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  • Car Registration in Washington

    SUMMARY: How to Register Your Vehicle in Washington

    Vehicle registration in Washington may be completed in person or by mail. You will need to have your vehicle title, bill of sale, an emissions certificate and odometer statement (if applicable), and payment for your required registration fee. Depending on whether you are a new Washington resident, or you're a member of the military, your requirements and paperwork may differ.

    The Washington State Department of Licensing requires all residents to title and register their vehicles in order to get WA license plates and legally operate on the state's roads and highways. Titling your vehicle and registering are the same process in Washington, so both will be completed at the same time.

    If you already have a Washington registration, you will want to go to the WA Registration Renewal page to see how to keep your vehicle registration current. This page is dedicated registering a vehicle for the first time.

    New to Washington?

    New residents have 30 days to register and title their vehicle when they move to Washington. You can send in your paperwork by mail or visit your local licensing office in person to complete the forms to get your license plates.

    Registering by Mail

    You can mail your registration application to any licensing office. To register by mail, submit:

    • A completed, signed, and notarized Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420-001).
    • The out-of-state vehicle title.
      • If a lienholder has the title, get a copy of the front and back of it from the lienholder to use in your application.
      • If you do not have a title or a copy of it, contact your local licensing office for instructions.
    • An odometer disclosure statement for vehicles up to 10 years old. You may obtain one by:
      • Visiting a licensing office.
      • E-mailing a request to titles@dol.wa.gov.
      • Calling (360) 902-3770.
        • The odometer disclosure statement is printed on special paper, so it cannot be downloaded, faxed, or emailed to you.
    • The emissions testing paperwork, if required (see Emissions Inspections below).
    • A bill of sale or dealer purchase agreement, if you have owned the vehicle for less than 90 days.
    • Payment for all registration fees (see "Vehicle Registration Fees" below).

    Send everything listed above to your local licensing office, or to:

    Refunds and Title Services
    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9909
    Olympia, WA 98507

    You should receive both your vehicle title and registration within 10 weeks. When registering a motor home, RV, or trailer, you may also be asked to show proof that you have paid your sales tax.

    Contact your local licensing office for instructions on how to title and register your vehicle in Washington if any of the listed owners need to be removed from the title.

    Registering in Person

    You have two options for in-person registration:

    • You can visit a vehicle licensing office to apply, in which case your title will be mailed to you within 10 weeks. You will receive your registration immediately.
    • You can visit a Quick Title office to get your registration and title immediately, for which you will pay an additional $50 fee.

    Go to your local licensing office and submit:

    • A signed Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420-001). All owners must sign in order for the signatures to be verified by a licensing agent.
    • Your out-of-state vehicle title.
      • If a lienholder currently has the title, have them send you a copy of the front and back of it.
      • If you do not have a title or a copy it, contact your local licensing office.
    • The odometer disclosure statement for vehicles up to 10 years old.
    • The emissions testing paperwork, if applicable (see Emissions Inspections below).
    • A bill of sale or dealer purchase agreement, if you have owned the vehicle for less than 90 days.
    • Payment for all registration fees (see Vehicle Registration Fees below).

    WA Car Insurance

    You are not required to show your insurance card when you register the vehicle, but auto insurance is mandatory in Washington. If you are pulled over by the police and do not have insurance, you will be fined.

    Registering a Vehicle in WA

    Depending on whether you have bought your vehicle from a dealership or a private party determines what you have to do to register and title your vehicle. You must title and register your vehicle within 15 days of taking ownership.

    If you do not title and register your vehicle within 15 days, you will be charged $50 on the 16th day and $2 every day after, with the maximum penalty totaling $125.

    Buying a Vehicle from a Dealership

    When you buy a vehicle from a dealership in Washington, the dealership will handle all the paperwork. You will receive all your documents and license plates in the mail.

    Buying or Obtaining a Vehicle from a Private Party

    If you've purchased or have been gifted a vehicle by a private individual, you may title and register it in person or by mail.

