Buyer beware of flood-damaged vehicles for sale

September 16, 2016

OLYMPIA—Following recent flooding in Louisiana that left as many as 100,000 vehicles seriously damaged, unsuspecting buyers across the nation are being warned to do their homework before purchasing a used vehicle.

Many of these vehicles are expected to be transported from state to state, repaired and put back on the market at auto auctions, used car dealerships, and even by private sellers.

Consumers in Washington should take extra precautions by adding flood damage to the list of concerns to be aware of when purchasing a used vehicle.

After being cleaned up, these vehicles may look like any other vehicle on the surface. However, there are significant mechanical, safety and health risks associated with flood-damaged vehicles.

Dirty floodwater causes rust and damages major mechanical parts and safety systems such as engines, air bags, anti-lock brakes and transmissions. The water also damages electrical systems, especially on-board computers that are often located under seats or in other low points in vehicles.

These tips can help to spot potential flood-damaged vehicles:

  • Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.”
  • Use an online vehicle history tracking service like to get more information about a vehicle’s past.
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and to look for signs of water.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.

More DOL offices to offer enhanced and commercial driver license services

July 1, 2016

The Department of Licensing is expanding the number of offices where customers can obtain enhanced driver licenses, enhanced ID cards, commercial driver licenses and commercial instruction permits from 27 locations to 40 locations.

“Governor Inslee approved our plan to expand these services and it was funded by the Legislature,” DOL Director Pat Kohler said. “This will make getting enhanced or commercial licenses much more convenient for our customers and we expect it to help reduce wait times in many of our larger offices currently handling large numbers of commercial and enhanced driver license transactions.”

The Department of Licensing can’t offer these types of licenses in 16 of it’s smaller locations because they lack the staffing or equipment required to meet federal requirements for issuing documents that require applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of legal presence in the United States.

Enhanced driver licenses and ID cards, commercial driver licenses and commercial learner permits will now be offered at these driver licensing office locations:

  • Bellingham
  • Mt. Vernon
  • Oak Harbor*
  • Port Angeles
  • Bremerton
  • Poulsbo*
  • Downtown Seattle
  • Everett*
  • Lynnwood
  • Smokey Point
  • Shoreline*
  • Bellevue-Redmond
  • Kent*
  • North Bend*
  • Renton
  • West Seattle
  • Federal Way*
  • Lacey
  • Parkland
  • Puyallup
  • Shelton*
  • Tacoma
  • Hoquiam
  • Centralia*
  • North Vancouver
  • East Vancouver*
  • Kelso
  • Kennewick
  • Sunnyside*
  • Union Gap
  • Walla Walla
  • Ephrata*
  • Moses Lake
  • Omak
  • Wenatchee
  • Ellensburg
  • Colville
  • Spokane Valley*
  • Spokane
  • Pullman

* Newly added

Please note:  Once issued, enhanced driver licenses and enhanced ID cards can be renewed at any driver license office, online or by mail. Customers who need to apply for a name change on an enhanced driver license or ID card are required to visit one of the offices above. Also, commercial driver license customers must always renew in person at one of the offices listed above.

Fuel tax, some licensing fees will increase July 1

June 10, 2016

Washington State Department of Licensing blog logo

OLYMPIA—On July 1, 2016, state fuel tax and several licensing related fee increases will go into effect in Washington. The increases were approved by the Legislature in 2015 as part of Connecting Washington, a transportation package to fund many important, impactful transportation projects around our state.

These projects include highway and local road construction and maintenance, bike path and walkway projects, rail and transit projects, ferry system improvements and fish barrier removal.

The state fuel tax for both gas and diesel will increase by 4.9 cents to 49.4 cents. State fuel taxes provide funding for state, county and city transportation projects and maintenance, ferry construction and operations and other transportation-related needs.

The Enhanced Driver License fee will increase to $9 per year. This means the cost to upgrade a standard, six-year driver license or ID card to an Enhanced Driver License or Enhanced ID Card will increase from $18 to $54. Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Cards are available to U.S. citizens as federally approved identification that can be used in place of a U.S. Passport at U.S. land and sea border crossing stations.

