New seven-digit license plates coming to Kitsap


The in basket: I’ve been watching license plates, waiting to see one of the new seven digit plates the state began using when plates with the long-standing three-letter then three number format ran out. 

The old plates were issued alphabetically, and I haven’t noticed any of the old plates on the highway this year beginning with anything earlier in the alphabet than R. Most begin with a W, X, Y or Z.  The every-seven-year cycle of plate replacement to make sure plate reflectivity isn’t lost doomed the six-digit format and required a new one. 

I asked if any of the new plates are in use and why the state didn’t simply start over with the six-digit format since nearly all are no longer in use.

The out basket: Yes, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing. Six of the state’s 39 counties have gotten first crack at the new format, with Whitman County in eastern Washington the first. Kitsap is one of the other five, and our county’s auditor’s office says they have been issuing them since February. I have seen only one on the road, one day in Port Orchard.

As for why defunct six-digit plates aren’t resurrected, Brad said, “DOL has a long-standing policy of only issuing each plate number once. It helps eliminate the possibility of conflicts on the road and within our motor vehicle database. 

“Conflicts could arise because we

now offer vehicle owners the option of retaining their current

standard-issue license plate number (on new plates) when they are due for plate

replacement for an additional $20 fee. 

“If individuals do that for a

couple of cycles, we could theoretically catch back up with them and

produce plates that already are in use. 

“We also have procedures and laws

that would complicate any process of reissuing a new license plate with

a number that already has been used in the past. Here is an example:

“A state law declares any motor vehicle 30 years old or older as a

collector vehicle. The law permits the owner of a collector vehicle to

use a ‘restored’ license plate. A restored plate is a license plate

issued by our state that is at least 30 years old and in good condition

that is reassigned to a collector vehicle. 

“The restored plate has to

have been issued in the same year that the collector vehicle was

manufactured. For example, if you have a 1965 Mustang that you want to

license as a collector vehicle (there are restrictions on how you can

use a collector vehicle), you can choose to use an actual Washington

state license plate issued in 1965 in place of the DOL-issued collector

vehicle license plate. 

“Within about seven years, plates with the

mountain background and modern plate numbers will become eligible for

reuse on collector vehicles.”

One thought on “New seven-digit license plates coming to Kitsap

  1. Hi Travis: We had to get new plates in March which have AAB and four numerals. What really ticks me off is that someone determined that the reflective material has a seven year life span and the plates must be replaced with new ones. Our seven year old car is in very good condition has low mileage and did not need new reflective material ie plates. They should have flash lights at the license shacks to determine if the glow is gone or not and act accordingly.

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