The application for a certificate of ownership must contain: (1) a description of the vehicle including the VIN, odometer reading at the time of delivery, and any distinguishing marks of identification; (2) the name and address of the registered owner and any lienholders; (3) pay application fees; (4) and any other information the DOL may require.
If a vehicle is titled in another state, the application must be accompanied by the most current title issued by that state. The DOL will accept a copy of the current title when it is being held by the lienholder and is not available.
If a certificate of ownership is lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed or becomes illegible; complete an Affidavit of Loss form and Vehicle Certificate of Ownership (Title) Application, if you’re still making payments, the lienholder must apply for the title and pay applicable fees for replacement.
It is unlawful for any person under the age of 18 to be the registered or legal owner of any motor vehicle unless the person is emancipated or became the registered or legal owner of a motor vehicle while a non-resident of the state.
It is unlawful for any person to convey, sell, or transfer the ownership of any motor vehicle to any person under the age of 18.
Title Transfer of Ownership
If an owner transfers his or her interest in a vehicle, other than by the creation, deletion, or change of a security interest, the owner must, at the time of the delivery of the vehicle, execute an assignment to the transferee and provide an odometer disclosure statement, and deliver the certificate and assignment to the buyer or transferee. The seller must notify the DOL of the date of the sale or transfer, the name and address of the buyer, the buyer’s driver’s license number if available, and a description of the vehicle including the VIN or the license plate number or both. The seller must file the notice within 5 business days of the transfer.
The new owner must apply for a new certificate of ownership within 15 days after delivery of the vehicle.
An odometer disclosure statement must accompany every application for a certificate of ownership unless the vehicle has a declared Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 16,000 lbs., the vehicle is not self-propelled, the vehicle is 10 years old or older, the vehicle is sold directly by a manufacturer to a federal agency, or the vehicle is a new vehicle before its first retail sale.
Titles for Mobile Homes
The certificate of ownership for a manufactured home may be eliminated or not issued when the manufactured home is registered as real property. When the certificate of ownership is eliminated or not issued, the application for license must be recorded in the county property records of the county where the real property to which the home is affixed is located. All license fees and taxes applicable to the mobile home as a vehicle must be collected prior to recording the ownership with the county auditor.
When the ownership of a mobile home is transferred and the new owner applies for a new certificate of ownership, the DOL or county auditor must notify the county assessor of the county where the mobile home is located of the change in ownership including the name and address of the new owner and the name of the former owner. A certificate of ownership for a mobile home will not be transferred or issued until the DOL has verified that any property taxes due on the mobile home have been paid.
In order to transfer ownership of a mobile home, all registered owners of record must sign the title certificate releasing their ownership.
Any person moving a mobile home on public highways must obtain a special permit from the DOT and local authorities. A special permit will not be valid until the county treasurer of the county in which the mobile home is located has endorsed or attached his certificate to the permit certifying that all property taxes on the mobile home have been satisfied.
Registration applications must be made to the DOL or an agent of the DOL including county auditors.
Vehicle license plates and registration will not be issued unless the applicant simultaneously applies for a certificate of ownership or proves that a certificate of ownership has already been issued.
A resident of the state must register a vehicle that is to be operated on the highways of the state. New Washington residents have 30 days from the date they become residents to register their vehicles. A resident is a person who shows intent to live or be located in the state on more than a temporary or transient basis. Evidence of residency includes but is not limited to registering to vote in the state, receiving public assistance benefits from the state, or declaring residency for the purpose of obtaining a state license or in-state tuition.
There is no period of grace for late registration.
Temporary permits are available when an application is pending and also may be issued by an authorized vehicle dealer. The temporary permit must remain affixed to the vehicle until the receipt of permanent license plates.
Temporary dealer licenses are effective for 45 days.
Vehicle licenses and license plates may be renewed for the subsequent registration year up to 18 months before the current expiration date and must be used and displayed from the date of issue or from the day of the expiration of the preceding year, whichever date is later.
The certificate of license registration must be signed by the owner and carried in the vehicle at all times.
Registration for Non-Residents
The registration and license plate requirements of the state do not apply to any vehicles owned by non-residents of the state if the owner has complied with the vehicle registration requirements in his or her state of residency and that state grants similar privileges to Washington residents. Foreign businesses owning, maintaining, or operating places of business in the state must register motor vehicles used in connection with the business in the state.