    NOTE: If the vehicle has been gifted to you, you may be eligible for an exemption from the state's use tax. Please see Washington "Vehicle Registration Fees" below for details.

    In Person

    Go to your local licensing office or Quick Title office and submit:

    • A Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420-001).
    • The vehicle title signed by both the seller and buyer(s).
      • If the seller does not have the title, they must fill out an Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest (Form TD-420-040). All parties must sign it in front of a notary, county auditor, or licensing agent.
    • A Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale (Form TD-420-065) filled out by both the seller and buyer.
    • An emissions testing report, if required (please see Vehicle Emissions Inspection below).
    • An odometer disclosure statement for vehicles up to 10 years old. You can obtain one by:
      • Visiting a licensing office.
      • E-mailing a request to titles@dol.wa.gov.
      • Calling (360) 902-3770.
    • Payment for all fees (please see Washington Vehicle Registration Fees below).

    If you visited a licensing office, you'll get your registration before leaving, and you can expect your title to be mailed to you within 10 weeks. If you visited a Quick Title office, you can receive both your registration and title immediately for a $50 fee.

    By Mail

    If you are applying by mail, all signatures on the documents above must be notarized. You can send all the documents listed above to:

    Refunds and Title Services
    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9909
    Olympia, WA 98507

    Your title and vehicle registration will be mailed to you within 10 weeks.

    You can get an odometer disclosure statement:

    • At a licensing office.
    • By e-mailing a request to titles@dol.wa.gov.
    • By calling (360) 902-3770.

    The odometer disclosure statement is printed on special paper, so it cannot be downloaded, faxed, or e-mailed to you.

    Military Members & Vehicle Registration

    Members of the Armed Services in Washington have slightly different rules depending on whether you are a resident stationed in-state, a resident stationed in another state, or a non-resident stationed in Washington.

    You may also be exempt from paying taxes on your vehicles when registering. Please see the "Vehicle Registration Fees" section below for details.

    WA Military Residents

    If you are a military resident of Washington stationed in state, you will register your vehicle in the same way as any other resident.

    If you are stationed out of state, both you and your spouse can register your vehicle(s) in Washington by mail. To do so:

    • Complete a signed and notarized Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420-001).
      • Vehicle weight must be included. Trucks must have the gross weight listed.
    • Enclose proof of ownership:
      • Vehicle title for used vehicles.
      • Manufacturer's Statement of Origin for new vehicles.
        • If you have a loan on the vehicle, submit a copy of the front and back of the title.
    • Submit an odometer disclosure statement if your vehicle is 10 years old or newer.
    • Provide a copy of your military orders showing your station assignment outside of Washington.
    • Enclose a copy of your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) that proves you are a Washington resident.
    • Submit all applicable fees (see "Vehicle Registration Fees" below). You may be exempt from paying use tax.

    You can send all documents and fees to:

    Refunds and Title Services
    Department of Licensing
    P.O. Box 9909
    Olympia, WA 98507

    Out-of-State Military Returning to Washington

    If you've registered your vehicle in the state that you were stationed, you can continue to use your license plates upon your return to Washington until they expire; then you must register in Washington again.

    Non-Residents Stationed in Washington

    If you are a resident of another state stationed in Washington, you do not need to register your vehicle in the state. You can continue to use your license plates from your home state as long as you keep the registration current and maintain valid insurance.

    You may choose to register your vehicle in Washington if you wish. Simply follow the process in the " New to Washington?" section of this page. If you are stationed in a county that requires emissions testing, you will be required to complete an emissions test in order to register your vehicle.

    If you have license plates from a foreign country, they will be allowed only until the registration on the plates expires. At that point, you must register and plate your vehicle in Washington or in your home state.

    You have 30 days after leaving the military to register your vehicle in Washington if you decide to stay in the state. Follow the " New to Washington?" section above.

    Vehicle Registration Fees

    Registration fees in Washington are calculated based on vehicle weight, vehicle type, license plates, and home address. Additionally, you will be responsible for paying a use tax when sales tax has not been paid.

