

  • The vehicle registration renewal notice.
  • A copy of your military orders.
  • Payment in the form of a check or money order.

If you are applying for a car registration renewal in person, bring a copy of your military orders, as well as a check or money order for the renewal fee. In some cases, an emissions test exemption is granted to vehicles stationed outside of the state. If required, complete the WA DMV emissions exemption form and submit it with your renewal documents.

Washington Vehicle Registration Renewal Fees

WA DMV registration renewal fees vary and are based on the vehicle type, location and plates. Residents may calculate their renewal fees online before submitting an application. You may be required to pay a Regional Transport Authority (RTA) excise tax.

Additional DMV registration renewal fees are applied to vehicles requiring an emissions test. A test performed at a Washington Applus testing station is $15. Additional fees are applied to retests. Furthermore, when renewing online, a $5 donation is automatically sent to the State Parks account unless it is adjusted during the application process.

Last updated on Wednesday, December 12 2018.

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