Several commercial driver license (CDL) fees are increasing. The fee for obtaining a CDL instruction permit will increase from $10 to $40. CDL knowledge (written) tests will increase from $10 to $35, CDL skills (driving) tests will increase from $100 to $250 except for the school bus driver test, which will remain $100. The new CDL skills test fee will allow a driver to take one no-charge retest if the test isn’t passed on the first attempt.

The electric vehicle renewal fee increases $50, from $100 to $150. This fee is collected to mitigate the impact of electric vehicles, which pay little or no fuel taxes, on our state’s roads and highways.

Annual motor vehicle weight fees for passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles up to 14,000 pounds that pay the state’s $30 basic registration fee will increase. The amount of the increase will range from $15 to $35 depending on the weight of the vehicle. For example, the motor vehicle weight fee for a passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or less will increase by $15, from $10 to $25.

Gross weight license fees for trucks, commercial vehicles, and other types of vehicles up to 10,000 pounds that are not subject to the state’s $30 basic registration fee also will increase. The amount of this increase also will range from $15 to $35. A new freight project fee will be collected on vehicles subject to the gross weight license fee with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds. This fee will be 15 percent of the gross weight license fee due at the time of annual registration.

It’s time to renew: 2016 boat decals expire June 30

June 8, 2016
Everett Marina with Mt. Baker


OLYMPIA—Boating season is here, and the deadline for renewing boat and watercraft registration decals is right around the corner.

All Washington state boat registrations expire on June 30.

Don’t let an expired registration spoil your day; remember to renew before you get out on the water.

Boat registrations can be renewed online at the DOL website or in person at a neighborhood vehicle licensing office.

Those who choose to renew at an office should make sure to note the registration number on the bow of the boat or watercraft and take that information to the office.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

May 11, 2016

motorcycle safety transit ad

Rising temperatures in our state mean an increasing number of motorcycle riders will be out on our roads. These riders can be difficult to see on busy roads because of their smaller size and profile. Motorists should take an extra moment to look twice. A second look can save a motorcyclist’s life.

May is nationally recognized as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month to bring attention to motorcycle safety. In 2015, 72 riders lost their lives in motorcycle collisions. That’s 72 people who went for a ride and did not make it home.

“Motorcycle safety depends both on motorists sharing the road with motorcycles and motorcyclists making good decisions to help them reach their destinations safely.  If everyone does their part, I am confident we will see fatalities drop in 2016,” said Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler.

To help drivers understand what they can do to make roads safer for motorcyclists, the DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program created a motorcycle awareness video called “A Second Look” that has received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and millions of shares around the world on Facebook.

In 2015, 73 percent of the motorcycle fatalities were the fault of the rider, with the top three causes being alcohol or drug impairment, rider negligence, or excessive speed. Riders have the ability to minimize or eliminate these risks through continued training.

DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program will promote the benefits of motorcycle rider training this year with an exciting new video called “Training is Everything”.

Emphasizing the importance of choices and consequences while riding, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission created the IT’S A FINE LINE website filled with interesting information and opportunities to get involved with state motorcycle safety efforts.

More information about motorcycle safety training and motorcycle endorsement requirements is available on the DOL website.

The playlist below features six videos concerning motorcycle safety, including the videos mentioned in this blog post.

JBLM will require Real ID compliant driver licenses or IDs beginning April 1

March 1, 2016

Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) recently announced new ID requirements for unescorted visitor access at that base and the Yakima Training Center (YTC). These facilities will begin complying with the Federal Real ID Act on April 1, 2016, which means a standard Washington driver license or ID card will not be accepted for entry.

Washington residents who plan on visiting a military base in our state must have an Enhanced Driver License, Enhanced ID Card, or another acceptable form of identification to get a visitor’s pass for unescorted access to these bases. According to Fort Lewis officials, the following documents can be used in place of a standard Washington driver license or ID card:

  • Washington State Enhanced Driver License or Enhanced ID Card
  • U.S. Passport or U.S. Passport Card.
  • Permanent resident card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (INS Form I-551).
  • Foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp or temporary I-551 printed notation on a machine readable immigrant visa.
  • Foreign passport with a current arrival-departure record or foreign passport with INS Form I-94/I-94A bearing the same names as the passport and containing an endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status, if that status authorizes the alien to work for an employer.
  • Employment authorization document that contains a photograph (INS Form I-776).
  • JBLM-issued Rapid Gate Identification
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
  • Transportation Worker ID Card (TWIC) issued by DHS
  • Native American tribal document.
  • U.S. Government issued, authenticated Federal PIV credentials.
  • For anyone under 18, a school identification card with a photograph.

