License Plates & Placards in Washington DC

SUMMARY: Washington, D.C. License Plates

To apply for license plates in Washington D.C., you'll register your vehicle when you move to D.C. or get a new car. To renew your plates, you'll renew your registration, which can be done online, by mail, or in person. You can transfer your tags to a new car as long as they're still valid. If you don't transfer your tags, or otherwise don't need them, you must cancel and surrender your license plates.

Keep reading for information about standard license plates and tags in Washington, D.C.

Need more information about disabled parking? We have a complete guide on our Disability Placards and Plates page.

Types of WA, D.C. License Plates

Vehicles owned by Washington, D.C. residents must have license plates issued by the Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (D.C. DMV).

Most vehicles will have a plate on both the front and back. Some vehicles, such as motorcycles, only need a rear plate.

Rear tags have a month decal and a year decal that show the expiration date of your tags.

In addition to standard tags, the D.C. DMV issues several other types of license plates, including:

  • Vanity plates.
  • Military honor plates.
  • Disability plates.

To learn more about disability parking permit options, see our Disabled Plates and Placards in WA, D.C. page.

Temporary Tags

You may get a temporary tag valid for 45 days when you register a vehicle for the first time. These tags give you time to get the vehicle inspected, after which you will get a permanent registration.

Temporary tags are issued when you:

  • Register a used vehicle that you've just bought.
  • Register a vehicle from outside of D.C.

You'll pay a $13 temporary registration fee IN ADDITION to the tax, title fees, and other fees to title and register the vehicle in D.C.

If you buy a new or used vehicle from a dealership, you will be issued a temporary tag direct from the dealership.

Apply for License Plates

Whether you move to Washington, D.C. or you're already a resident and buy a vehicle, you'll register your car with the D.C. DMV to apply for license plates.

Some cars may require an inspection, and all applicants must have proof of insurance.

See our Vehicle Registration page for a complete list of requirements.

Renew Tags in Washington, D.C.

Before the decal on your license plate expires, you'll need to renew your registration in order to renew your tags.

Once you renew, you'll get a new sticker to put over the current one.

For more information, including ways to renew, see our Registration Renewal in Washington, D.C. page.

Replace Vehicle Plates & Decals

If your tags are damaged, lost, or stolen, you'll need to replace them as soon as possible.

You MUST report lost or stolen tags to the police. You'll get a Customer Complaint Number (CCN) from the police, which you must give to the DMV.

To get replacement license plates and decals in WA D.C., you must go in person to a WA, D.C. DMV office with:

  • Your vehicle registration.
  • A photo ID, such as your driver's license.
  • Any license plates that you still have.
  • Your police CCN, if your tags were lost or stolen.
  • Payment for the $10 replacement fee payable by:
    • Cash.
    • Check or money order.
    • VISA, MasterCard, or Discover card.

Transfer License Plates

If your vehicle registration is current, you can transfer your D.C. license plate to a new vehicle.

You CANNOT transfer:

  • Standard plates to a new owner.
  • Expired license plates.

You can transfer your plates in person at a Washington, D.C. DMV service center. You'll need:

  • The existing registration.
  • Your vehicle title.
  • A vehicle inspection certificate.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Your D.C. driver's license.
  • Payment for fees:
    • $7 transfer fee.
    • Any other applicable fees and taxes.

If you buy a vehicle from a WA, D.C. dealership, let the dealer know that you have license plates to transfer.

Surrender & Cancel WA, D.C. Tags

You must cancel and surrender your license plates to the D.C. DMV if:

  • You move out of the district.
  • You're planning to cancel your auto insurance.
  • You don't transfer your tags after selling or trading a vehicle.

NOTE: If your license plates are lost or stolen, you must cancel them.

Once you cancel and surrender your tags:

  • Keep your cancellation receipt.
  • Cancel your insurance AFTER you get the cancellation receipt.
  • You'll receive a partial refund of registration fees if you have at least 6 months left on your registration.
    • Refunds take up to 8 weeks to process and will be mailed to you.

You can cancel your WA, D.C. license plates either online or by mail.

Online Cancellation

You can cancel your tags using the online tag cancellation service if you're the primary owner (the first person listed on the registration).

Once you cancel your tags online, you need to:

NOTE: Be sure to print your cancellation receipt.

By Mail Cancellation and Surrender

To cancel and surrender your D.C. vehicle tags by mail, simply send them:

  • By standard mail to:
    DC DMV
    Vehicle Services Administration
    P.O. Box 90120
    Washington, DC 20090
  • By certified mail to:
    DC DMV
    Processing Center
    95 M Street SW
    Washington, DC 20024

You'll receive your cancellation receipt by mail.

Fees for Vehicle License Plates

License plate fees DO NOT include other fees that you may have to pay, such as taxes, title fees, service fees, or postage.

  • New standard license plates:
  • Renewal of standard plates:
    • Fee depends on vehicle weight and type of vehicle.
    • See our Registration Renewal page for fee information.
  • Replacement license plates: $10.
  • Plate transfer fee: $7.

Specialty License Plates

Organizational Tags

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.

Taxation Without Representation Tags

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 "" website plates.

Personalized Tags

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.

Ordering Process

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.

If you'd rather order the tags in person or through the mail, bring or mail a completed Personalized Tags Application(Form DMV-PTA-01) and the required fees to the DMV's service location listed on the form.

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 8 weeks, but then you can pick up the plates at the 95 M Street SW 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.

Related Content

Provide Feedback

Be a Hero
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 0

heroes have registered as organ donors.

Looking for License Plates & Placards in Another State?