This page has the following resources to help you find more information about Driving in Washington
Visit these links to learn more about U.S. driving requirements, laws, safety tips, and more:
- Important English Vocabulary for Driving
- Car Seat Installation Videos
- Basic Car Seat Safety (Dari) (Pashto)
- What to Do When Stopped by Police (Dari)
State law determines the testing and documentation requirements for you to legally drive in Washington. At minimum, you need the following before you can drive:
- A valid driver license/permit and proof of insurance (in the vehicle to present during traffic stops)
- A registered vehicle in good working order
The following resources cover how to get your license and other driving requirements.
You must have or obtain a driver license to drive a car, small truck or motorcycle in Washington State. To obtain a license, you must: (1) pass the knowledge test, (2) pass the drive test, and (3) provide proof of identity.
The knowledge test is 40 questions which focus on Washington State driving laws and is only available in English or Spanish. The drive test is a behind-the-wheel skills test where you must complete certain actions while driving with a test observer. For proof of identity, you can provide your Refugee Verification Packet from your resettlement agency, an I-571 U.S. Refugee Travel Document, or a combination of other documents listed here under “See which documents we accept.”
Tip: The Department of Licensing may request other documents and doesn’t accept copied, scanned, or photographed documents. If your document from the Stand-Alone or A-List doesn’t have a photo that is readily identifiable, it may be reduced to a B-List document.
There are several ways to get a driver license, but all require you to take a driving test at a participating testing center.
- Have a learner’s permit for at least 6 months, complete a driver training course, complete 40 hours of daytime driving and 10 hours of nighttime driving with an experienced driver, and pass the drive test.
- Driver’s education programs for teens are typically managed by local high schools. Contact your child’s school to see if they can enroll in these courses.
- If you are supervising your child while they learn to drive, please review The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program
- Pass the knowledge and drive tests without taking any driver training courses. An option for experienced drivers with knowledge of Washington’s driving laws.
- Pass the knowledge test, get a learner’s permit, practice driving with an experienced driver (anyone with a valid license and 5+ years experience), and pass the drive test.
- Complete a driver training course, get a learner’s permit, practice driving with an experienced driver, and pass the drive test.
Tip: If you drove a car in your home country, Option 1 will be the least expensive. Make sure to review the U.S. and Washington driving laws first.
Driver training programs are required for those under 18 but can also be taken by anyone who would like additional training. Complete driver training programs should include 30 hours of classes, 6 hours of practice driving, and 1 hour of driving observation. If you have little to no driving experience and require more instruction, these courses can be quite expensive (sometimes over $1,000). Most driver training programs are certified, but if you have concerns about a specific school you can email the Department of Licensing at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if a company is reputable. Here are links to the most widely available driving schools in Washington:
Before you can take any of these tests, you must first pre-apply to create a “License eXpress” account and receive your WDL number (which will look something like this: WDL123ABC23B). This unique number identifies you during the license application process. You can do this online or by scheduling an appointment at a local licensing office. You can take the knowledge and drive tests multiple times, but each attempt will cost additional fees that vary by location (typically $20-25).
You can find driving centers offering testing in your city here. Please review the Washington Driver Guide for any rules of the road that may appear during testing. Practice common driving maneuvers during your driving training and before taking the drive test.
The following are a variety of learning resources to help you study and practice for your tests:
*Please note that unofficial or out-of-state resources are not replacements for driving instruction and will not satisfy Washington State driving standards*
- Washington Knowledge Test Practice Questions (English) (Spanish)
- Washington Drive Test Review and Practice Videos
- Washington State Driver Guides (English)
- Washington Vision and Medical Screening
- Knowledge Test Practice Videos (Dari) (Pashto)
- Knowledge Test Practice Pamphlet (Pashto)
- Translated Driver Manuals (Dari) (Pashto)
To obtain a learner’s permit, you must either (i) pass the knowledge test or (ii) enroll in a driver training program and visit a licensing office or complete an online application within 10 days of starting the course.
The knowledge test is 40 questions, focuses on Washington State driving laws, and is only available in English or Spanish. Driver training programs are required for those under 18 but can also be taken by anyone who would like additional training. Complete driver training programs should include 30 hours of classes, 6 hours of practice driving, and 1 hour of driving observation. If you have little to no driving experience and require more instruction, these courses can be quite expensive (sometimes over $1,000). Most driver training programs are certified, but if you have concerns about a specific school you can email the Department of Licensing at email@example.com to see if a company is reputable. Here are links to the most widely available driving schools in Washington:
Before you can take the test, you must first pre-apply to create a “License eXpress” account and receive your WDL number (which will look something like this: WDL123ABC23B). This unique number identifies you during the license application process. You can do this online or by scheduling an appointment at a local licensing office. You can take the knowledge test multiple times, but each attempt will cost additional fees that vary by location (typically $20-25).
Looking for the right car can be a time-consuming process, but there are many resources to help you make the right choice. When buying a car, you can:
- Pay cash
- Although paying in cash for newer cars is uncommon, this means you own the car outright and avoid paying the interest or fees of an auto loan. Ultimately the cheaper option if you have enough money at the time of signing.
- This option will limit the cars available to you depending on your current cash-on-hand. Cars cost thousands of dollars so you’ll need to be sure you can cover your other costs after your purchase.
