Vehicle and boat resources for nonresidents stationed in Washington

Learn your options for registering a vehicle or boat if you are a nonresident stationed in Washington. Learn rules for keeping your home state plates or getting Washington registration and plates.

Military personnel temporarily stationed in Washington are considered nonresidents unless they were residents of Washington State when inducted. Military personnel include:

  • Active-duty members of the United States armed forces from the Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force
  • Members of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Commissioned officers of the public health service
  • Members of foreign military organizations assigned to Washington on official duty

Types of plates you can use

Nonresident military personnel on duty in Washington may display any of the following:

  • Washington license plates
  • Plates issued from your official home of record
  • Plates issued from a foreign jurisdiction other than your official home of record, until the registration expires

Get Washington plates

Before getting started, make sure you meet all of the special requirements that apply to your vehicle.

Submit a Vehicle Title Application

To register your vehicle, you will first need to submit a Vehicle Title Application form.

Make sure you include scale weight, which can be found on your vehicle title. If you have a truck, include the gross weight, which you can find in your owner's manual, NADA, Kelly Blue Book, or a manufacturer's website.

Before you send the title application, make sure all registered owners sign the form and have their signatures notarized.

  • You may use a notary public or an active-duty commissioned officer.
  • If the commissioned officer's signature, rank, and service branch appear on the document as a notary, no other proof is needed.
  • If you're applying at an office, all registered owners must sign the form at the office so the agent can certify the signatures.

You must include the following items in your title application:

1. The title

  • The military person's name must be on the title or the vehicle record.

  • If you're making vehicle payments on the vehicle, submit a copy of the title (front and back).

  • If the vehicle is model year is  2010 or older, you don't have to report the odometer miles.

  • If the vehicle is model year  2011 or newer, fill out the Odometer Disclosure Statement on the title.

  • Most titles have an Odometer Disclosure Statement section. If you don't have the title, you can get an Odometer Disclosure Statement form from a vehicle licensing office.

2. All applicable fees

3. For vehicles registered in another state for less than 90 days:

4. For new vehicles that have never been licensed or were licensed in a foreign country while you were on active duty:

  • Submit the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) or Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO) with your application. For more information about importing a vehicle, see Customs inspections.

Mail or bring your application, supporting documents, and fees to any vehicle licensing office.

Emission requirements for vehicles from 2009 or newer

If your vehicle is a 2009 or newer car, light-duty truck, SUV, or passenger van, it must meet California emission standards to be registered, leased, rented, licensed, or sold for use in Washington. For more information, see Clean Car emission requirements.

Motor homes, RVs, or trailers

If the vehicle is a motor home, RV, or trailer, you may be required to present proof of sales tax. If you don't have proof you paid sales tax when you purchased the vehicle, you will be required to pay use tax.

Remove owners as needed

If any owners listed on the title are deceased or need to be removed due to divorce or other reasons, contact a local vehicle licensing office for further instructions.

Use license plates from your home state

If you're a member of the military temporarily assigned in Washington State, you can keep your vehicle registration at your official home of record instead of getting Washington plates. This also applies to your spouse, as long as the vehicle is registered to you or jointly to both you and your spouse.

If your vehicle was licensed Deadline
At your last duty station. You may continue to operate it with the current registration until it expires. Then you must license the vehicle in Washington State or your home of record.
In a foreign country, and you're returning to the United States. You must license your vehicle in Washington or your home state within 30 days of returning.
In your home state, and you're staying in Washington after leaving military service. You must license the vehicle in Washington within 30 days of leaving the service.

Buy a vehicle while stationed in Washington

If you are a nonresident stationed in Washington and you buy a vehicle while you are here, there are some rules that may apply to you.

Sales and use tax

If you'll be in Washington for more than 90 days, you must pay Washington State sales or use tax, even if you register the vehicle in your home state. You won't need to pay taxes in your home state unless their tax rate is higher than Washington's.

If you'll be in Washington for less than 90 days, you may be exempt from paying sales or use tax. For details, see vehicle tax exemptions for military personnel.

Temporary permit

If you license your new vehicle in your home state, you may request a 45-day temporary permit so you can drive the vehicle in Washington while waiting for your out-of-state plates.

If you're transferred out of Washington

If your vehicle is licensed in Washington when you're transferred to another state, you'll need to change the address on your vehicle and transfer your vehicle license to the state where you're stationed or to your home-of-record state.

Related laws and rules

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) has agency regulations and the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) has Washington State laws that apply to vehicle and boat registration for nonresident military personnel stationed in the state. Read more:

Need additional help? Here's how to contact us:

call Phone: 360-902-3770
(TTY: Call 711)
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