Non-resident military personnel on active duty in Washington may maintain home state registration or they may obtain a Washington license.
Passenger vehicle registrations must be renewed annually.
Vehicles 5 through 25 years old registered in parts of Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties must pass an emission inspection test every 2 years. Vehicles with even-numbered model years must be inspected in even-numbered years, and vehicles with odd-numbered model years must be inspected in odd-numbered years.
A vehicle will be granted a certificate of acceptance if: (1) it failed its first inspection; (2) it failed a re-inspection; (3) it has been used for more than 50,000 miles; (4) all primary emission control components installed by the vehicle manufacturer, or its appropriate replacement are installed and operative; and (5) the owner has provided receipts for repairs performed by an authorized emission specialist between the first and last inspections. Repairs for a pre-1981 vehicle must be at least $100, and repairs for a 1981 or newer vehicle must total at least $150.
OBD is utilized as part of the state emissions inspection process.
Model cars 2009 and newer are exempt from emission testing. The emissions inspection program is scheduled to expire in 2019.
No person may operate a motor vehicle or permit someone to operate a motor vehicle that is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person, or which does not contain the parts and equipment, in proper condition and adjustment, as required by law.
All motor vehicles, except trailers, campers, collector vehicles, and motorcycles, are issued 2 license plates. Trailers, campers, collector vehicles, and motorcycles are issued 1 plate.
If a vehicle is issued 2 plates, 1 plate must be displayed on the front of the vehicle, and 1 plate must be displayed on the rear. If 1 plate is issued, that plate must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle. Each vehicle license plate must be placed or hung in a horizontal position at a distance of not less than 1 foot or more than 4 feet from the ground and must be kept clean so as to be plainly seen and read at all times. Any holders, frames, or any materials that in any manner change, alter, or make the vehicle license plate illegible are prohibited.
Current registration tabs are affixed to the rear license plate as indicated on the license plate to identify the registration expiration month or year for a specific vehicle.
The color scheme for license plates is red and blue on white.
Numerous specialty license plates are available.
Disabled license plates or placards are available by application to the DOL or authorized agents located throughout the state. Proof of disability must be provided by the DOL and signed by both the disabled person and his or her physician.
Transfer of Plates
The owner of a vehicle licensed with standard issue license plates has the option of retaining the vehicle license plates and using them on a replacement vehicle and paying a $10 license plate transfer fee. Retained license plates must be transferred to a vehicle requiring the same type of plate.
When any person who has been issued personalized license plates sells, trades, or otherwise releases ownership of the vehicle upon which the personalized license plates have been displayed, he or she must immediately report the transfer of the plates to a new vehicle or camper eligible for the plates, or he or she must surrender such plates to the DOL and release his or her rights to the letters or numbers displayed on the plates.
A person may not purchase a vehicle bearing foreign license plates without removing and destroying the plates unless the out-of-state vehicle is sold to a Washington resident by a resident of a jurisdiction where the license plates follow the owner. The buyer may also return the plates to the jurisdiction of issuance.
The driver’s licensing examination includes a vision test (20/40 visual acuity is required in at least one eye), a written knowledge test, and a driving skills test.
No person may be issued a commercial driver’s license unless that person has passed a knowledge and skills test for driving a commercial motor vehicle that complies with minimum federal standards.
All applicants for a driver’s license or renewal must take a vision test administered by the DOL.
An applicant for a basic driver’s license is not required to take the knowledge and driving skills tests if the applicant is surrendering a valid driver’s license issued by the applicant’s previous home state.
Graduated Driver’s Licensing
Washington has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.
At age 15, an individual is eligible for a permit if the person is enrolled in an accredited traffic safety education program. At age 15 1/2, individuals not yet enrolled in driver’s education are eligible for a learner’s/instruction permit as long as they pass a knowledge test.
Drivers under the age of 18 must complete an approved driver training course to receive their driver’s license.
A person holding a permit may drive a motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, on the public highways if an approved instructor or a licensed driver with at least 5 years of experience occupies the seat beside the driver.
