How to Get a Temporary License Plate in Washington

Drivers can obtain temporary Washington license plates by applying at their local Washington vehicle licensing office.
Written by Sean Boehme
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
If you buy a car from an out-of-state dealer in
, you may be eligible to receive a temporary license plate. Unfortunately, many people take advantage of this system by creating fraudulent license plates.
  • Washington state issues temporary permits and cardboard license plates valid for up to 60 days.
  • Fraudulent use of temporary license plates is a concern in Washington, leading the state to impose fines of $1,500 for failing to properly register a vehicle.
  • Legitimate temporary license plates can only be obtained by applying at a Washington vehicle licensing office. 

What to know about temporary license plates in Washington

The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL)
issues a temporary permit
along with temporary cardboard plates to drivers in certain situations. These cardboard plates are generally valid for up to 60 days, although Washington may be willing to extend that period depending on the case. 
Like most states, Washington has to be very cautious about providing temporary tags. Some people create false temporary plates to avoid paying traffic violation fees or use them to commit more serious crimes. 
Some people living in Washington also utilize fraudulent plates to avoid paying state taxes. To dissuade people from doing this, Washington has implemented a $1,500 fine for failing to properly register a vehicle.
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How to get a temporary license plate in Washington

The only way to obtain a legitimate temporary license plate in Washington is to apply for one at a Washington vehicle licensing office. Assuming your application is approved, they will generate a permit and provide you with the cardboard plates.
You’ll be able to apply for temporary plates if you buy a motor vehicle from an out-of-state dealership that is not yet registered in Washington. The state expects the documents needed to properly register the vehicle to be available within 60 days.
If you need to replace your cardboard license plates at any point, you can do so at a Washington vehicle licensing office.

Registration fees in Washington

Tax, title, and license fees are due once the state of Washington grants your temporary registration. However, the fee for the license plate itself won’t be due until you clear the temporary designation and receive your permanent plates. 
The base license plate fee is $43.50, although you’re likely to pay more than that. Residents of
must pay an additional $80 to register their vehicle, while those living in either
must pay $20 more.
The size of your car will also determine how much you pay to register, with heavier vehicles costing more.
Note: If your vehicle is eligible for a gross weight license, you’re required to purchase a minimum of two months’ gross weight license to correspond with the duration of your temporary plates.
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Driving a car without plates in Washington

You should never drive a car without plates in Washington, and most in-state dealers should be able to register your new vehicle or used car at the dealership. If you only need to get a new car home, you can consider applying through the Department of Licensing (DOL) for a
three-day trip permit
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