Questions and answers
Q: How did DOL discover this issue?
A: This issue was brought to our attention by law enforcement officers. They informed the agency they had made traffic stops on public roadways involving off-road motorcycles with license plates (licensed for street use). They reported encountering motorcycles licensed for street use but without required equipment and with an “off-road use only” designation stamped on the frame. These officers questioned why these motorcycles had been licensed incorrectly.
To be eligible for Washington state registration as a street-legal vehicle, a motorcycle must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and federal emission standards.
DOL was notified by law enforcement officers who report increasing contact with operators of off-road motorcycles licensed for street use. After researching this issue, DOL learned a lack of documentation from manufacturers has existed for several years. This resulted in many motorcycles manufactured for off-road use being inappropriately licensed for street use.
Because off-road motorcycles are not certified by the manufacturer for highway use, they fall into the category of off-road vehicles. Other examples of off-road vehicles include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dune buggies and go-karts. None of these vehicles are eligible to be licensed for street use.
What is DOL doing about this issue?
The owners of off-road motorcycles licensed for street use are currently being notified by mail that their motorcycles are being correctly reclassified as off-road vehicles. The registrations and license plates for these motorcycles are being cancelled and new titles are being issued that will reflect these changes. Off-road vehicle permits will be issued at no charge to owners who hold a current street registration.
How can I tell if a motorcycle is certified for street use and can be licensed as a motorcycle?
Motorcycles certified for highway use are required by federal law to have a permanent label attached by the manufacturer indicating that the motorcycle is compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions standards for highway use. In addition, off-road motorcycles often have the words “off-road use only” or a similar message stamped into the frame of the motorcycle. This type of message also is generally found in the owner’s manual for these types of motorcycles, on stickers applied to the rear fenders.
Under Washington Administrative Code (308-56A-110), Manufacturer’s Statements/Certificates of Origin are required to state that a vehicle is not manufactured for road use, if applicable. We have learned some manufacturers are out of compliance with this requirement. DOL continues to work with these manufacturers to bring them into compliance.
What are the federal standards a motorcycle has to meet to be licensed for street use?
To qualify for registration for street use, all types of vehicles have to be manufactured to meet the
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). In addition to meeting these federal safety standards, a motorcycle licensed for street use also has to be certified by the manufacturer as meeting the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions regulations for motorcycles licensed for street use.
Will individuals who have been issued plates for their off-road motorcycles get to continue using them, or can they be “grandfathered”?
No, we will be reclassifying off-road motorcycles incorrectly licensed for street use as off-road vehicles. It is important to keep in mind that a license plate doesn’t make an off-road vehicle street legal. If a motorcycle without the required certifications for safety and emissions is licensed for street use, it is an illegally licensed off-road motorcycle.
Is this action the result of a change in the law?
No, DOL has not changed any laws, rules or policies related to the registration of off-road motorcycles. The agency is taking steps to better ensure compliance with existing laws.
Can I register my cycle as street legal if I add the required lights and mirrors?
No. Washington state will not reclassify an off-road motorcycle for street use, even if required lights and other safety equipment is added. To be street legal, the manufacturer of a motorcycle must certify that it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and federal emission standards. These safety standards go far beyond the lights, mirrors, and horns contained in aftermarket kits. They regulate frame and fuel tank construction, brakes, and other components. These kits also don’t address the required certification that the engine complies with federal emission standards.
What do the MSOs and MCOs of the motorcycles you are reclassifying as off-road vehicles say?
In most cases, the MSOs related to the motorcycles we are reclassifying as off-road vehicles did not have any message about the intended use of the motorcycle, which is out of compliance with state code. In other cases, we found other messages like “competition use only.”
How come some motorcycles that had MSOs and MCOs without the required certification message were licensed for street use?
After becoming aware of this issue, we learned that staff members in vehicle licensing offices had long been accustomed to seeing the proper “off-road use only” messages on MSOs and MCOs indicating motorcycles like these are for off-road use only. When these documents didn’t have this message, the employees of these offices assumed they could be registered for street use.
What are you doing to correct this issue with reading MSOs and MCOs?
Now that we are aware of these discrepancies in the messages printed on MSOs and MCOs, vehicle licensing office employees will be looking for both off-road related messages and the appropriate manufacturer certification for highway use before a motorcycle will be registered for street use. We also are working with manufacturers who don’t currently add an “off-road use only” message to MSOs to add it when appropriate so that they are compliant with Washington Administrative Code.
Why do other states allow off road cycles to be converted to street cycles by adding kits to them?
Laws and rules can vary from state to state. Some states do allow the conversion of an off-road cycle for street use, but many others do not. Washington is among the states that do not permit the conversion of off-road vehicles for street use. In our state, a manufacturer must certify on the MSO that a motorcycle was not designed and manufactured for street use.
The dealer who sold me the motorcycle told me it could be titled for street use. What should I do?
Will DOL reimburse me for any potential value change of my motorcycle?
No, DOL is not liable for inappropriately registering a vehicle (RCW 46.16.012).
