Welcome to the State of Washington. As with all other states in the United States, in Washington you must license all vehicles and vessels that will be used within the State of Washington. This includes cars, trucks, campers, trailers, boats and other watercraft. Check with a licensing agent if you have questions about whether your vehicle or vessel must be licensed.
You are required to license or title your vehicle within 30 days of becoming a Washington resident. You can do this by going to the main Auto Licensing center in downtown Vancouver, or better yet, you can license your vehicle at any of the county's 8 vehicle licensing agencies. See Listing of Locations for addresses and hours of operation. First, be sure to complete Step 1(emissions test), below, before going to the Auto License center or agent.
Step 1: Determine if your vehicle will need an emissions test.
Please call or link to the Dept. of Ecology at 1-800-453-4951. Or, inquire at any Auto Licensing agent or office. See the List of Locations for where to ask and/or have the test performed, if required. Generally, newer used vehicles less than five years old will not require an emissions test. A few locations in rural areas of Clark County do not require residents to obtain emission tests. The Dept. of Ecology has a list of zip codes (pdf file) that require the tests.
Step 2: Obtain the vehicle license
and pay fees and taxes. You can do this by going to the main Auto Licensing center in downtown Vancouver, or better yet, you can license your vehicle at any of the county's 9 vehicle licensing agencies. See the Listing of Locations for the locations and hours of operation. Want to learn more? See the State of Washington Dept. of Licensing website.
Some items you will need
When you go to either the main office or to any of the agencies, you will need to bring with you the following items:
- Certificate of Title. If there is an out-of-state lienholder and that information does not show on your current registration, a photocopy from the lienholder or the DMV where the vehicle is titled and currently registered.
- 3 pieces of identification proving out-of-state residency
- Notarized signatures
- Federal odometer statement on vehicles less than 10 years old
- Emission test may be required (see Step 2, above)
- Unexpired Washington state driver's license as required by RCW 46.16A.050 unless exempt under RCW 46.20.025
- Cash, check or money order, debit or credit card (except VISA credit cards) (There is a convenience fee for debit and credit cards).
Note: Vehicle inspections from the Washington State Patrol are no longer required before registering your vehicle except in some circumstances. The Auto License Agent will notify you if an inspection is required. See the FAQ page for more information.
Location of Auto License Agents
What about special or personalized license plates?
You can get information about special or personalized license plates from the Washington State Department of Licensing, including the ability to find out whether a certain personalized license plate may be available.