License plate fees vary depending on the types of plates you choose, in Washington as well as in other states. Starting July 1, 2022, the cost of standard license plates in Washington is $50.

Quick links:

What is the process for getting Washington plates?

How much do Washington license plates cost?

How do I transfer a title in Washington?

How to register your vehicle with the Washington DOL?

How do I order new plates?

How do I transfer a title from out of state?

Washington DOL registration renewal fee

How much are license plate replacement fees?

Washington temporary tags

How to check if a car has Washinton back fees?

If you want personalized plates, they’ll cost up to $209.25. Additional taxes and fees apply to both new and renewal registrations.

What Is The Process For Getting Washington Plates?

In Washington, vehicles are required to have both rear and front plates.

(Every US state requires a rear license plate. Some states require a rear plate only, while other states require 2 license plates.)

Here are the steps for getting a new license plate from the Washington Secretary of State (Washington DOL).

  1. Get auto insurance. Before registering your vehicle and getting new license plates, you must have a minimum level of auto insurance coverage that meets Washington state requirements.
  2. Gather required documents. You will need to bring several documents to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) to register your vehicle and get license plates. These documents include the vehicle title, proof of insurance, and a completed vehicle certificate of ownership (VCO) form.
  3. Visit the closest Department of Licensing office. Bring your required documents to a DOL office. You will need to provide your name, address, and Social Security number (or other acceptable identification) to the DOL representative.
  4. Complete an application. You will need to fill out an application for vehicle registration and license plates. The DOL representative will verify your information, review your documents, and process your application.
  5. Pay registration fees. You will need to pay registration fees, which vary depending on the type of vehicle you are registering and the length of time you want to register it for. The registration fee for passenger cars is $30 per year.
  6. Get license plates. After completing the registration process and paying the registration fees, you will receive your license plates. The DOL representative will give you temporary plates to use until your permanent plates arrive in the mail.
  7. Install license plates. Once you receive your license plates, you must install them on your vehicle according to Washington state regulations. Your plates must be visible and readable from a distance of at least 25 feet.

The Cost of Washington License Plates

There are many different types of license plates: passenger license plates, commercial vehicle plates, special license plates, trailer plates, and motorcycle plates.

Money in wallet

License plates measure 6 by 12 inches and are rectangular (motorcycle license plates are smaller, measuring 4 by 7 inches). They are made of aluminum, which is durable and resistant to rust.

The Washington license plate has seven characters (across the 50 states, license plates have anywhere from six to eight characters).

How Much Are Standard License Plates In Washington?

A set of standard Washington license plates costs $50.

Standard plates are available in the following designs:

  1. Evergreen State
  2. Explore Washington
  3. Centennial
  4. Disabled Veteran
  5. Pearl Harbor Survivor
  6. Purple Heart

Passenger vehicles, commercial motor vehicles, motorcycles, permanent trailers, trailer coaches, and park trailers are eligible for a standard Washington license plate.

Standard license plates are issued in any of the following scenarios:

  • Purchase of a new vehicle
  • Replacing damaged, stolen or lost license plates
  • The replacement of special interest license plates with standard plates.

Washington Specialty Plates

Washington offers a wide range of specialty plates on the DOL website. Drivers can choose to support a team, cause, or message that they care about by sporting the associated license plates on their vehicle.

Here are a few of the many specialty plates available in Washington.

  • Colleges and universities
  • Central Washington University
  • Eastern Washington University
  • The Evergreen State College
  • Gonzaga University
  • University of Washington
  • Washington State University
  • Western Washington University
  • Seattle University
  • Military and veterans
  • Air Force
  • Army
  • Coast Guard
  • Marine Corps
  • National Guard
  • Navy
  • Gold Star
  • Disabled American Veteran
  • Purple Heart
  • Former Prisoner of War
  • Medal of Honor
  • Military Affiliate Radio System
  • Veteran/Military Service Award Emblems
  • Prevent Veteran Suicide Emblem
  • Organizations
  • 4-H
  • FFA Foundation
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center
  • Helping Kids Speak
  • J.P. Patches Pal
  • Keep Kids Safe
  • Law Enforcement Memorial
  • Lighthouse
  • Pets
  • Professional Firefighter
  • Volunteer Firefighter
  • Parks and Environment
  • Endangered Wildlife: Orca
  • Washitionns Wildlife: Bear, Dear, Elk, Steelhead, Eagle
  • Washington National Parks
  • Washington National Parks
  • Special Interests
  • Amateur Radio Operator
  • Antique Vehicle
  • Classic Vehicle
  • Horseless Carriage
  • Hydrant Permit
  • Pioneer
  • Street Rod
  • Tow Truck

To order a specialty plate, you will need to fill out and submit the application for specialty plates and submit them to your local DOL office.

