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.

Considering personalized or specialty plates? Find all the details on our Types of Special Plates and Applying for Special Plates pages.

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

Types of 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.

For more information about special plates, such as vanity and military plates, see our Special D.C. Plates and Special Plates Application pages.

To learn more about disability parking permit options, see our Disabled Plates and Placards in 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 Washington D.C., you must go in person to a 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:
    • $12 transfer fee.
    • Any other applicable fees and taxes.

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

Surrender & Cancel 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 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
    DC DMV
    P.O. Box 90120
    Washington, D.C. 20090
  • By certified mail to:
    DC DMV
    Processing Center
    95 M Street SW
    Washington, DC 20024

You'll receive your cancellation receipt by mail.

Registration Refund

You may be eligible for a refund on the unused portion of your registration when you cancel and surrender your license plates. If you cancel online, the system will inform you of whether you will be refunded.

You are eligible for a refund if:

  • You cancel BEFORE the registration period expires.
  • You have at least 6 months remaining on a registration.
    • Refunds will not exceed 18 months.

Visit the DMV's guide to cancellations and refunds for further details.

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: $12.
DMV.ORG BBB Business Review