If you are a Washington resident and purchase a vehicle outside this state that you then bring into Washington, you owe use tax on the value of that vehicle. Use tax is the same rate as sales tax and is due when property is brought into Washington if sales tax was not paid. The use tax rate is determined by your place of residence.
You must pay use tax when you license/register your vehicle. If you can show that you paid sales or use tax in another state prior to bringing it into Washington, you may apply the amount of sales or use tax you paid against the Washington use tax you owe (RCW 82.12.035). You may not take a credit for other amounts paid such as licensing fees, lessor taxes, or value added taxes like Canada’s GST.
Note: You are considered a resident of this state for sales and use tax purposes if you take actions which indicate you intend to live in this state on more than a temporary or transient basis. See our Washington State residency definition tax topic.
Moving to Washington new residents
If you acquired and used a "private motor vehicle" in another state more than 90 days before moving here, you do not owe Washington's use tax (RCW 82.12.0251(3)).
Note: A "private motor vehicle" is an individually owned motor vehicle, for personal use, and not a commercial vehicle. Off road vehicles (ORVs), motor homes, and trailers do not qualify for this exemption. ORVs are vehicles not designed primarily for use upon the public streets and highways. (RCW 46.04.365)
Registration of the vehicle in another state is commonly used as documentation for this exemption.
If you purchased a personal vehicle in another state within 90 days of moving here, you owe use tax when you register and license it.
You must license your vehicle in Washington within 30 days of moving to this state. For more information, visit the Department of Licensing website.
Military personnel vehicles
For information on the taxability of vehicles purchased or used in Washington by military personnel, see our Vehicle Sales Tax and Use Tax Requirements for Persons in the Military Services Special Notice.
If you bring a commercial vehicle into this state, use tax is due on the value of the vehicle, no matter how long ago you purchased it. However, if a commercial vehicle is brought into the state by a business that operates outside of Washington for temporary (no more than 180 days in any consecutive 365 days) business use, then use tax is determined on the reasonable rental value. See (RCW 82.12.010(7)(c)).
Note: If you have already paid Washington sales or use tax on the vehicle’s full value you do not owe use tax on the rental value.
See our Tax Topic about Nonresident (out-of-state) business owes use tax on vehicles for additional information.
You must license your vehicle in Washington within 30 days of moving to this state. For more information, visit the Department of Licensing web site.
What amount is used to determine the use tax due?
Use tax is based on the fair market value of the vehicle. Generally, this is the amount paid to the seller. However, if the payment amount does not represent the value for vehicles of similar make, model, and condition, the value is determined as close as possible to the retail selling price of similar vehicles. The value of the vehicle cannot be less than the amount paid to the seller (RCW 82.12; WAC 458-20-17802).
For more information, visit the Department of Licensing website.