Washington Personalized Plates

Personalized license plates, also known as vanity plates, allow you to express yourself even more than other types of license plates available in Washington. Drivers can choose between a combination of numbers, letters, spaces, and hyphens.

Drivers can also choose between the standard mountain background and a special design. The latter costs more. Here are the initial costs for each:

Personalized plates with the standard mountain background:

  • Passenger vehicle: $169.25
  • Truck: $168.50
  • Trailer: $117.25
  • Motorcycle: $87.25

Personalized plates with a special design:

  • Passenger vehicle: $209.25
  • Truck: $208.50
  • Trailer: $157.25
  • Motorcycle: $127.25
  • Keep Kids Safe plate: add $5 to above

Washington personalized license plates have an annual renewal fee in addition to the initial cost.

You can find out if your desired personalization is allowed and available by visiting the DOL website.

Disability License Plates Fee

The cost of a disability plate in Washington is the same as a standard license plate: $33.75.

People with disabilities in Washington can apply for disabled parking permits from the DOL. Both placards and license plates are available to those who qualify.

You can apply for a disabled placard or license plate, including a disabled veteran plate, in person or by mailing it to the following address:

  • Application and Issuance
    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9043
    Olympia, WA 98507

To apply for a handicapped placard or license plate, you must submit the disabled parking application for individuals (Form TD-420-073).

Transferring a Car Title

A Washington car title transfer happens in two stages.

  1. The buyer and seller meet up and do the vehicle transaction, at which time the seller signs over the title to the buyer and the buyer becomes the new owner.
  2. The new owner completes the title transfer with the DOL at the same time they register the car and handle other formalities.

To complete a Washington vehicle title transfer with the DOL, you will need to provide the following info:

  • Original vehicle title (provided and by the previous owner)
  • Completed vehicle/vessel bill of sale(form TD 420 065)
  • Completed a vehicle certificate of ownership application (form TD 420 001)
  • Payment for the Washington vehicle title transfer fee of $15
  • Payment for the service fee for registration: $8.
  • Payment for the Washington car sales tax of 6.5% of the vehicle purchase price

If you buy a car from a private party, the title must be changed to your name within 15 days. Failure to transfer the title within the allotted time will result in a $50 fine on the 16th day and $2 per day thereafter, up to a total of $125.

Register Your Vehicle with the Washington DOL

To apply for Washington license plates, you must have a valid vehicle registration card from the Washington DOL. To make things more efficient, title transfer and car registration are done simultaneously.

Washington DOL logo

To register the vehicle, you will need to submit the following:

  • A completed, signed, and notarized vehicle certificate of ownership (title) application
  • An odometer disclosure statement for vehicles up to 10 years old
  • A bill of sale
  • Payment for Washington sales tax: 6.5%
  • Payment for all registration fees

Registration fees are based on vehicle weight:

  • $25 for cars up to 4,000 pounds
  • $45 for cars between 4,001 and 6,000 pounds
  • $65 for cars between 6,001 and 8,000 pounds
  • $72 for cars 8,001 pounds and over

On the Washington DOL website, you can find useful information about how to register your car and how to apply for a license plate.

How to Order License Plates

You can order license plates in Washington by mail, online, or in person at a DOL office. Here are the steps for ordering license plates in Washington:

  1. Choose a license plate design. Washington offers several standard license plate designs, as well as a variety of specialty and personalized plates. Choose the plate design that fits your needs.
  2. Gather required documents. You will need to provide proof of vehicle ownership, such as a vehicle title or registration, as well as proof of insurance to order license plates in Washington.
  3. Visit a DOL office. Bring your required documents to a DOL office. The DOL representative will require your name, address, and Social Security number.
  4. Order the license plates. Let the DOL representative know which license plate design you want and provide any other required information. You will need to pay the appropriate fees at this time.
  5. Get temporary license plates. If you order new license plates or transfer plates from another vehicle, you will be given temporary plates to use until your new plates arrive.

How Much Does It Cost To Transfer a Car Title In Washington From Out Of State?

When transferring an out-of-state title into Washington, you need to submit the following documentation:

  • A completed out-of-state vehicle title transfer form
  • The original vehicle certificate of ownership
  • An odometer disclosure statement
  • A bill of sale
  • Payment for Washington sales tax: 6.5%
  • Payment for title transfer fees: $15

Read our guide to purchasing a vehicle long distance if you're thinking about buying an out-of-state car.

Washington DOL Registration Renewal Fee

The breakdown of WA registration fees is as follows:

  • Basic vehicle registration renewal fee: $30.
  • County filing fee: $4.50

Each state has different requirements for how often license plates need to be renewed. Washington drivers are required to renew their registration annually.