Is there going to be a refund on the registration for the cycle use class?
No, owners will receive a full-year ORV license at the time your new registration is issued. If the motorcycle was registered as both ORV and street use, then an application for refund can be submitted. A portion of the fees may be refundable.
Why are KTM brand motorcycles being targeted?
This is not an issue that only affects one brand of off-road motorcycles.DOL is working with the manufacturers of these types of vehicles to determine which of their off-road models may have been improperly licensed for street use.
Who do I contact if I have questions about the ORV registration or do not receive it?
Please contact DOL’s Refunds and Title Services unit at 360-902-3803.
You will need to contact the selling dealer to resolve the issue, the state Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline (800-551-4636) or DOL’s Dealer Services Program (360-664-6475).
When your car becomes so damaged it’s uneconomical to repair, you have a salvaged car (or “total loss”) on your hands. Now what?
Follow along as we go over the Washington Department of Licensing’s (DOL) regulations and options when it comes to sorting out a salvaged vehicle.
What Is a Salvaged Car in WA?
Washington defines a salvage car as one that has been wrecked, damaged, or otherwise destroyed to the point that it would be uneconomical to repair. Often, this means the repair costs would exceed the car’s actual cash value.
Market Value Threshold
Washington’s definition of a salvaged car DOES NOT apply to vehicles with a model year dating 6 years or more before the calendar year in which the damage occurred UNLESS it meets the market value threshold, meaning:
- It’s between 6 years old and 20 years old;
- It’s a passenger vehicle, light-duty truck, or sport utility vehicle; AND
- The retail value before the damage was at least $7,880.
If your car was at least 6 years old when it became damaged but doesn’t meet the market value threshold, contact the WA DOL at (360) 902-3770 for help.
First Steps with a Salvage Vehicle
As a self-insurer who declared your car salvaged, your next step is to report the vehicle’s salvage status to the WA Department of Licensing—skip down to “Reporting a Salvage to the DOL” for instructions.
If you’re a policyholder and your insurance company determines your car meets the salvage criteria after a total loss claim, you can either:
- Sign the car over to your insurance provider and take a full settlement.
- Besides providing proof of lien satisfaction (if applicable), the vehicle is no longer your responsibility.
- Keep the car and take a partial settlement from your insurance carrier.
Reporting a Salvage to the DOL
Once a car is deemed a total loss, a report must be filed with the Washington DOL. The deadline to report the salvage differs depending on if you’re the:
- Registered owner of the vehicle: Within 15 days of the damage occurring.
- Insurance company ORself-insurer: Within 15 days of the insurance settlement claim.
To report a car’s salvage status*, you must submit:
- The car title, with “DESTROYED” and the datethe car was salvaged written on the face of the title.
- A statement on whether the car meets the state’s market value thresholdIF the car was 6 model years old or older when the damage occurred.
Mail the above items to the DOL (within the deadlines outlined above) at:
Department of Licensing
P.O. Box 9038
Olympia, WA 98501
Once the DOL receives the title and statement (if applicable), your car will be filed as a salvaged vehicle.
*NOTE: Insurance providers and self-insurers can also report a salvage using the DOL’s online reporting system for insurers OR by mailing the total loss claim settlement form to the address above. Call the WA Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3770 for details.
Selling a Salvaged Car in WA
When you sell a salvaged car in Washington, you may choose to sell it for parts OR as a whole. We’ll go over the requirements for each option.
If you choose to keep the car, rebuild it, and retain ownership thereafter, skip down to our instructions on applying for a rebuilt title.
Sell for Parts
When you sell a salvaged vehicle for parts, you must provide the buyer with a notarized bill of sale for EACH part. Bills of sale must include:
- A description of the part.
- The vehicle identification number (VIN).
- The name of the last registered owner.
After selling the parts of your choosing, you can sell the rest of the car by providing a notarized bill of sale with the vehicle’s description (such as make, model, and year) and VIN to the purchaser.
Sell the Whole Car
When you sell the whole car, you must provide the buyer with:
- An Insurance Destroyed Vehicle Options (Form TD-420-080).
- This sheet includes instructions for the buyer, including the buyer’s responsibility to make an appointment with the Washington State Patrol for a rebuilt salvage vehicle inspection if the buyer rebuilds and wants to retitle the car.
- A Notice of Cancellation letter.*
- Call the DOL at (360) 902-3770 for instructions on obtaining this letter.
- A notarizedbill of sale.
- An odometer disclosure statementIF the car is fewer than 10 years old.
*You must notify the WA DOL of the sale within 5 days of selling the car. If you have further questions about selling your salvaged vehicle, call the Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3770.
Rebuilt Title Application
Once you rebuild the car, you can apply for a title branded “WA REBUILT.” Generally, you’ll follow the same steps as applying for a regular Washington title. Be sure to call the Washington DOL at (360) 902-3770 to confirm you have all the required paperwork before making application for a rebuilt title.
NOTE: You DO NOT need to take your vehicle in for a salvaged inspection to retitle the car AS LONG AS you are the original owner (i.e. did not buy the car as a salvage).