    Registration and Title Fees

    Other Vehicle Registration Fees

    • Service fee for title: $12
    • Service fee for registration: $5.
    • Local transportation benefit district fees: varies by county (if required).
    • Regional transit authority excise tax, if applicable.
    • King County congestion reduction charge: $20.
    • License plate fee: $20.
    • Inspection fees:
      • Emissions: $15.
      • Vehicle identification number (VIN) verification: $15.
      • WA State Patrol inspection for salvaged, rebuilt, or homemade vehicles: Inspection is $65. Inspection with VIN assignment is $70.

    Use Tax

    If you have not paid sales tax on your vehicle, you will be required to pay a use tax upon its registration. This is required by law when you purchase or transfer a vehicle from a private party. You must also pay use tax if you’re bringing a vehicle into the state from an area that does not charge sales or use tax.

    The use tax will be charged at the same rate as sales tax for your area, plus an additional 0.3% motor vehicle sales/use tax.

    To calculate sales/use tax for your vehicle, use the tax rate lookup tool on the Washington Department of Revenue website.

    You do NOT have to pay the use tax if:

    • The vehicle was gifted to you and:
      • You can prove that the previous owner paid sales tax on the vehicle.
        OR
      • The previous owner had the vehicle for at least 7 years, and is from a state that charges sales tax.
    • You buy a vehicle while on military active duty (see below).

    Military Tax Exemptions

    There are a few scenarios in which military members do not have to pay use tax when registering a vehicle in Washington:

    • You are a non-resident stationed in Washington.
    • You're a WA military resident stationed out of state on active duty.
    • You will be in Washington for less than 90 days.
    • You are a military spouse who is co-owner of the vehicle in question, and your spouse meets one of the criteria above.

    Non-Residents Stationed in Washington

    In order to be exempt from use tax when registering your vehicle, you must provide (in addition to all registration documents listed above):

    • Proof that your residence is in another state or country.
    • Proof of ownership of the vehicle (title or Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin).
    • A Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) showing your home residence.
    • A notarized Non-Resident Military Affidavit for Exemption of Excise Tax (Form 420-044).

    WA Military Residents Stationed Out of State

    Washington residents serving in the military, as a U.S. Public Health Officer, or with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency may not have to pay taxes when they register a vehicle purchased out of state. To qualify, you must:

    • Have been on active duty for over 6 months.
    • Owned the vehicle for more than 90 days before being discharged.
    • Have obtained the vehicle outside of Washington.

    Upon registration, bring a copy of your orders proving that you have been out of state for over 6 months, along with the vehicle's proof of ownership showing that it was purchased and obtained out of state.

    Replacing a Lost Vehicle Registration

    If your registration has been lost or stolen, consider reporting it to the police to safeguard yourself against identity theft. You can apply for a duplicate WA registration in person or by mail.

    In Person

    Go to your local driver licensing office and submit a signed and notarized Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest (Form TD-420-040) with the "Affidavit of Loss" portion completed. You will also need to pay a $5 duplicate registration fee.

    By Mail

    To apply for a duplicate registration by mail:

    Washington Emissions Testing

    Certain counties in Washington required emissions tests prior to registering your vehicle:.

    • Clark County.
    • King County.
    • Pierce County.
    • Snohomish County.
    • Spokane County.

    Emissions Exemptions

    Within the required counties, some vehicles are exempt from emissions testing, including:

    • Hybrid vehicles rated at least 50 mpg in the city.
    • Vehicles model year 2009 and newer that are certified to California emissions standards.
    • All diesel vehicles built since 2007.
    • Diesel vehicles older than 2007 that weigh less than 6,000 lbs.

    Visit Washington Smog & Emissions Checks for all the information you will need to get your vehicle inspected.

    Washington License Plates

    If a car dealership submits your registration and titling paperwork, or you mail in your registration application, your license plates will be sent to you in the mail.

    When you apply for registration and titling at the licensing office, you will receive the license plates at the office when you have completed the application process.

    More information, including details on specialty plates and fees, can be found on our WA license plates page.

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