Being late on registration renewal can lead to late additional fees, fines, and other problems when pulled over for a traffic stop. To avoid this, it is important to pay careful attention to the registration expiration date.

License Plate Replacement Fees

In some cases, the Washington DOL may require you to change your license plates. If your license plate is lost or stolen, contact the DOL office to have it replaced with new numbers and letters.

The replacement license plate fee is $77.25

To replace a damaged or unreadable plate, you need to submit the following to the Washington DOL office:

If your license plate was stolen, you’ll need to report the theft to law enforcement and apply for a replacement.

Washington Temporary Tags

You can get a new temporary "plate" made of cardboard at the same Washington office where you bought the first one. You must provide the vehicle identification number or the department's temporary permit number.

It costs $10 for a temporary tag that is valid for 45 days. When new license plates are received, you need to take the temporary license plates off.

How To Check If a Car Has Washington Back Fees?

Before you buy a used car in Washington, find out if it has any hidden fees. If it does, you could be responsible for them.

The first step is to obtain the vehicle identification number from the seller. With the VIN, you can contact the Washington DOL and request a title search. The DOL will be able to tell you if there are any unpaid fees associated with the car, such as a vehicle registration fee or a parking ticket.

Buying or Selling A Car with PrivateAuto

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Washington License Plates FAQ

What is the quick title certificate?

A quick title is a certificate of ownership for vehicles or boats that you can get immediately (instead of waiting for a standard title to arrive in the mail). For cars, a quick title costs $85.50.

Quick titles aren't available for:

  • Snowmobiles
  • Cars that are reported as stolen
  • Insurance or wrecker destroyed vehicles and boats
  • Cars with a "WA rebuilt" brand on their title

How do I contact the Washington vehicle licensing office?

If you need customer service, get the answers you need at 360-902-3900 or at the DOL blog.

When can I add a car to my Licensing eXpress account?

You can add the car to your License eXpress account after you’ve transferred the vehicle title to your name. With a License eXpress account, you can manage any vehicles registered in your name:

  • Change your address
  • Changing your name
  • See when your vehicle's tabs are due
  • Sign up or update email renewal notices and more

To learn more about this, visit the DOL’s license eXpress guide.

When did Washington license plate fees increase?

As of July 2022, the fees for Washington license plates have increased. This means that any applications received on or after July 1st are subject to the new, higher fees.

What is RTA?

A regional transit authority (RTA) is a government agency that is in charge of planning, funding, and operating public transportation services in a specific region or area. In the state of Washington, RTA is responsible for managing public transportation services in the Seattle metropolitan area. The RTA also runs transportation projects and programs that aim to reduce traffic jams and make it easier to get around in the region.

What are some important facts people should know about car registration in Washington?

  • Car registration fees in Washington include weight fees, RTA tax, and any applicable special district fees and taxes.
  • Applications must be postmarked earlier than the expiration date of the current vehicle registration to avoid late fees.
  • The Washington State Department of Licensing maintains a public file of vehicle registrations, which is accessible to news staff and others.
  • Some vehicles will qualify for special design license plates, such as military or specialty interest plates, which may have different fees and requirements.
  • Motorcycle plate increases will reflect the increase in vehicle fees and will also take effect starting July 1st.
  • If you lose your license plates, you will need to obtain replacement plates from a vehicle licensing office or online.
  • The Move Ahead Washington initiative aims to streamline vehicle registration and licensing processes in the state, including offering online options for vehicle tabs and ID cards.
  • Vehicle registrations in Washington also include a stolen vehicle check, which can help to protect you against fraud and theft.

What are some important facts people should know about car title transfers in Washington?

  • Applications for title transfers can be submitted in person at a vehicle licensing office or Licensing Express location.
  • Plate increases will reflect the increase in vehicle fees and will also take effect starting July 1st.
  • The Move Ahead Washington initiative aims to streamline vehicle registration and licensing processes in the state, including offering online options for title transfers.
  • FCC applications can be required for certain types of vehicles or businesses, such as those using radio communication equipment.

What does TBD mean for tax?

A Transportation Benefit District (TBD) is a quasi-municipal corporation and independent taxing district formed solely to acquire, improve, provide, and fund transportation improvements within the districts of Washington State.

Should I remove my license plates when I sell a used car in WA?

Yes, the seller must remove the original plates when selling a used car in Washington. The buyer will need to apply to the DOL for new license plates.

Additional Reading

Sell Your Used Car in Washington

What Is a Salvage Title?

Our Guide to Insurance for Used Cars

Our Used Car Warranty Guide

How Do I Transport A Vehicle?