Washington License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in Washington

A Washington license plate lookup is a way of finding basic information on a vehicle or the person registered to the license plate using the vehicle's plate number. License plate lookup discloses information that a vehicle owner would instead not share with a prospective buyer in a bid to sell it off quickly. Primarily, it reveals a vehicle accident history, theft record, manufacturer recalls, make, model, mileage, and engine capacity. A license plate lookup also uncovers Washington traffic records and issues with vehicle registration and safety inspection records. In cases of hit-and-run accidents or suspected frauds, people also do license plate lookups to find information about the drivers involved and track them down.

To conduct a Washington license plate lookup, a person primarily needs a vehicle's license plate number. A free license plate lookup in Washington is possible using some third-party companies' online free license lookup tools. However, search results from these free tools cannot be trusted as they are usually incomplete or inaccurate. To obtain more accurate and reliable results from license plate lookup in Washington, people can use services offered by paid license lookup companies. Paid license lookup services attract subscription fees, but users can trust any information obtained from them.

Other options for investigating a license plate in Washington include filing a request with law enforcement and hiring private investigators. Also, a person can do a Washington license plate lookup from the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) office. People can file such requests using the Vehicle/Boat Request Form provided by the DOL or online using the Public Records Portal.

What is a Washington License Plate?

A license plate is a piece of plate, usually plastic or metal, and often attached to noticeable parts of a vehicle. The numbers inscribed on it serve as vehicle identification and differentiate a registered motor vehicle from another. These numbers typically come as a combination of numbers and upper case letters and verify a vehicle's registration. Washington State law mandates vehicles' use of license plates at the front and rear sides. However, the state law makes some exceptions to this rule. For instance, some auto manufacturers do not make provisions for license plate brackets, and a vehicle owner cannot possibly attach two license plates in such a case. The vehicle owner can apply to the Washington State Patrol for one license plate waiver in this case.

Washington offers several types of license plates. These include:

  • Special Interest and Organization License Plates: These are available for special interest groups and organizations in Washington representing causes such as music matters and we love our pets. Others include the law enforcement memorial, keep kids safe, and the Seattle seahawks.
  • Collegiate License Plates: These are reserved for universities and colleges in Washington such as Gonzaga University, Seattle University, The Evergreen College, and Washington State University.
  • Military License Plates: These license plates are issued to members of military service or veterans in Washington. Members of the Army and Marine Corps qualify for this type of license plate.
  • Disabled Parking Privileges License Plates: These are available for people who suffer from conditions such as eye-sight issues, heart disease, those using wheelchairs or braces. These plates permit them to use special parking spaces across the state without fear of arrest by law enforcement.

Other license plate types in Washington include classic car license plates, wildlife and parks license plates, and personalized license plates.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Washington?

Persons interested in getting Washington license plates can obtain them from the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) office. The state requires new residents to obtain a Washington State-issued driver's license within 30 days of arrival, after which they can register their vehicles and get a license plate.

A person must provide the following documents to get a license plate in Washington:

  • Proof of identity
  • Report of emission inspection (if applicable)
  • Proof of vehicle ownership; One of the following suffice as ownership evidence:
    • Completed Form TD-420-065 (Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale), signed by the seller and Washington vehicle title
    • Dealer purchase agreement or bill of sale for vehicles purchased within the past 90 days
    • Out-of-state vehicle title
  • Odometer report for a vehicle ten years and older

An applicant is required to complete the Vehicle Title Application Form (Form TD-420-001) and pay all applicable fees and taxes. They can contact a vehicle licensing office to know their total application fee. The DOL accepts in-person and mail application submissions. In any case, an applicant must submit a completed Form TD-420-001 and all other required documents to/at a vehicle licensing office. For a mail application, an applicant must sign the application form in the presence of a notary. An application form submitted in person must be signed before a DOL agent during submission. In-person applicants can get their license plates on the same day of application. It may take up to three weeks from the date the DOL receives a request for license plates to be ready for a mail application.

Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates

Passenger license plates are typically issued to vehicles carrying people for hire or privately-used motor vehicles. On the other hand, commercial license plates are given to vehicles that operate primarily for the sole commercial purpose of conveying goods from one place to another. In Washington, a passenger vehicle is any motor vehicle, except motorcycles, that carry a maximum of ten passengers for hire (RCW 46.04.382). According to RCW 46.04.140, a commercial vehicle in Washington refers to any motor vehicle whose primary purpose is to transport produce, merchandise, animals, commodities, freight, or passengers for hire. The requirements for obtaining either a passenger license plate or a commercial license plate in Washington are the same as those required for the state's general categories of license plates.

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Washington

For anyone pondering how to check the owner of a vehicle in Washington, license plate lookup tools usually come inhandy. Generally, doing a license plate lookup can reveal the identity of the person or vehicle registered to a license plate in Washington. Although most online paid or free plate license lookups may not return personal-identifying information, a person can take any of the information retrieved to query other public databases for desired results. For instance, if a free license plate lookup in Washington returns the vehicle owner's phone number, a phone number lookup may disclose information that the license plate lookup could not.

The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) also provides an online contracted plate search known as License xPress for searching and viewing Washington vehicle records. This online resource can help find the identity of a vehicle or person linked to a Washington license plate. However, it is only accessible to government users and qualified businesses with admissible purposes for accessing vehicle registration information. Hence, individuals who have genuine reasons to check the owners of vehicles in the state can engage the services of insurance agents, vehicle dealers, courts, and government agencies. Other parties that can access the plate search contract include private investigators, attorneys, law enforcement agencies, and process servers.

Third-party aggregate sites are a reliable alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.

Washington License Plate Renewal

The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) handles the renewal of expired license plates and usually notify vehicle owners via mail or email before the expiry date. Renewal notices typically include the expiry date, renewal fees, registration deadline, and emissions test notification, if required. In Washington, license plate renewal is a yearly procedure. Vehicle owners in Washington can renew their license plates in person, online, or via mail. The DOL outlines the general requirements for renewing license plates in Washington.

An applicant must submit their photo ID, residence proof, valid registration or renewal notice, and emissions test record (if needed) at any local DOL office if renewing in person. They must also pay the renewal fees advised in the renewal notice sent by the DOL. For in-person renewal, the DOL issues a new Washington registration certificate and stickers the same day.

A person whose license plate expired less than a year ago may opt for online renewal. The online portal requires them to provide their license plate number, current address, email address, and renewal fees. For online renewal, an applicant may choose to pick up their registration certificate and stickers at a local DOL office or request for mail delivery (takes up to five business days).

To renew a Washington license plate by mail, applicants should ensure that all information on the renewal notice sent by the DOL is accurate. Once this is done, they can enclose the renewal fee payment advised with the notice in an envelope and mail them to the address listed on the renewal notice. The DOL will send stickers and a new registration certificate via mail within five business days.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes. The DOL links a vehicle's license plate number and VIN in the state's vehicle public records during registration. Hence, anyone can look up license plates in Washington using VINs.

VIN Number Lookup

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) lookup is the process of finding information about a vehicle using its VIN. VIN is a unique number imprinted on different parts of a vehicle by a manufacturer to differentiate it from others. It is a combination of numbers and upper case letters (17 characters) and is usually found on a vehicle's dashboard close to the driver's side. Some vehicle manufacturers also emboss it on engine blocks. Most motor vehicles have their VINs printed on the stickers branded on the driver's side door pole. A VIN lookup returns information such as ownership history, mileage, accident history, and repair records.