• License Plates & Placards

WA License Plates & Placards

When plating a car in Washington, you have various styles to choose from offered by the Washington Department of Licensing. While you can choose personalized license plates, you can also choose from various specialty plates which provide you with the opportunity to sport your interests on your vehicle, including for Washington universities, military, landmarks, and much more including wildlife.

If you have a mobility impairing disability, you can also choose from Washington disability plates and placards which provide you with better parking accommodations to help with your mobility issues. Disability placards and plates in Washington are only issued to those with qualified disabilities and may, at no time, be used by any driver if the disabled owner of the plates or placard is not present in the vehicle.

In 1997, Washington began requiring that vehicle license plates in the state must be renewed every 7 years, with a $20 fee to keep your old plate number. You can also transfer your Washington license plates to another vehicle if the vehicle is in the same class as the prior one.

Washington Specialty Plates

Washington license plates come standard in the White Mountain style, which is $30 for the initial plate and any renewals afterwards. However, there are many residents that want to step outside the norm, and get specialty plates that can hit a little closer to their heart.

  • Washington State Colleges and Universities
  • Military
  • Washington Parks and Environment
  • Sports or Hobbies
  • Washington and U.S. Organizations and Associations

Most of the specialty plates in Washington cost only $40 for the first issue, and $40 for an annual required renewal, with a portion of the proceeds given to the organization or special cause you chose for your plates.

Washington Personalized Plates

Personalized plates in Washington, also called vanity plates, are available for most of Washington’s drivers. The plates must contain one to seven characters, which includes all letters, spaces, and hyphens. If you are getting a personalized license plate for a motorcycle or trailer, the plates can contain up to 6 characters, with a search tool offered online in order to see whether your choice is able to be applied or not. To use the search tool online, visit Personalized Plates

The Wildlife Diversity Program is also supported by the Washington DOL for use with personalized license plates in the state, and can be obtained for a cost of $47.75 for the first issue and $30 for any renewals following.

Applying for License Plates in Washington

In order to get your first issue of license plates in Washington, you will have to visit the vehicle licensing office in your county. You can apply for your  Special Design Plates or Personalized plates online.

The applications, its instructions, the necessary forms, and any fees assessed are explained at these pages, with a mail-in application accepted by the Washington DOL.

Washington Antique Vehicle Plates

For those driving those snazzy classics around the state of Washington, there are two types of antique plates offered to choose from – designed and issued specifically for these older vehicles.

You can obtain horseless carriage plates in Washington for any vehicle that is 40 model years old or more. The vehicle must be operational on the highways, must be used primarily for antique vehicle exhibitions, events, and other vehicle-related activities.

These types of plates are not transferrable to any other vehicle, and will be required to stay with that vehicle at all times.

Collector license plates are also available for vehicles that are 30 model years or older and fit the same qualifications of the horseless carriage plates.

If you want to apply for the horseless carriage or collector license plates, you will have to complete the appropriate Special License Plates Application form, which you can download from

Bring this form and your payment to the vehicle licensing office nearest to you, or you could simply send to the following address:

            Vehicle Licensing
            Department of Licensing
            P.O. Box 9909
            Olympia, WA 98507-8500

These classic plates will cost $35, which is on top of any registration fees required for the vehicle. These are permanent plates, however, and will never need to be renewed, saving you from an annual fee. You will only receive one license plate, since qualified vehicles only require on plate to be used. You must attach these plates to the rear of your vehicle immediately and they will remain with only that vehicle.

Washington Restored Plates

Something special for classic vehicle owners is that if your vehicle has met the qualifications of a horseless carriage or collector plate vehicle, you can even attach the vehicle’s original model year license plates, which can be found in various locations. These must be only Washington issued license plates, and should be in a condition that is usable for its purpose – with only one plate required.

If you have another vehicle of the same year, you can transfer these plates over to the other vehicle.

These plates will cost $35 for use, as you must obtain them on your own. You will also have to add in the fees for registration. Much like the other types of classic vehicle plates, these are permanent plates and will never need renewal. If you wish to apply for Washington DOL permission to use these types of plates, you must follow the same process as above, with the plates with you to prove appropriate for use.

Washington Plate Surrender

You aren’t required as a Washington registered vehicle owner to surrender you plates if you happen to move out of the state, except for those with specialty plates. If you are surrendering specialty plates, you must bring them in to the vehicle licensing office nearest to you.

If the vehicle is sold and you haven’t transferred the plates, if you donate the vehicle to a state charity, or if you take the vehicle off road for a great deal of time, you should cancel registration and auto insurance for the vehicle, destroying or recycling your old plates.


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