This change affects companies with employees who need unescorted access to JBLM or YTC. It also impacts people who need visitor passes for unescorted base access to visit friends, family, the museums, hospital or other locations.

Washington is one of five states whose standard driver license is not in compliance with the federal law. Washington’s Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Cards are Real ID Act compliant and require proof of U.S. citizenship, identity and Washington state residence. Learn more about obtaining an Enhanced License or ID at the Department of Licensing website.

Learn more about the new requirement by contacting the Lewis Visitor Center at (253) 967-4794, McChord Field Visitor Center at (253) 982-2588, or YTC Police Desk at (509) 577-3236.

Visit the Department of Homeland Security Website for information about the Real ID Act.

The facts about REAL ID compliance and Washington state

October 30, 2015

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently informed Washington state of their decision to deny our request for a compliance extension for REAL ID requirements. This means starting as early as January 2016, standard Washington state driver licenses and ID cards may no longer be accepted as a standalone identity document at some secure federal facilities. This does not affect commercial airline travel at this point. The Department of Licensing has issued Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Cards since 2008. These will continue to be federally acceptable documents and can be obtained by Washington residents who are U.S. citizens.

Even under REAL ID, most services provided by the federal government do not require identification to be presented, and that will not change. Washington residents who do not have a federally compliant document will still have access to federal courts, Social Security offices, national parks, and, at this time, boarding flights at commercial airports.

At some point in the future, Washington residents who do not have a federally compliant document will need to use an approved second form of ID with their standard Washington driver license/ID card for boarding domestic commercial airline flights. DHS has indicated that they will announce “the timing and nature” of enforcement for commercial airlines in December, 2015 and that the date will be at least four months from that time. They have provided no further information to states.

It is important to remember that this change will not have significant impacts on typical Washington residents at this time. Most residents don’t regularly visit the secured areas of federal facilities. Washingtonians are encouraged to investigate all of their options for obtaining a federally compliant document like a U.S. Passport/Passport Card, state Enhanced Driver License/ID card, or other ID documents (see below) that will be acceptable by federal agencies to enter secure federal facilities. This includes nuclear power plants, military facilities and other facilities that require ID to enter.

  • Washington is among 24 states that have been operating with a REAL ID compliance extension because our regular driver licenses and ID cards do not meet all 41 different REAL ID requirements. DHS denied our state’s request for another compliance extension which makes our state subject to the REAL ID enforcement schedule. This means our regular driver licenses and ID cards may no longer be accepted at certain secure federal facilities and nuclear power plants – the Department of Homeland Security has not announced a specific date for enforcement to begin at commercial airports.
  • State law currently prohibits the expenditure of state funds to comply with the REAL ID Act. See RCW 46.20.191 and 43.41.390.
  • The Department of Homeland Security compliance schedule indicates REAL ID requirements may be enforced at commercial airports any time after December 31, 2015. However, the exact date remains unknown and at whatever point they announce the date, there will be at least 4-months between the announcement and the date the commercial airport requirements will take effect. DHS has been unclear about specific dates.
  • Since 2008, Washington state has issued Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Cards that federal officials have certified for use as proof of identity for federal purposes. These documents can be used for any purpose a REAL ID compliant license can be used for and have the additional benefit of being an acceptable form of identification at U.S. land and sea border crossing stations in the Western Hemisphere. They are available to U.S. citizens.
  • Over the past several years, DOL has met many of the REAL ID requirements (21 out of 42) just by adopting national best practices for driver license and ID card security—things we would have done regardless of the REAL ID Act. In addition, we will meet several more of the REAL ID requirements once we move to a new driver license and ID card central issuance system in 2017. Many of the REAL ID requirements will be costly for the state to comply with.
  • Additional forms of identification acceptable for federal purposes include:
    • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
    • U.S. military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DoD civilians)
    • Permanent resident card
    • Border crossing card
    • Airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
    • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
    • HSPD-12 PIV card
    • Foreign government-issued passport
    • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
    • Transportation worker identification credential