License Plates & Placards in Washington DCPage Overview
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 2 license plates or "tags" that are current―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 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 a $100 fee in additional to your annual registration 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 any 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.
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 an $10 exchange fee. You can swap out your old tags for these tags at any 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 7 characters made up of letters, numbers 1 through 9, and spaces.
- Motorcycle tags can contain up to 5 characters made up of letters, numbers 1 through 9, and spaces.
- Disability tags can contain up to 5 characters made up of letters, numbers 1 through 9, 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 8 weeks to fulfill.
It costs $100 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 a registration fee for your car.
Your first step in requesting a personalized 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.
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 may 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.
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 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).
Washington, D.C. requires you to return your license plates if you:
- Move to another state.
- Sell or donate your vehicle and don't plan to transfer your license plates.
- Plan to cancel your insurance for any reason.
- Change your plates.
- Replace your plates.
- Have had one of your plates stolen.
You can cancel your Washington, D.C. tags with the online tag cancellation system on the D.C. DMV website. Once you complete the online cancellation you can mail your license plates to the DCDMV.
You can also surrender your license plates by mailing them to:
P.O. Box 90120
Washington, DC 20090
Once you complete the cancellation and the D.C. DMV receives your license plates, it will mail you a cancellation receipt. If you have moved out of D.C., be sure to provide the DMV with your new address.
NOTE: Depending on how much time is left on your D.C. vehicle registration, the DMV may give you a refund after you surrender your license plates.Other Topics in This Section