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The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) requires WA residents to renew their vehicle registration every year. Vehicle registration fees are instrumental for enabling the state of Washington to maintain a strong transportation infrastructure.
This page discusses the requirements for renewing a WA vehicle’s registration. If you just moved to Washington or need to register a vehicle for the first time, please see our first-time registration.
Because of the importance of renewing your WA registration, the DOL sends residents a registration (tab) renewal notice by mail or e-mail several weeks before the registration deadline. Renewal notices include:
- Registration deadline.
- Emissions testing notice, if required.
- Renewal fees.
To guarantee that you receive a renewal notice, sign up for e-mail reminders.
Didn’t Receive a Renewal Notice?
You are still responsible for renewing your registration on time, whether you receive a renewal notice or not.
- If you recently moved, update your address with the DOL right away.
- Otherwise, contact your local DOL office as soon as possible.
You may renew your Washington registration up to 6 months before it expires. You can renew in person, by mail, or online. When you renew, you may also need to replace your license plates (see below).
Renew in Person
Visit your local DOL office with:
- Proof of successfully completing an emissions test, if required. The DOL usually receives emissions test results within 2 hours.
- Your DOL renewal notice or current registration certificate.
- Photo identification.
- Proof of residence.
- Payment for renewal fee (cash, check or money order―most, but not all, offices also take credit or debit cards).
You will be given your new Washington registration certificate and plate stickers before you leave.
Renew by Mail
To renew by mail:
- Make sure your information is correct on the renewal notice.
- Provide proof of passing an emissions test, if required. The DOL will automatically be notified of your vehicle’s test results.
- Enclose renewal fee payment (check or money order) with your notice.
- Mail documents and payment to the address listed on your DOL renewal notice.
Expect to receive your new registration and tabs within 5 business days. If you are having your tabs mailed to you out of state, it may take longer.
Before renewing your registration online, make sure that:
- Your registration is current or has been expired for less than 12 months.
- Your current address is on file with the DOL.
- You have completed your emissions test, if required.
Once you’re ready to renew online:
- Go to the DOL’s online renewal page and click on the “Start Renewal” box.
- Enter your vehicle’s license plate number.
- Enter either your:
- ―Last name.
- ―Last four digits of your vehicle’s identification number (VIN).
- Enter the driver's license numbers for all registered owners of the vehicle.
- Choose how you want to receive your new stickers and registration certificate:
- ―By mail (delivered within 5 business days).
- ―Pick up in person at your local DOL office.
- Pay renewal fee with a MasterCard, Visa, or American Express.
- Print out your renewal receipt.
You also have the option of renewing your WA tabs online through the DOL’s new LicenseExpress service.
To use LicenseExpress, you must create an account by providing such information as:
- Your full name as listed on your WA driver’s license or state ID card.
- Your WA driver’s license or state ID card number.
- Your date of birth.
- Your Social Security number.
- Your vehicle license plate and VIN number.
Once you create an account, you will be able to renew multiple vehicles and conduct other online business with the DOL without having to enter your information for every transaction.
While your renewal notice will include the amount you owe, you can also calculate for fees ahead of time using the state’s Fee Calculator.
Fees vary depending on such things as:
- Vehicle make, model, and year.
- Vehicle weight.
- County registered (e.g. Regional Transit Authority Tax for residents in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties).
- Basic vehicle registration fees begin with a $30 license fee.
You may also need to pay a filing fee, a $5 subagent fee, a $20 license plate fee if you need to get new plates, and any inspection fees, if applicable.
WA License Plates
Washington requires new license plates every 7 years. Your DOL renewal notice will indicate when it’s time to replace your plates. The cost will be included with your renewal fees.
The standard license plate replacement fee is $27.75, but can cost more if you have specialty plates or want to keep your current plate number. More information about getting new WA license plates, including replacing lost or stolen plates, may be found on our License Plate section.
Late Fees and Penalties
There are no late fees for failing to register by the deadline. However, you risk getting ticketed if you drive or park on city and state roads with expired tags.
Your registration renewal notice will indicate if you need an emissions test before renewing. Residents in the following counties can expect to have to get their vehicles tested every 2 years:
- Clark County
- King County
- Pierce County
- Snohomish County
- Spokane County
Information about the results of your emissions test are sent electronically to the WA DOL generally within 2 hours.
Additional information, including exempt vehicles and what to do if you fail the test, may be found on our Smog & Emission Checks page.
You may apply for a 1 year extension on your registration if you are a Washington resident serving in the military and stationed outside of the state.
To get an extension, you must apply either in person or by mail to your local DOL office with the following documents:
- Your tab renewal notice.
- A copy of your orders.
- A check or money order for your renewal fees.
Need more information? Visit our Military Drivers section.
Non-operational vehicles do not require registration during dormancy. When you're ready to return your car to the road (or park on a city street), visit any vehicle licensing office with:
- The vehicle's old license plates, if available. You will need to get new license plates if you don't have the old ones.
- The vehicle's old registration certificate, if available.
- The title. Apply for a duplicate if the original title is lost.
- Proper ID (e.g. valid driver’s license).
- Payment for all required fees (see above for calculating fees).
If your WA plate, sticker, or certificate has been lost or damaged, you must get a replacement from the DOL.
You must also replace your Washington license plates if they are damaged or lost.Other Topics in This Section
True or False
- 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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