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Frustrating WA State Registration & Licensing Requirements

Mark Shaw

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I just need to vent and warn others of the challenging requirements to register collector vehicles in WA State.


     I purchased a project car in 2001 with only a bill of sale.  I just finished the restoration and conversion to a 1915 speedster.  First I went to the DMV and was told I had to get it inspected.  I had to wait almost 3 months to get an appt. to get it inspected by the WA State Patrol.  Then, I went back to the DMV and was told I needed a DOR (Compliance Dealer Declaration) or Declaration of Value at time of first use.  (See Below)

     This is a new requirement.  Basically, they want to know the current value to establish the collectable sales tax after restoration.  This is a new WA State Law: Chapter 82.12 RCW passed in 2021.  It's just another hoop to jump through to get collector cars registered and licensed.  Even after I provide this document, the DOL will only provide me with a three year registration without a title.  So, I must then wait three years to apply for a valid title.  Since I have already waited the three years for my registered 1912 Buick title, I asked for that title and was told the 1912 four digit frame number (VIN number) showed in their records as a horse trailer and could not be titled.  So, I wonder how they registered it???

     I am just about ready to throw up my hands and use license plates from my other cars instead of jumping through more hoops with WA State.  And, when I do sell a collector car, it will be with just a bill of sale.



Edited by Mark Shaw
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Follow up....


Persistence pays.  Since I could not reach the seller to get her signature, I called the WA State Dept. of Revenue at 11AM.  The recording said the office was closed due to COVID, but said I could leave a message that would be answered within one hour.  At 4:15 PM, I got a call back and I explained my situation regarding my 100+ year old vehicle registration attempts.  The gentleman gave me his email address to send my docs and said he would establish value by referencing his database and call me back.  I also advised him that I personally restored the vehicle and paid sales tax on all the materials needed for the restoration.  He called back and provided me with the required document indicating that the value was what was on the original bill of sale + just over $100 in admin.   fees.  I took all the documents to the DOL and got my registration and plate this morning. 

Happy Day! 

The bottom line is that there is more than one way to get it done if you don't trust the clerks at the DMV or DOL.

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  • 3 months later...


 I appreciate your post. I live in WA state and am restoring a 1941 Chevrolet woody. I will be in the same spot when I need to get a title registered. Very scary scenario. I may not title the car. 

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It seemed like a simple task to legally register my newly acquired, basket case, 1927 Willys Knight car, which was last titled in Washington State in 1978. But, the spacy DMV clerk wanted a signed release of interest, and a current bill of sale, stating current value, prior to accepting my paperwork. I explained that the gent who owned the car, and had signed the title release to his daughter had died over 30 years ago, and his daughter had sold me the car for a couple hundred dollars. I invited the clerk to accompany me to the parking lot, and informed her she could look at the car (parts) in the trailer behind my truck. She said that wasn’t necessary, and asked that I stop addressing her as if she were a dumb woman, and I was the controlling male. I apologized with as much sincerity as I could muster, and she said that I could call the woman I’d got the car from, have her to verify that her father was dead………If he wasn’t he’d be well over a hundred years old……and she had sold me the car. I could have called the local bar, and spoke to the first woman answering the phone and she’d have known no different. But I didn’t, and the woman I actually bought the car from spoke to the clerk.

That settled, smooth sailing to a title…….no, that would be a incorrect assumption.

Washington State (King County) voted in a deal called the Rapid Transit Authority (RTA) which sold bonds, bought with a promise of taxpayer funding to build a Light Rail system which authorized collection of additional fees, added to those presently charged to register a motor vehicle in certain areas of Washington State for the next 30 years.

And, even though legislation was passed by a majority of voters, on two occasions invalidating the law, and making collection of the fees illegal, they still collect them. The problem here is that the same legislation which made collection of the fees illegal, it also placed a maximum charge of $30.00 to be collected upon registering any vehicle. But, the amount charged when collecting the RTA fee is a safely guarded table, which unlike Chilton’s or Motor’s Manuel’s which values a vehicle by age and wear, values a car where depreciation doesn’t even begin until the car has aged about six years.

Anyway, their RTA tables does not have a listing for either the resale value or the curb weight of a 1927 model Willys Knight. So, she just took the estimated weight of a car which may be similar to that of the Willys, and that weight became the denominator used to determine how much it would cost to register the car.

Based on their tables, I had to write a check for nearly $600.00 prior to having her accept the paperwork and file the transaction. That included RTA fees based on a resale value of $4800.00, excess weight fees, because she put the car as weighing over 6000 pounds, sub agent fees, title issue fees, new license plate issue fees, and Lord knows what else.

I paid the money, picked up my paperwork…(the car still has the antique 1927 license plates), and cleared out of the office in a rush.

I would guess that had I chosen to stay and argue the point, I probably wouldn’t even be considered for parole for the next decade or two.

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