Washington Vehicle Registration: Complete Guide
Any vehicle owner in Washington must be familiar with the Washington vehicle registration process. For anyone planning to buy a used car, it is critical to make sure the car has no legal issues and that you can register it with the state DMV. Research the car’s background before it hits the used car market.
If you know the VIN, you can get a free vehicle history at VinCheck.info. Some stolen cars are marketed with VINs that were copied from legally registered vehicles. Run a VIN check to make sure you are not buying a cloned vehicle.
In Washington, you will need to apply for a vehicle registration whether you purchased through a dealership or a private seller. All vehicles must be registered with the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) office before operating them on public state roads and highways. Titling and registering your vehicle are processed at the same time.
Check out all the information you need here at VINCheck.info if you want to:
- register your car as a new resident in Washington
- register a Washington out-of-state vehicle
- re-register a salvage vehicle in Washington
- change your address or name on your Washington vehicle registration documents
- renew or replace your Washington vehicle registration
How to Register your Vehicle as a Washington Resident
Registering your vehicle in Washington may be processed either in person or by mail. You will need to provide the following:
- Your Washington driver’s license
- The title of your vehicle
- The bill of sale
- Emissions certificate
- Odometer reading (if applicable)
- Payment for fees
NOTE: If you are a member of the military or a new resident of Washington, you may need to provide additional or different paperwork. If you are a new resident of Washington, you will have 30 days to secure your WA driver’s license, register your vehicle, and get your new plates.
The Washington State Department of Licensing obliges all residents to secure the title and registration of their vehicles. The titling and registration process are the same, so you will be able to complete both at the same time.
Requirements for registering a vehicle in Washington may differ, depending on your particular situation and vehicle type. To make sure you will be providing the correct documents, you should call a vehicle licensing office to find out what you need to submit and how much the fees will be.
How to Register an Out-of-State Vehicle in Washington
Registering an out-of-state vehicle in Washington can be done either in person or by mail. If you want to register in person, you can either go to the nearest vehicle licensing office (for immediate registration, but your title will be mailed to you within 10 business days), or you can visit a Quick Title office to get the title and registration immediately (for an additional fee).
In any case, you will need to provide the following:
- A Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form TD-420-001) that is signed by all owners of the vehicle.
- The out-of-state vehicle title (If the vehicle is held by a lienholder, ask them to send to you a copy of the front and back of the title).
- An odometer disclosure statement (if the vehicle is up to 10 years old).
- An emissions testing report (depending on the county you are registering in and your vehicle type)
- Bill of sale or dealer purchase agreement (if you have owned the vehicle for less than 90 days)
- Payment for fees
How to Re-register a Salvaged Vehicle in Washington
The State of Washington defines a salvaged vehicle as one that has been damaged, wrecked, or destroyed to the extent that repairing it would cost more than its actual market value.
However, this definition does not apply to vehicles with a model year of 5 years old or newer unless that vehicle meets the market value threshold. Which means:
- The vehicle is between 6 to 20 years old
- The vehicle is a passenger vehicle, light-duty truck, or sport utility vehicle
- The retail value of the vehicle was at least $7,880
If your car doesn’t meet the market value threshold, contact the WA DOL at (360) 902-3770 for help.
When you want to apply for a rebuilt title for your salvaged vehicle, a salvage vehicle inspection will need to be conducted first by the Washington State Patrol. The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) will also be scrutinized as well as the major components of the vehicle. Vehicle owners will need to provide the following:
- Washington State Patrol Inspection Request form
- A current and valid photo ID, such as your WA driver’s license
- Certificate of Title
- Receipts from the purchase of major components for the rebuilding of the vehicle
NOTE: If you are the original owner of the vehicle, you do not need to take your vehicle for a salvaged inspection to retitle it as long as you did not buy that vehicle as a salvage.
The steps to apply for a “rebuilt” title in Washington will generally follow the same as applying for a regular title. However, make sure to contact the Washington DOL office to know what documents to provide before filing your application.
How Do I Change My Address with Washington DMV?
After moving to a new location within the State of Washington, you will have 10 days to update your address on your WA driver’s license or ID card. Changing your address on your driver’s license, however, will not automatically update the address on your vehicle’s records. You will need to process that separately.
Also, changing your address with the WA DOL will update your records with them only. If you want a new driver’s license or ID card with your new address, you will either have to wait until your license renewal or apply for a replacement card.
