License Plates & Placards in Washington DC
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Motor vehicle license plates are issued as part of the registration process. In order to operate or park a vehicle on any public street in the District of Columbia, a vehicle must show two current tags―one in front and one in the rear of the vehicle. The tags must be visible and not obstructed by any plastic, glass, or spray, and they must be securely attached horizontally to the vehicle to which they are registered.
There are several different kinds of plates you can get from the DC Department of Motor Vehicles. You can get disability tags, organizational tags, "Taxation Without Representation" tags, and 45-day temporary tags. You may also get license plates and parking placards specifically for drivers with disabilities.
The DMV offers several organizational tags to choose from. You'll have to pay both a one-time $100 fee and an additional $26-per-year display fee in order to display these tags on your motor vehicle. Tags are available to members of the following groups:
- Bad Boys Club
- Blue Knights
- DC Fire Fighters Local 36
- Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
- District of Columbia Lodge
- Foreign Organization
- NC A&T SU Alumni
- National Association of Black Scuba Divers
- Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
- Prince Hall Masonic Family
- Spirit of Faith Christian Center
Services related to organizational tags are available at the 301 C St., NW DMV service location. If you are interested in getting organizational tags, you may also contact the organization itself for an application.
Bring the following documents to the DMV to get organizational tags: authorization in writing from the organization confirming your qualification, valid ID as the registered owner of the vehicle, and your existing license plates.
You'll have to surrender both of your current license tags and registration card if you plan to display organizational tags on your vehicle. The $26 display fee will be due every year when you renew your registration.
In support of the district's quest for full representation in the U.S. Congress, the DMV encourages DC residents to display the Taxation Without Representation license plates. In fact, all newly issued license plates bear this message, unless you request otherwise (see below).
If you'd like to exchange your old license plates for the new Taxation Without Representation tags, it will cost you a lot less than organizational plates―there is only a one-time, $10 exchange fee. You can swap out your old tags for these tags at the 301 C St., NW DMV service location.
Bring the following documents to the DMV to exchange your current license plates for the Taxation Without Representation tags: your vehicle registration, valid ID as the registered owner of the vehicle, and your existing license plates.
If you're registering your car for the first time and do not want the Taxation Without Representation license plates, be sure to tell the DMV clerk handling your transaction. You will instead receive the "www.dc.gov" website plates.
You can request one of three different types of personalized license plates from the DC DMV:
- The standard automobile tags, which may contain up to seven letters, numbers one through nine, and spaces.
- Motorcycle tags can contain up to five letters, numbers one through nine, and spaces.
- Disability tags can contain up to five letters, numbers one through nine, and spaces.
Symbols and punctuation are not allowed on personalized plates. The DMV also reserves the right to reject any combination of letters or numbers that may be deemed offensive. Personalized tag orders can take up to eight weeks to fulfill.
It costs $52 to request personalized license plates. You may do so either online, by regular mail, or in person at a DMV service location. Keep in mind that there is an additional $26-per-year display fee for driving with personalized tags on your car.
Your first step in requesting a personlized tag online is to check to see if your desired plate is available. Gather your driver's license number, and your credit card number for the required fees. There is even a page where you can check the status of your personalized plate order online.
If you'd rather order the tags in person or through the mail, bring or mail a completed Application for Personalized Tags and the required fees to the DMV's Brentwood Square service location. You can also pick up an application in person, or request one on the phone at (202) 727-5000.
The next step is for the DMV to approve or reject your request. You will be notified if your request is approved, and if your request is rejected the fee you paid will be returned to you.
When your personalized tags are ready, the DMV will contact you either by regular mail or by e-mail, if you processed your request online. It can take up to eight weeks, but then you can pick up the plates at the Brentwood Square DMV service location.
Bring the following documents when you pick up your personalized tags: the display fee, if you have not already paid it; your DC driver's license; your registration; and your current license plates. You'll have to surrender your old plates and registration card.
A vehicle must be at least 25 years old to qualify for antique plates.
To apply for the plates, a vehicle first needs to pass a one-time emissions and safety inspection at the Inspection Station located at 1001 Half St., SW. Then, take your registration to a service location to obtain the plates.
The plates cost $25, and the inspection costs $25.
For more information on antique plates, call (202) 727-2500.
Sometimes license plates will get old and worn out, and you'd like a fresh set. Sometimes license plates can get stolen off your car, to be used fraudulently elsewhere. If your tags get damaged, lost, or stolen, you'll need to order replacement plates.
Go to a DMV service location and bring the $10 replacement fee and the following documents: registration, valid ID of the registered owner, existing tags (if you're replacing worn plates), and a police report (or citizen complaint number) if the plates were stolen.
If the tags on your vehicle have expired and you need to register the vehicle, you'll need to get temporary tags, which are good for 45 days.
Bring the following documents to a DMV service location to order temporary plates: the vehicle's title in your name or properly reassigned to you, proof of insurance, and the $13 fee for temporary tags (the DMV does not accept cash for this transaction).
The state requires Washington DC residents to return their license plates after relocating to another state, and in other situations. Learn more on our DC 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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