Washington Motor Vehicle Dealer License Guide

Table of Contents

Step 1: Establish a permanent place of business

Step 2: Apply a the Business License

Step 3: Obtain a surety bond

Step 4: Complete the vehicle dealer license application

Step 5: Complete all additional required forms

Renewing your Washington Motor Vehicle Dealer License

The Washington motor vehicle dealer license is required for those who want to sell more than 4 vehicles in Washington in a given year. Businesses or auctioneers with a Washington motor vehicle dealer license can sell at wholesale or retail the following:

  • New or used cars
  • New or used trucks
  • New or used motor homes

A wholesale motor vehicle dealer is a licensed entity that buys and sells vehicles in large quantities to other dealerships or businesses. A retail motor vehicle dealer is a licensed entity that sells vehicles directly to individual consumers for personal use.

There three types of auto dealer licenses in Washington:

  • Motor vehicle dealers are dealers that can sell new or used vehicles for retail or wholesale.
  • Motor vehicle dealer subagencies are authorized private businesses that assist the state's Department of Licensing in providing vehicle-related services to the public, such as vehicle registration and tab renewal.
  • Motor vehicle wholesalers are businesses engaged in buying and selling vehicles at wholesale prices to other dealers, rather than selling directly to individual consumers.

No matter the type of dealer you wish to become, the steps are largely similar. We cover them below. 

Step 1: Establish a permanent place of business

The first step to becoming a licensed auto dealer in Washington is to find a location for your dealership. Your location must follow the requirements below: 

  • Comply with all zoning regulations of your local government. Check the official website or contact your city or county directly. For example, Spokane County keeps their zoning codes on their official website. 
  • The building must be enclosed and on commercial property, not residential
  • Have a business sign permanently attached to the land or building
  • The business sign must state the business name as well as the type of business. This means that the sign must clearly state that the business is dealership, using words like “auto sales” or similar terms
  • Have a telephone as well as a telephone and mobile phone number
  • Maintain all dealer records on the premises of the dealership

Step 2: Apply for a the Business License 

The next step is to apply for a business license. The state of Washington requires your dealership to be a licensed state business before you apply to be a licensed dealer. 

Choose your business type

The first step is to choose your business type. In the state of Washington, you can choose to be one of the following business types: sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation. Sole proprietorships provide streamlined management and hands-on control, but they might have restricted resource access and expose owners to unrestricted personal liability. Generally speaking, sole proprietorships are the easiest to get started with. A partnership may be more suited if you're working with a partner. And lastly, if you're looking to have employees or raise funding, then a corporation would be the best choice. Either way, the steps to get the licensed no matter the business t

File with the Washington Secretary of State

If you are a corporation, LLC, LLP, or LLLP, you must file with the Washington Secretary of State before applying for a business license. You may skip this step if you are any other type of business. 

You can file with the Washington Secretary of State either online or via mail. If you choose online, you must first make an account on the Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System. After making an account, you will be able to navigate to the forms you must file based on your business. 

For corporations, you must file the Articles of Incorporation

For LLCs, you must file the Certificate of Formation

For LLPs and LLLPs, you must have the Certificate of a Limited Partnership

You can also mail your forms to the following address: P.O. Box 40234, Olympia, WA 98504-0234.

Fill out the Business License Application

To apply for your business license, you can either create an account and apply on the Business Licensing Wizard OR print out and complete the Business License Application. You can mail your physical application to the following address: P.O. Box 9034, Olympia, WA 98507-9034.

Do NOT submit this before you finish filling out your dealer license application and other required documents.  

Step 3: Obtain a Washington auto dealer bond

In Washington, acquiring your dealer license necessitates compliance with the requirement of securing a $30,000 motor vehicle dealer bond, commonly known as an auto dealer bond. This bond is a crucial guarantee that auto dealers will meet their legal obligations to the state and fulfill their responsibilities to their customers. By providing a financial safety net, these bonds protect individuals engaging with motor vehicle dealers, ensuring they have recourse in case of any misconduct or violations.

For instance, when a dealer sells a car without a valid title, consumers retain the right to utilize the dealer's auto dealer bond to seek recompense for their losses. Acquiring the Washington Motor Vehicle Dealer Bond is a straightforward procedure, and SuretyNow presents a convenient solution for its acquisition. By filling out a 3-minute form, SuretyNow will start a search for the optimal quote on your behalf. Upon satisfaction with the quoted price and successful payment, a copy of the bond will be dispatched to you.

By adhering to these steps, you can fulfill the bond requirement and progress with your application for a motor vehicle dealer license in Washington.

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Step 4: Complete the DOR vehicle dealer license application

The next step is to fill out the Vehicle Dealer/Manufacturer Addendum, which is the vehicle dealer license application. You must submit this as an attachment to the Business License Application. If you are applying online, you will use the same online application you used for the Business License Application. If you are applying via mail, you will need to complete the form with the following information:

  1. Types of dealer
  2. Dealer plates
  3. Auto dealer bonds
  4. Business location
  5. Certificate of dealer education
  6. Property lease/ownership documents
  7. Financial statement
  8. Warranty & service agreement
  9. Personal/criminal history statement

Step 5: Complete all additional required forms

The following documents are required, in addition to the license application:

  • Certificate of Dealer Education (only for used motor vehicle dealers): You receive this certificate after completing a 8-hours new dealer training course. You can find available times on the Washington State Independent Auto Dealer Association website
  • Financial Statement: Partnerships must submit one form per person. Corporations, LLCs, and LLPs must only submit one form for the entire business. 
  • Personal/Criminal History
  • Business Property Lease Agreement: Provide a copy of a property tax statement for proof of ownership of your dealership land OR a rental/lease agreement if you’re renting your business location

After you have all of these materials ready, either apply online with the Department of Revenue System (My DOR) OR mail everything to the following address: P.O. Box 9034, Olympia, WA 98507-9034.

Online application will take about 10 business days to process and 2-3 weeks to receive your business license. By mail, it can take up to six weeks for the application to be processed.

After receiving your license, you must post it at all of your business locations. 

Renewing your Washington Motor Vehicle Dealer License

Your dealer license expires twelve months or one year from the date of issuance. The license must be renewed before the expiration date. You can renew your license online or by mail. If you want to renew online, sign in to your My DOR account and follow the renewal instructions. If you applied for your license via mail, you will receive your renewal packet in the mail from the Department of Revenue. Follow the instructions in the renewal packet. Used motor vehicle dealers must complete another 5 hours of training before their license can be renewed. Contact one of the following education providers to schedule your class:

Washington State Independent Automobile Dealers Association
707 Auburn Way South
Auburn, WA 98002
Phone: 253-735-0267 or 800-877-3577

Independent Dealers Education Association
5812 N Vista Lane
Spokane, WA 99212
Phone: 509-220-5530