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Guide to the Washington DMV

washington state dmv

Don’t let the Washington DMV get you frustrated. Now, you can use this helpful online guide to get the DMV answers you need. Learn more about Washington vehicle registration, driver’s licensing and other important DMV transactions.

If you’re new to Washington, or have recently purchased a car there, here are the basics on setting up and licensing your vehicle.

Washington Auto Registration

You can register your vehicle in Washington by mail or in person at your local licensing office. You have a window of thirty days to register your car, after establishing residency.  You will need:

  • A completed, signed, notarized Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application (Form 420-001).
  • Your out-of-state vehicle title
  • An odometer disclosure statement
  • Emissions testing paperwork, if you require it
  • A bill of sale, if you have owned your vehicle for fewer than ninety days
  • Payment for registration fees

Washington Vehicle Inspections

Washington requires most vehicles to undergo emissions testing under its Vehicle Emissions Check Program. New and current residents must meet emission requirements before the registration and renewal processes can be completed. Certain vehicles are exempt from testing, but cars with the model year 2009 or newer, being bought, sold, registered, titled, and operated in the state must meet emissions standards. Also certain zip codes are exempt from testing. Emissions tests are required every two years. You can locate a test station online, and expect to pay a $15 inspection fee.

Washington Auto Registration Renewal

Washington residents are required to renew their vehicle registration every year, through the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will send you notice by mail or email before your registration term is up. You can renew in person or online. Registration fees will vary, but you can use the state’s fee calculator to determine what you will pay in advance.

Getting Your Washington Vehicle Title

The DOL handles title transfers and registrations. If you bought your car from a dealer, they are required handle the title paperwork for you, and submit it to the DOL. If your car is less than ten years old, you will have to submit an odometer disclosure statement. If you’ve owned the car for less than ninety days, you will also need to submit a Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale (Form TD-420-065).  You will also submit your current title, the $12 title transfer service fee, and payment for any other applicable titling fees. You can submit these by mail or in person.

Getting Your Washington Driver’s License

If you are planning to establish residency in Washington, and already have a valid license, you may transfer your out-of-state license within thirty days of arrival.

You will not have to take the written knowledge or driving tests if your out-of-state license is valid and unexpired. You will also have to:

  • Visit a local licensing office
  • Submit your out-of-state license
  • Provide proof of identity, Social Security number, and Washington residency
  • Pass a vision exam
  • Pay the $35 application fee and the $54 license fee

Washington Auto Insurance Requirements

In order to comply with Washington’s car insurance laws, you must have the ability to pay for any damages or injuries from a car accident you caused by purchasing liability insurance. You must meet the following minimums:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for total bodily injuries per accident
  • $10,000 for property damage