Parents, guardians, or employers must certify at least 50 hours of driving experience (10 at night), supervised by someone at least 21 years old who has had a valid driver’s license for at least 5 years.
At age 16, drivers who have held a permit for at least 6 months are eligible for an intermediate license. Drivers must also pass a driving skills examination and an accredited traffic safety education program to receive an intermediate license.
For the first 6 months, the intermediate license holder may not operate a motor vehicle that is carrying any passengers under the age of 20 who are not members of the licensee’s immediate family. For the next 6 months, the licensee may not operate a motor vehicle that is carrying more than 3 passengers who are under the age of 20 and who are not members of the licensee’s immediate family (secondarily enforced).
Intermediate license holders are also prohibited from driving unsupervised between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. for the first 12 months except when accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a licensed driver who is at least 25 years of age (secondarily enforced).
At age 17, drivers are eligible to have the passenger and nighttime driving restrictions lifted, and drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license at age 18.
Driver’s License Renewal
A person’s 1st Washington driver’s license expires on the person’s 6th birthday after it was issued.
A license may be renewed at any Licensing Services Office (LSO). The applicant must appear in person and pass a vision test. If the license has a corrective lens restriction, and the applicant would like to have it removed, he or she may request that his or her vision be tested without corrective lenses.
A license may be renewed as much as 1 year ahead of its expiration date.
An application for driver’s license renewal may be submitted by means of personal appearance before the department or via mail or online if permitted by department rule and the applicant did not renew his or her license by mail or online when it last expired. If a qualified person submits an application by mail or online, he or she is not required to pass an examination nor provide an updated photograph.
No online renewals permitted after age 70. No online renewal permitted if a medical condition exists that requires monitoring.
A Washington driver’s license issued to a service member, or the spouse or dependent child living with the service member, remains in effect while the person is serving in the U.S. Armed Forces on active duty.
The license is valid until 90 days after the honorable discharge from service duty, unless it is suspended, cancelled, or revoked for cause as provided by law. If separation from the service is other than honorable, the military expiration is immediately void and you must apply for a renewal license. A license with a military expiration issued to a reservist who has been called to active duty, or the spouse or dependent child of the reservist, only remains in effect while the person remains on active duty.
Types of Driver’s Licenses
A basic non-commercial driver’s license is issued to a driver who has sufficient experience operating a non-commercial passenger vehicle.
Instruction Permits permit a person to drive a vehicle under 26,001 pounds with a licensed driver that has a valid license and 5 years of experience. Their license doesn’t have to be from Washington State.
Intermediate Driver Licenses are for people 16 or 17 years old and can drive if they follow specific restrictions.
Driver Licenses permit a person to drive a vehicle under 26,001 pounds. This doesn’t apply to motorcycles or commercial vehicles.
Enhanced Driver License (EDL) confirm your identity and citizenship. It’s an acceptable alternative to a passport for re-entry into the U.S. a person can only use it when they cross borders by land or sea.
Motorcycle licenses permit a person to drive a motorcycle.
A Class A commercial driver’s license is for a combination of vehicles with a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of more than 26,000 lbs. if the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
A Class B commercial driver’s license is for a combination of vehicles with a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. if the GVWR of the vehicle being towed is not in excess of 10,000 lbs.
A Class C commercial driver’s license is for vehicles carrying 16 or more persons including the driver, or vehicles carrying hazardous materials with a weight rating of 26,001 pounds or less. Class C licenses require special endorsements.
Drivers are prohibited holding personal electronic devices or using your finger to interact with a device while driving, beyond one-touch activation of an app or function. Texting is banned for all drivers. Instruction permit and intermediate license holders are prohibited from using any wireless communication device while driving.
Drivers can be cited for driving dangerously by engaging in any activity not related to the actual operation of the motor vehicle, a secondary offense.
Wearing any headset or earphones connected to any electronic device capable of receiving a radio broadcast or playing a sound recording, in which the headset or earphones muffle or exclude other sounds, is not permitted while driving. Exempts motorcycle helmets with approved built-in headsets, and hands-free wireless communications systems.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration (.08 BAC). All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.
Washington law specifies that drivers with 5 nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their whole blood can be prosecuted for driving under the influence.
Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.
Washington requires the use of ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders.
Washington has an illegal per se limit for marijuana set at 5 ng/mL active THC.
Move Over Law
State law requires drivers to vacate the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles, including tow trucks, if they are traveling in the same direction and it is safe to do so. If not, drivers are required to reduce the speed of the vehicle to at least ten miles per hour below the posted speed limit. Also included in the law are stationary or slow moving municipal, utility, and road maintenance vehicles.
Seat belts or appropriate child safety seats are required for the driver and all passengers.
Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense.
Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is permitted.
Child Passenger Safety
Seat belts or appropriate child safety seats are required for children under age 16.
An appropriate fitting child restraint system, installed in accordance with the instructions of the vehicle manufacturer and child restraint system, is required until a child is age 8, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller
Children under age 13 must be in the rear seat where it is practical to do so.
Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.
A driver must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of a railroad under any of the following circumstances: when a clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a train; when a crossing gate is lowered or a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a train; or when an approaching train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to such crossing. The driver must not proceed until the crossing can be made safely.
No person may drive any vehicle through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while the gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.
When a stop sign is erected at a railroad crossing, the driver of a vehicle must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad and must proceed only upon exercising due care.
Upon overtaking or meeting from either direction any school bus which has stopped on the roadway for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children, the driver of any other vehicle must stop before reaching the school bus if the bus has its flashing red lights activated or a stop sign extended. The driver must not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or visual signals are no longer activated. School districts may install and operate automated school bus safety cameras on school buses to be used for the detection of violations of this law.
The driver of a vehicle on a divided highway or on a highway with 3 or more marked traffic lanes need not stop upon meeting a school bus that is proceeding in the opposite direction.
A passenger vehicle may not be modified from the original design so that any portion of the vehicle other than the wheels has less clearance from the surface of a level roadway than the clearance between the roadway and the lowermost portion of any rim of any wheel the tire on which is in contact with the roadway.
Headlights are required to be on 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and when visibility is less than 1000 feet.
Hazard Light Use
Hazard light use is not permitted while driving except to indicate a traffic hazard.
Tire chain and alternative traction device usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.
Studded tires are permitted November 1 to March 31.
The maximum level of film sunscreening material to be applied to any window, except the windshield, must have a total reflectance of 35% or less, and a light transmission of 24% or more. Installation of more than a single sheet of film sunscreening material to any window is prohibited.
A greater degree of light reduction is permitted on all windows and the top 6 inches of windshields operated by or carrying as a passenger a person who possesses a written medical exemption from a licensed physician.
A greater degree of light reduction is permitted on the top 6-inch area of a vehicle’s windshield as long as the product is transparent and does not extend into the AS-1 portion of the windshield. Clear film sunscreening material that reduces or eliminates ultraviolet light may be applied to the windshield.
The following types of film sunscreening material are not permitted: mirror finish products; red, gold, yellow, or black material; or film sunscreening material that is in liquid preapplication form and brushed or sprayed on.
Sunscreening devices may be applied to any window behind the driver as long the device reduces the driver’s field of vision uniformly and by no more than 50%. If sunscreening devices are applied to the rear window, the vehicle must be equipped with outside rearview mirrors on both the left and right.
No person may drive any motor vehicle equipped with any television viewer, screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast when the moving images are visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle on a public road, except for live video of the motor vehicle backing up.
Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.
These are prohibited unless official and cannot obstruct vision.
Every motorcycle and motor-driven cycle must have its headlamps and tail-lamps lighted whenever the vehicle is in motion on a highway.
Every motorcycle and every motor-driven cycle must be equipped with at least 1 headlamp. Every motorcycle other than a motor-driven cycle must be equipped with multiple-beam road-lighting equipment.
Every motorcycle and motor-driven cycle must be equipped with a license plate lamp, a rear red reflector, and a stop lamp.
Any motorcycle 25 years old or less must be equipped with mirrors on the left and right side of the motorcycle that provide the driver a complete view of the highway for a distance of not less than 200 feet to the rear of the motorcycle.
Any person riding or operating a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or moped must wear an approved helmet.
No person may transport a person under the age of 5 on a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle.
