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How to Buy a Personalized License Plate in Washington

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If you are looking for a way to add some customization to your vehicle, a personalized license plate may be worth considering. Personalized license plates allow you to choose a plate design that is more interesting and meaningful than the standard Washington license plate, and also a custom license plate message, which you can use to convey a sentiment, advertise a business, or recognize a loved one.

A personalized license plate is a fun and unique way to add a little bit of flair and personality to your car. A customized plate is easy to apply for, and doesn’t cost a lot of money, so it could be the perfect addition to your vehicle.

Part 1 of 3: Pick out your personalized license plates

Step 1: Go to the Department of Licensing. Visit the Washington Department of Licensing website.

Step 2: Go to the license plate page. Visit the license plate page at the Department of Licensing.

Click on the button that says “Get WA license plates”.

Step 3: Go to the special plates page. Visit the special plates page by clicking the button that says “Special plates”.

Step 4: Go to the personalized plates page. Visit the personalized plates page by clicking the button that says “Personalized plates”.

Step 5: Choose a plate design. Select a special Washington state license plate design.

From the personalized plates page, click on the button titled “Special design background” to view all of the available license plate designs.

Choose your favorite license plate design from the list of available options. It’s a good idea to take some time to think about what license plate you like the most, as you’ll have the design for a long time.

  • Tip: If you do not wish to have a special license plate design, you can get a personalized license plate on the standard Washington plates.

Step 6: Choose a plate message. Select a license plate message and see if it’s available.

From the personalized plates page, click on the link titled “Look up personalized plates”.

Type the plate message that you wish to have in the personalized plate search box to see if the plate is available.

If the plate is unavailable, keep trying new messages until you find one that is available. If your first plate message is unavailable, try different variations of the message.

  • Tip: Washington has very specific character rules and limitations for the license plate. Before you try and find an available message, you can familiarize yourself with the rules by clicking the “Letter and number combinations are allowed” button on the personalized plates page.

  • Warning: Any license plate messages that can be construed as vulgar or offensive will be rejected when you apply for the plate.

Part 2 of 3: Apply for your personalized license plates

Step 1: Download the application. Download the personalized license plate application form.

From the personalized plates page, click on the button that says “Special background, personalized, or HAM operator license plate application.” Print the application.

  • Tip: To save time, you can fill out the application on your computer, and then print it.

Step 2: Fill out the plate application. Fill out the plate application form with all the required information.

At the top of the form you will have to provide personal information, such as your address and phone number, as well as some information about your car, such as the vehicle identification number.

In the middle of the form you will find an area with the available license plate designs. Check the box next to the design that you chose earlier.

At the bottom of the form you will find an area to write your personalized plate message. If you did not check to see if the plate message you are choosing is available, then use all three message spaces so that you have backup messages in case your first or second choice is unavailable.

Underneath your license plate message, describe the meaning of the message, so the Department of Licensing knows what your plate means.

  • Warning: Your vehicle must be registered in the state of Washington for your application to be accepted.

Step 3: Enclose payment. Include the payment with your application.

The fee for your plate and car can be found on the personalized plates page, or you can call a local vehicle licensing office.

  • Tip: You can only pay the personalized license plate fee with a check or a money order. Payment should be made to the Department of Revenue.

Step 4: Mail the application. Mail your personalized license plate application to the Department of Licensing.

Your application form and payment should be mailed to:

Department of Licensing
PO Box 9909
Olympia, WA 98507-8500

Part 3 of 3: Install your personalized license plates

Step 1: Install your new plates. Install your new personalized license plates on your vehicle.

After about eight weeks, your new license plates will arrive in the mail. Install them immediately on both the front and back of your car.

After one year, you will have to renew your customized plates.

  • Tip: If you do not feel comfortable installing your new personalized license plates, a mechanic can help you.

  • Warning: Be sure to place your current registration stickers on your new license plates.

With your personalized license plates, your car now is uniquely you. You’ll certainly enjoying having something on your car that no one else has.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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Related questions

Q: Is it illegal to have license plates as body work?

Hi Salvador, this is an interesting question. I'm not sure if it's legal or not so your best bet is to contact the Missouri DMV and see what they say.