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  • Plate Surrender in Washington

    Selling your used car, buying a vehicle, moving out of state―most often, Washington drivers keep their license plates with them.

    However, if you certain kinds of specialty plates, you’ll have to return them to a vehicle licensing office if you move to another state or no longer use them.

    Moving to Washington

    When you move to Washington from another state, you’ll register your car here and get WA license plates. That means you won’t need your old tags anymore.

    What you do with your old license plates is between you and your former state. Some states want them back; others allow you to keep or recycle them.

    To find out how your old state handles license plate surrendering, choose the state from the drop down menu at the top of this page.

    Moving From WA

    When you move to another state, how you handle your WA license plates depends on the plates.

    If you have regular passenger plates (i.e. plates for a regular passenger vehicle with no fancy personalization or group affiliation), you can:

    • Surrender them in person at your nearest vehicle licensing office.
    • Remove the month and year tabs, bend the plates in half, and trash them. (Don’t put them with your curbside recycling unless you clear it with your recycling service provider first.)
    • Remove the month and year tabs and keep the plates as a souvenir.

    However, if you have specialty plates, you must return your plates directly to the vehicle licensing office.

    Selling a Used Car

    In most cases Washington license plates stay with the vehicle, not the driver. The new owner can then retain the plates until they expire or apply for new ones.

    The seller may retain the plates if he or she wants to transfer them to another vehicle under his or her name.

    Buying a Used Car

    The same goes for buying a used car; if you have old, but valid plates you want to transfer to your “new” car, you can do so with your nearest vehicle licensing office. Again, you’ll have to verify your address.

    Because you’ll need to also complete the title transfer process and register the car in your name, it’d probably be best to handle everything in person.

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