- Get an auto loan
- This is how most cars are purchased. This means that a financial institution retains ownership of the vehicle title until the loan is paid off. The monthly payments will be much smaller than the actual price of the car, allowing you to pay off your loan over several years.
- If you fail to make your payments, the institution that financed your loan can repossess your car. It will also impact your ability to get future loans or credit cards.
- NOTE: This will include interest, so please be sure to check with a religious scholar if you have concerns from an Islamic perspective about riba.
If you need an auto loan, one of the best things you can do before you buy is to get “pre-approved” from a bank or credit union. This will provide you with an estimate of your total loan amount and monthly payments. You can use this information to search for cars within your budget and help negotiate the price to be within your buying range. Contact a bank or credit union in your area to discuss pre-approval.
Unfortunately, some dealerships try to take advantage of new car buyers through predatory loans with high interest rates and junk fees. You do not have to sign any paperwork if you are just browsing available cars. If you feel pressured to sign paperwork, remember that you are free to leave the dealership at any time. Contracts of sale are immediately binding, so avoid signing any confusing or unclear contracts before you feel comfortable that you’re buying the right car.
If you purchase a car that has substantial issues that were not explained to you by the seller, you are likely covered by Washington State’s “Lemon Law.” Within 30 months of the transaction, you can file for arbitration at no cost to determine whether your claim meets legal requirements. This protects you from unforeseen maintenance costs that arise from a faulty vehicle.
Researching a vehicle’s history is a great way to determine if the car is safe and being offered at a reasonable price. You can usually check a vehicle’s history using its 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or state-issued license plate. Visit any of these approved data providers to check for information on a vehicle you want to purchase.
In addition to the tips provided by the Department of Licensing and the Washington State Attorney General, ask people you trust in your neighborhood or family about their recommendations for dealerships who offer cars at reasonable prices. The DOL also released this video on important info for vehicle transactions.
Here are some links to different car buying options:
Tip: When buying cars online, be cautious about ones being sold by private sellers through things like Craigslist. There are fewer policies in place to guarantee the quality of the car.
Here are some general questions you can ask when buying a car:
- Can I see the vehicle’s history?
- Is there a record of maintenance?
- What condition is it in?
- What is the mileage?
- Why is it being sold?
- Has it been in any accidents?
- Does the seller have the vehicle title?
- Can it be taken for a test drive?
Once you buy your vehicle, you’ll need to register it with the Department of Licensing. If you purchase a vehicle from an auto dealership, they will transfer the title to you during the purchase. However, if you purchase a car from an out-of-state dealership or private party, you will need to complete the following:
- You must transfer ownership within 15 days of purchasing your vehicle to avoid incurring penalties.
- Contact a vehicle licensing office near you to gather the information you need.
- Complete the two necessary forms: Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale (completed during transaction) and the Vehicle Title Application (completed at a licensing office).
- Wait to sign the Vehicle Title Application until you are meeting with a licensing agent. Your signature must be witnessed by a notary or licensing agent.
- To obtain your vehicle title, submit the following: (i) Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale, (ii) Vehicle Title Application, (iii) the current vehicle title, and (iv) payment (contact the office you’ll visit for the exact amount). It takes 8-10 weeks to process your application. You can pay an additional $50 for faster processing or visit a Quick Title Office.
- Obtain your license plates either by going into the vehicle licensing office where you submitted your paperwork or receiving them in the mail 3 weeks after your application was submitted.
- You will need to renew your registration every year. The Department of Licensing will send you a letter in the mail reminding you to pay your renewal fees and providing online and mail options for payment. You will not need to submit additional paperwork.
Tip: Inform the Department of Licensing if your address changes so that you will receive any important documents or renewal notices. Your car must be registered to your current address.
Purchase your vehicle STEP (1)
Complete the Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale with the seller.
Within 15 days of purchasing your vehicle SETP(2)
Complete your Vehicle Title Application SETP(3)
Fill out your form, but do not sign it. Take it to a notary or licensing office where someone will observe your signature.
Obtain your vehicle title STEP(4)
At a licensing office, submit the following completed forms: Vehicle/Vessel Bill of Sale, Vehicle Title Application, Current Vehicle Title, processing fee payment.
This can take up to 10 weeks. Additional fees or Quick Title Offices can get you your title faster.
Obtain your license plates STEP(5)
Renew your registration annually STEP(6)
Your registration tabs expire every year. Make sure to renew them before driving your vehicle. You can be ticketed by police for having expired tabs.
In order to legally drive your car or motorcycle in Washington State, you will need to purchase auto insurance. This type of insurance is billed monthly and will be affected by a number of factors including your age, personal driving history, the type of vehicle you’ll be driving, the mileage of your travel, and the amount of money your insurance will cover. There are many different insurance providers that offer various insurance packages, so getting a quote from as many agencies as you can will help you choose the option that is right for you.
Make sure to have your proof of insurance (which will look something like this) and your driver license readily available whenever you drive, as you will commonly be asked for these documents if you are pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic violation. If asked to retrieve your insurance, make sure to let the officer know where it is first and then let them know you are getting it for them.
Here are some popular car insurance providers you can contact (with estimated minimum annual costs):
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