How to Register a Car in Washington

If you just moved to Washington State, you’ll need to get your Washington driver’s license before you get your car registration.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Alita Dark
If you’ve just moved to Washington, you have 30 days to register your vehicle—but you’ll need to get your Washington driver’s license first. 
If you live in Washington State, you’ll need to renew your car registration annually, which you can easily do online once you’ve set up an account. Here to cut through the red tape and help you get the job done is
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How to register a car in Washington

The registration process varies a little depending on the circumstances, but it’s not difficult in any scenario. You’ll need your proof of ownership, Washington driver’s license, and fee payment. Depending on the model year of your car, you may also need an Odometer Disclosure Statement or certification of emissions.

If you just moved to Washington

If you’re new to Washington State, you’ll have 30 days to get both your Washington driver’s license and register your vehicle. You’ll need a Washington driver’s license to register your car, so do that task first. And heads up: driver licensing and vehicle licensing are done at separate locations in Washington, so don’t expect to be able to do them both in one stop. 
To start with, you’ll need a
Vehicle Title Application
that’s been notarized or signed in front of a vehicle licensing agent. You’ll also need your current Certificate of Title for your vehicle—if your vehicle is still being financed, contact your lender for assistance with this. 
Depending on the model year of your car, there may be a few other steps you’ll need to take. If it’s a 2011 model year or newer, you’ll have to fill out an Odometer Disclosure Statement. If your car is from 2009 or later, it must meet California emissions standards. This requires filling out a California Emission Compliance/Exemption Certification form. For detailed information, see the
Clean Car emission requirements
page on Washington’s Department of Licensing website. 
Registration fees
vary depending on a lot of factors, like your vehicle’s weight and type, and the city you live in. Contact a
vehicle licensing office
near you to get an exact number. But as a ballpark estimate, it will be around $100 to $200
Submit your fees and paperwork either in person at a vehicle licensing office or through the mail. If you go in person, you’ll get your registration and plates on the spot. If you go through the mail, it will take about three weeks. 
Once you’ve got your registration, you can then set up a
License eXpress account
. This will allow you to take care of future renewals online, as well as give you access to a variety of driver- and vehicle-related services. 

If you just bought a car

If you’re buying a car from a dealership in Washington State, they will take care of the registration process for you. You’ll just need to show your valid Washington driver’s license. The dealer has 45 days to complete this process. 
If you’ve bought a car from a private party, then you have 15 days to register it and transfer ownership. You’ll need to have a
Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale
form and a
Vehicle Title Application
that’s been signed in front of a notary or an agent at the licensing office. Contact your local vehicle registration office to find out what the fees involved will be.  
For more detailed information, check out Washington State’s Department of Licensing’s
Guide to Buying a Vehicle
MORE: Washington title transfer

How much insurance coverage do you need in Washington? 

Whether you’ve just moved to Washington or are a long-time resident, you’ll need to have car insurance that meets the state’s legal minimums. Here’s what’s required in Washington: 
But keep in mind that this is just what you’ll need to register your car and drive legally. If you can, it’s a smart move to add on policies like
uninsured/underinsured motorist
, and
comprehensive coverage

How to renew your Washington vehicle registration 

Washington State requires that you renew your vehicle registration annually
If you’ve signed up for reminders via email or regular mail, then you’ll get a notice when you’re coming up for renewal. You can also just take a look at the tags on your plate—they’ll expire on the last day of the month that’s listed there. 
The easiest and fastest way to renew is through a License eXpress account, and Washington State strongly encourages folks to go this route. It’s free to set up, and you can do a variety of vehicle-related tasks through it. You should get your new tags in the mail in about three weeks—make sure you keep your address current on your account!
Alternatively, you can visit a vehicle licensing location to renew. If you go this route, you need to bring your renewal notice and one of the following: 
  • Utility bill
  • Driver’s license
  • Other documentation verifying your primary residential street address
There is a slew of
other requirements
that you’ll need to meet under certain other circumstances, but for most people, this (and payment of your
renewal fees
, of course) will be all that’s needed!

How to replace a lost registration sticker or license plate

If your registration, vehicle tabs, or license plate has been lost or stolen, don’t panic—you can get a replacement! You’ll need to fill out an
Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest form
and have it notarized. Fees will vary, so check with your local vehicle licensing office for how much you’ll need to pay, and then mail or bring the form and payment to your local office.

How to save on auto insurance in Washington

To register a car in Washington State, you’ll need to purchase the minimum amount of
car insurance
required by law. But here’s the thing: in the real world, the minimum amount is often not enough. 
Having only liability insurance leaves you open to costly damages in the event of car accidents, theft, damage caused by severe weather, and more. If you’re concerned that you might not be able to swing more than the minimum coverage, you’ll be surprised to discover what you can afford when you shop for your policy with the
car insurance app! 
The process is quick and easy, and no phone calls are required—but licensed brokers are available to help out if you have any questions. You’ll just need to fill out a few questions, then Jerry will compare policies from 55+ of the nation’s top providers. You’ll be able to choose from a curated selection of the very best available. On average, Jerry users save more than $800 a year on their car insurance, which should be enough to add on the coverage you need! 
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To register your car in Washington, you’ll need your valid Washington driver’s license, proof of insurance, completed paperwork, and payment of all fees. Depending on the model year of your car, you may need to fill out an Odometer Disclosure form or prove that your vehicle meets California emission standards.
The precise fees will vary quite a bit depending on your vehicle and location, and Washington directs people to their local vehicle registration office to find out exactly what their fees will be. But in general, expect to pay around $100 to $200.
Washington State law states that you have 30 days to both register your vehicle and get a Washington driver’s license after you’ve moved to the state. You’ll need a Washington driver’s license to register your car, so make that your first task.
In Washington State, only vehicles that are used exclusively for government work are exempt from registration.
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