No person may operate any motor-driven cycle during nighttime or periods of poor visibility at a speed of greater than 35 mph unless the motor-driven cycle is equipped with a headlamp or lamps which are adequate to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of 300 feet ahead.
A person operating a motorcycle must ride only upon the permanent and regular seat, and the operator must not carry any other person nor may any other person ride on a motorcycle unless the motorcycle is designed to carry more than 1 person. The motorcycle must contain foot pegs for each person the motorcycle is designed to carry.
No person may operate on a public highway a motorcycle with handlebars or grips that are more than 30 inches higher than the seat of the saddle for the operator.
No person may drive a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver’s license specially endorsed by the DOL to authorize the holder to drive such vehicles.
A person holding a valid driver’s license who wishes to learn to ride a motorcycle may apply for a motorcycle instruction permit. The DOL will issue an instruction permit after the applicant has passed all parts of the motorcycle examination other than the driving test.
A person holding a motorcycle instruction permit may drive a motorcycle on the public highways if the person has immediate possession of the permit and a driver’s license. A permit holder may not carry passengers and may not operate a motorcycle during hours of darkness. A motorcycle instruction permit is valid for 90 days.
The DOL may waive all or part of the motorcycle endorsement examination for persons who satisfactorily complete the voluntary motorcycle operator training and education program.
Motorcycle Noise Limits
No person may modify the exhaust system of a motorcycle in a manner that will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the engine of the vehicle above that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle.
Mopeds & Other
No person may operate a moped on the highways of the state unless the moped has been assigned a moped registration number and properly displays that number.
A person 16 years of age or older, holding a valid driver’s license of any class issued by the state of the person’s residence, may operate a moped without taking any special examination for the operation of a moped. No driver’s license is required for operation of an electric-assisted bicycle if the operator is at least 16 years of age. Persons under 16 years of age may not operate an electric-assisted bicycle.
A moped may not be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail.
No person may operate a moped or an electric-assisted bicycle on a limited access highway or on a sidewalk.
Removal of any muffling device or pollution control device from a moped is unlawful.
Total length: 75 feet; trailer length: not stated; motor home length: 40 feet (excluding bumpers, safety equipment, energy conservation devices, compressors, and fuel saving equipment on the front); width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding mirrors and for motor homes, appurtenances up to 4 inches); height: 14 feet.
Every trailer and pole trailer, and every vehicle combination must be equipped with service brakes adequate to control the movement of and to stop and hold the vehicle under all conditions of loading, and on any grade incident to its operation. Every trailer and pole trailer must be equipped with brakes acting on wheels except for those not exceeding a Gross Weight (GW) of 3,000 lbs. if the total weight on and including the wheels of the trailer or trailers does not exceed 40% of the GW of the towing vehicle when connected to the trailer.
A vehicle towing a trailer must use safety chains.
The drawbar or other connection between vehicles in combination must be of sufficient strength to hold the weight of the towed vehicle on any grade where operated. No trailer may whip, weave, or oscillate or fail to follow substantially in the course of the towing vehicle.
Turn signals and reflectors are required.
Tail, brake, and license plate lights are required.
Every motor vehicle must be equipped with mirrors mounted on the left and right side of the vehicle and so located to reflect to the driver a view of the highway for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of such vehicle.
Trailer Speed Limits
Same as posted for trucks.
No vehicle towing a trailer may be driven in the left-hand lane of a limited access roadway having 3 or more lanes for traffic moving in 1 direction except when preparing for a left turn.
Crashes are required to be reported in cases of death, injury, or when property damage exceeds $700.00.
The deadline to file a report is 4 days.
State has mandatory liability insurance law and has security and future-proof type law applicable in event of accident causing property damage in excess of $700 to 1 person’s property or personal injury requiring attention of doctor or causing death.
No person may operate a motor vehicle subject to registration in the state unless the person is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy with a liability limit of not less than $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 1 person in any 1 accident and, subject to that limit for 1 person, a limit of not less than $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident, and a limit of not less than $10,000 because of damage to property of others in any 1 accident.
Motorists must carry on their person proof of auto insurance or financial responsibility. Law carries a $450 fine for noncompliance and applies to out-of-state motorists with similar proof-of-insurance cards.