If eligible, you can apply for a replacement card via the state’s Replace Your License or ID system. If you don’t have a License eXpress account or don’t want to create one, you can alternatively change your address using the Washington DOL change of address website.
If you want to do it by mail, you will need to complete the Driver License Change of Address (Form DR-500-039) and mail it to the address on the form.
If you want to do it in person, you should visit your local WA DOL office.
After changing the address for your driver’s license, you will also need to update the address on your motor vehicle records. To do this online, you can visit the vehicle address change website or use the License eXpress system.
How to Transfer a Vehicle Between Family Members
After you receive a vehicle as a gift from a family member, you will have 15 days to transfer the title into your name. Meanwhile, the family member will also need to file a report of sale.
- If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, you need to complete the Odometer Disclosure section on the title. If the vehicle is more than 10 years old, you will not be required to report the odometer mileage.
- You and the family member gifting you the vehicle will need to complete the Bill of Sale. Just enter “0” on the sale price if it’s a gift or inheritance.
- Complete the Vehicle Title Application. A notary public or licensing agent must be present as witness when you sign it.
- Provide the current title of the vehicle.
- Payment for fees
You might also be required to provide an Emissions testing report and/or an Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest, depending on your specific circumstances. Contact a local vehicle licensing office to find out more.
Military Vehicle Registration in Washington
For military personnel that are stationed in Washington on a temporary basis, they are considered as non-residents unless they were already residents of the state before joining the military. These include:
- Active-duty members of the United States armed forces:
- Coast Guard (including personnel living in Washington who are on duty in the Portland area)
- Air Force
- Members of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- Commissioned officers of the public health service.
- Members of foreign military organizations assigned to Washington on official duty.
For non-residents stationed temporarily in Washington, they may display any of the following:
- WA license plates
- License plates from their official home on record
- License plates issued from a foreign jurisdiction other than your official home of record, until the registration has expired.
If a military personnel wants to register a vehicle in Washington, here is the process:
- All special requirements applicable to the vehicle must first be met.
- A Vehicle Title Application must be completed and provided. All registered owners must sign the application. If you’re applying by mail, all the signatures must be notarized.
- Provide the current title of the vehicle. If the title is being held by a lienholder, you can submit a copy of the front and back of the title.
- If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, you should fill out the Odometer reading section on the title.
- If the vehicle has been registered already in another state but owned for less than 90 days, a Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale should be submitted.
- If the vehicle is new (never licensed before) or was licensed in a foreign country while you were on active duty, submit the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) with your application.
- Payment of all fees.
If you have more questions or need further information, contact a local vehicle licensing office.
Vehicle Registration Renewal in Washington
In Washington state, vehicle registration must be renewed every year. The WA DOL sends residents a registration renewal notice by mail or e-mail several weeks before the registration deadline. Included in the renewal notice are:
- Registration deadline.
- Emissions testing notice, if required.
- Renewal fees.
You can renew your tabs as early as 6 months before your registration expires. You can renew online, in person, by mail (if you got a letter) or through your License eXpress account.
How to Renew Your Washington Vehicle Registration in Person
To renew in person you will need to visit a vehicle licensing office near you and provide:
- Emissions test completion (if required).
- Renewal notice or your current registration.
- Photo ID.
- Proof of residence.
- Payment for renewal fees.
How to Renew Your Washington Vehicle Registration Online
You can renew online if the following requirements are met:
- The tabs expired less than 12 months ago, and
- The vehicle doesn’t require a DOT number, or has had one for over 1 year.
You will need:
- Current address
- License plate number
- Payment for fees (MasterCard, Visa or American Express or your checking/savings ,account)
- Email address and/or printer
How to Renew with your License eXpress account
You can renew your tabs using your License eXpress account. Join or login to License eXpress (LX) for access to all the driver and vehicle services in Washington.
Washington Vehicle Registration Fees
- Registration Fee: $30
- Filing Fee: $4.50
- Electric Car Fee: $150 (additional fee for electric vehicles)
- Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET): for vehicles located in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. To calculate your excise tax fee, follow the steps below:
- Find the years of service: Current year minus the year of the vehicle plus 1
Depreciation years: 2019 (current year) – 2016 (year the vehicle was made) = 3 + 1 = 4 total years of depreciation
- Determine the depreciation percentage. Use this chart.
- Original MSRP x depreciation percentage = Total depreciated value
- Total depreciated value x 1.1% (current excise tax rate) = Excise tax due
- Find the years of service: Current year minus the year of the vehicle plus 1