License Plates & Placards in Washington
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Washington's Department of Licensing (DOL) provides a variety of license plate styles for vehicles registered in the state. In addition to personalized plates, Washington's motorists can choose from a variety of special plates that promote a range of interests including the state's universities, members of the military, landmarks, wildlife, and more.
For those with disabilities that impair their mobility, Washington can also issue disability license plates or placards that allow you to park closer to building entrances, among other parking privileges.
Since 1997, Washington has required owners of registered vehicles to get new license plates every seven years. For $20, the state does allow you to keep the same license plate number. You may also transfer the plates to a new vehicle when you sell the old one, as long as the vehicles are the same class.
Washington's standard license plate is the White Mountain design, which costs $30 for initial licensing and renewal. The state also offers a range of special plates, including:
- Washington colleges and universities
- U.S. military
- Parks and environment
- Sports and hobbies
- Service organizations and associations
Most of Washington's special plates cost $40 initially and $30 for annual renewal. A portion of the price goes to the organization or cause featured on the plate.
Personalized plates, also known as vanity plates, can be issued for most vehicles in Washington. They must have between one and seven characters, including letters, hyphens, and spaces. Personalized motorcycle and trailer plates can have up to six characters. The Washington DOL provides a handy personalized plate search tool online so you can check to see if your choice is available.
Personalized plates in Washington support the state's Wildlife Diversity Program. They cost $47.75 at the time of purchase and $30 with each renewal.
For both special plates and personalized plates, you can find specific application instructions, forms, and fees on the Web page of the plate you're interested in. You may submit your application by mail or in person to a Vehicle Licensing Office.
Washington offers two types of plates specifically for older vehicles.
Horseless carriage plates are for vehicles that are at least 40 years old. While the vehicle must be capable of being driven on a highway, it must primarily be used for antique exhibitions, parades, and related activities.
The plate must stay with the vehicle, and cannot be used for other vehicles.
Collector plates are for vehicles at least 30 years old that fit the other qualifications for a horseless carriage plate.
- Vehicle Licensing
- Department of Licensing
- PO Box 9909
- Olympia, WA 98507-8500
The plates cost $35, in addition to the customary registration fees. However, the plates are permanent and don't need to be renewed. Only one plate will be issued, since horseless carriage and collector vehicles require that only one plate be used. The plate must be affixed to the rear of the vehicle.
If your vehicle qualifies as a collector or horseless carriage vehicle, you may apply to use the vehicle's original model year plates. The plates must be Washington-issued and in a usable condition. Only one plate is required.
You may transfer the plates to another vehicle of the same model year.
It costs $35 to use the plates, plus the usual registration fees. However, the plates are permanent and don't need to be renewed. To apply for permission to use the plates, follow the in-person instructions listed above and bring the plate(s) with you.
The state sometimes requires Washington residents to return their license plates after relocating to another state. Learn more on our WA License Plate Surrender page.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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