by Armando Martinez

License Plate Transfer Process in Washington

In Washington, license plates are issued to the vehicle owner. You’ll be able to transfer your license plates from another vehicle registered in the state of Washington otherwise new license plates will be issued during the registration process.

License Plate Transfer Process for Buyers

As a buyer, you have 30 days from the date of purchase to register your vehicle. You will be able to transfer your Washington license plates from a previously owned vehicle if the license plates are in your name. To do this, you'll need to take the following steps:

1. Obtain a signed title from the seller that includes the odometer reading and purchase price. If the vehicle is more than 10 years old, the odometer reading is not required.

2. Bring the signed title, proof of insurance, and your driver's license to a vehicle licensing office.

3. You’ll also need the registration of the vehicle that the plates are being transferred to.

4. Pay the transfer fee, which is currently $10 for most passenger vehicles. Additional fees may apply if you're getting new plates or specialty plates.

License Plate Transfer Process for Sellers

As a seller, you are responsible for removing the license plates from the vehicle before handing it over to the buyer. If you're planning to replace the vehicle or purchase a new one, you can transfer the license plates to your new vehicle by following these steps:

1. Bring the old license plates and the vehicle registration to a vehicle licensing office.

2. Provide the new vehicle information and pay the transfer fee, which is currently $12 for most passenger vehicles. Additional fees may apply if you're getting new plates or specialty plates.

3. If you are not planning to transfer your plates, you can take them to your local Vehicle Licensing Office or mail them to: Department of Licensing 1125 Washington St SE, Olympia, WA. 98504. You can also recycle or keep them. Be sure to invalidate them by removing the month and year tabs. It’s also good practice to bend them.

Seller Notification to DMV

You need to file a report of sale when you sell, donate or give up ownership of a vehicle (cars, trucks, motorcycles, motorhomes, registered off-road vehicles, travel trailers, boat trailers, etc.) Filing will protect you from being held liable for towing charges or civil and criminal liabilities incurred by the new owner. For more information, please visit the Washington Department of Licensing Report of Sale web page.

License Plate Fees and Taxes

In Washington, license plate fees vary depending on the type of vehicle and the type of license plate. Here are the fees you can expect to pay:

- Standard license plate: $104

- Personalized license plate: $between $150-$210

- Specialty plate: varies, depending on the plate type

A state, county city sales and vehicle use tax will also be assessed at the time of registration.

It's important to note that these fees are subject to change, so be sure to check with your local vehicle licensing office for the most up-to-date information. For more information, check out the Washington DOL License Plates homepage.


Transferring license plates in a private party used car sale in Washington is a relatively simple process, as long as you follow the steps outlined in this guide. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation and information ready, and be aware of any fees that may apply. With these tips in mind, you can ensure a smooth transaction when buying or selling a used car in Washington.

This article was written by Armando Martinez. Armando Martinez is among the nation’s experts on automotive titling, registration, DMV services and document operations. With nearly two decades of experience across a broad range of financial services functions and some of the largest names in auto, from Wells Fargo to Uber, Armando combines vision and ingenuity with a wealth of information so auto shoppers and sellers can learn from his experience.

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