Dealer Licensing in Washington

It’s against state law to deal in motor vehicles without a Washington motor vehicle dealer license. On this page, we’ll help you determine whether you need a dealer license and, if so, how to apply for one.

Who Needs a WA Dealer License?

You must apply for a dealer license if you’re in the business of selling, buying, or otherwise dealing with new and/or used cars, trucks, and motor homes.

Without a dealer license, you CANNOT:

  • Sell:
    • More than 4 motor vehicles for profit that are registered to you during any 12 months.
    • ANY NUMBER of motor vehicles that aren’t registered to you
  • Buy and sell vehicles to make a profit.

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on applying for general new and used car dealer licenses. Skip down to “Other Types of Licenses” if you’re looking to sell something other than basic cars and trucks.

Other Types of Licenses 

Refer to the following state pages for information on applying for other types of WA dealer licenses:

Carefully read the application instructions; some are the same as if you were applying for a regular car dealer license; others—such as surety bond amounts and dealership location requirements—are vastly different.

Requirements for Washington Car Dealerships

In Washington, your dealership must meet the following business location requirements:

  • Located on a commercial property with an:
    • Enclosed building.
    • Exterior sign displaying your business name and business type that is permanently attached to the land or building.
    • NOTE: When 2 vehicle dealer businesses or more share a location, the owners must physically separate and clearly identify office facilities, inventory, and records.
  • Has a working telephone (mobile phones are acceptable) with a number listed in directory assistance.
  • Has an area to securely store records, files, and books.
  • Observes “normal business hours” (i.e. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 days a week) which are posted at the main entrance doors.
    • You can have additional days and hours if desired.
  • Meets local zoning, building, and land-use regulations.
    • Contact your city or county authorities for this information.

By confirming your dealership meets all of the above criteria, you’ll be on the fast track to getting your WA dealer license.

Washington Car Dealer Education

If you’re applying to sell ONLY used vehicles, you must complete a pre-licensing class from the Washington State Independent Auto Dealers Association (WSIADA) and provide proof of completion (Certificate of Dealer Education) when you apply for your dealer license.

The class costs $300 ($350 if you register 3 business days prior to the class).

Check out the WSIADA’s pre-licensing class schedule and registration instructions to get started.

Apply for WA Car Dealer License

While the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) issues dealer licenses, it’s the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) Business Licensing Service (BLS) that actually processes and prints them. So, you get a business license from the BLS, and the BLS considers anything issued by the DOL an endorsement to the business license.

Now, let’s apply for your car dealer license; you’ll need:

You can submit everything:

  • Online.
    • You must be able to scan and attach copies of all documents and pay by credit card or electronic check.
  • By mail, to:

State of Washington
Business Licensing Service
P.O. Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507

Plate Search Contract

Once you receive your dealer license, you must get a plate search contract with the WA DOL. This allows you search state vehicle and vessel records, which will be an integral part of your business as a Washington car dealer.

Renewing Your WA Dealer License

You’ll receive dealer license renewal information before your credentials expire. When the time comes, you can renew your dealer license either online or by mail, following the instructions provided by the BLS.

Be prepared to pay renewal fees, which include fees applicable to your dealer license plus renewal fees for your dealer plates and business license.

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