West Seattle vehicle-licensing office closing permanently after Tuesday, county says

Last Friday, a reader told us they’d heard that West Seattle Licenses – the longtime vehicle-licensing office at 5048 California SW – would close at year’s end. We went to the office to ask; they would not comment. Though you might think that these offices are part of the state Department of Licensing, they’re actually “sub-agents,” and their contracts are administered in this area by King County, so we contacted the county next, and were told Friday that negotiating were continuing with WS Licensing, and to check back this afternoon. We did – and tonight county spokesperson Cameron Satterfield replied with this statement:

The contract between King County and West Seattle Licensing Agency will terminate on December 31, and the agency will permanently close at the end of the business day. This only affects WSLA – other licensing subagents in King County have new contracts going into effect on January 1.

There is a process for selecting a new licensing subagent for the West Seattle area, outlined in state law. The timeline for that process is still to be determined. However, it will likely take at least couple of months to select a new subagent for West Seattle and for them to open to customers.

In the meantime, West Seattle residents can visit www.dol.wa.gov/vehicleregistration/ to renew tabs online or obtain other services. If customers prefer to do business in person, they can visit kingcounty.gov/vehicle to find another licensing location. Some nearby alternatives include:

– King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle
– Georgetown
– Vashon Island
– Burien
– Rainier Valley

The King County website has addresses and hours of operation for each location.

We don’t know yet why a new contract was not reached; Satterfield had told us last week that “some changes to the contracts [with all sub-agents were] coming into force” as of January 1st but did not elaborate. Note that this does NOT involve the driver-licensing office in Westwood – just the vehicle-licensing office south of The Junction. (Image: King County Assessor’s Office)

59 Replies to "West Seattle vehicle-licensing office closing permanently after Tuesday, county says"

  • AMD December 30, 2019 (8:51 pm)

    Wow, first the White Center office, now this one.  I think that means the closest place to pick up vehicle tabs in person will be Burien.  That is really unfortunate.

    • Chxpotpie December 30, 2019 (9:16 pm)

      Can’t you just request the tabs to be mailed to your home?

      • Bonnie January 2, 2020 (1:34 pm)

        That works for some, but there are a number of reasons many people prefer to pick up their tabs in person, plus license agencies handle other transactions that must be done in person. I frequently receive mail for people several blocks away, so who knows where my tabs would end up if mailed.

      • Patrick January 3, 2020 (9:46 pm)

        No, we received our renewal in January because of Tim Eyman, our tabs were due in Dec….

    • Driver December 30, 2019 (9:36 pm)

      You can also go to the County Administration building in downtown Seattle for car tabs. 

      • Rick January 1, 2020 (8:48 am)

        Is concealed carry allowed in that building? (Sarc) (Sorta)

      • Jake from State farm January 3, 2020 (11:39 pm)

        Oh Ya! That’s all-sorts of fun! 

  • dsa December 30, 2019 (9:20 pm)

    Burien gets busy already.

  • KD December 30, 2019 (9:43 pm)

    Awww Crap! They were so helpful and informative in there! Also, I thought the Georgetown one (on Michigan St. in that strip mall, right?) closed quite a long time ago.

  • Mj December 30, 2019 (10:01 pm)

    AMD so much easier to simply have them mailed to you.

    • WRes2008 December 31, 2019 (10:00 am)

      The mail option is so slow, the pay online and pick up in person is so much more efficient

      • East Coast Cynic December 31, 2019 (1:06 pm)

        From my personal experience, the mail option for tabs seemed to be about 3 days, 4 max.  Not too bad for the convenience.  I’m more concerned about where to go when I have to change the license plates!  People are saying Georgetown, better than nothing in the absence of a West Seattle location.

    • waikikigirl December 31, 2019 (3:33 pm)

      Mailed…just remember to give yourself plenty of time, don’t wait until the last minute and mailed saves you a few dollars, no agency fee.

  • dhg December 30, 2019 (10:18 pm)

    to all those who say it’s simpler to have your tabs mailed:  the county takes its sweet time mailing tabs AND my car got ticketed a week after I’d paid online and was waiting for the tabs to arrive.  This month the county did not mail out reminders because they weren’t sure what the fees would be. I paid online and picked them up at the office on California.  Going downtown would’ve taken an extra  hour or two, plus parking.    

    • Tsurly December 31, 2019 (5:54 am)

      Sounds like you shouldn’t have waited until the last minute to order them. It’s your responsibility to know when it’s time to renew you tabs, not the governments.

  • Lilwash December 30, 2019 (10:24 pm)

    For those of us who’s tabs expired in December we received our renewal notifications at the end of last week because of the tab legal battle. As of today (when I renewed mine) WS was still an option for pick up with no notification that they were closing after tomorrow. I hope they still plan on being open until 5:30 so I can get my tabs. 

  • AMD December 30, 2019 (10:45 pm)

    Yes, I know they can be mailed to you.  And I’ve had enough bad experiences with that (taking six weeks to get them and getting pulled over in the interim, getting lost/stolen in the mail, etc.) that I like to get them in person.  Yes, I know you can get them downtown.  You can also get them in Bellevue and a host of other places that are not near home.  That was the point I’m making.  It’s a bummer that there are no more centers that are really convenient.  Georgetown is probably the next easiest one to get to from those that are left (yes, it’s still open.  I was there just a couple weeks ago with a friend who was registering her car in her name for the first time — something you can’t do via mail).

    • sam-c December 31, 2019 (6:01 am)

      I’m with AMD- for many of these reasons.  It’s a disappointing closure.

  • Nwmama December 30, 2019 (11:01 pm)

    There are still reasons it is easier to visit in person – like when we sold our vehicle, had the title transferred and had it “returned” to us (ugh).  These guys were helpful.  I hope someone else opens up!

    • JeffK December 31, 2019 (6:35 am)

      I’ve been in there a dozen times in the last 5-6 years with some sales and licensing issues.  They were really helpful.  And they were always busy.

  • Mariem December 30, 2019 (11:13 pm)

    Wow, this looks to have been handled poorly by King county/wsdol. Now a lapse in service – why?

  • Trickycoolj December 31, 2019 (1:24 am)

    Georgetown is very busy on Corson/Michigan but is fairly easy access, straight shot from the 1st ave bridge. The Starbucks has left that strip mall so parking is easier. I’ve always gone to this location rather than the WS location. 

  • Railroaded December 31, 2019 (4:25 am)

    Renewing tabs is no big deal via mail. I have never had a problem with that.However, transfers of ownership can be very complicated and this agency had very knowledgeable staff that knew all the ins and outs. This is a big loss for West Seattle.

  • West Seattle Lurker December 31, 2019 (5:47 am)

    You get what you pay for. No state income taxes = a reduction in services provided by the state. If you would like to change this, support a candidate who wants to institute a state wide income tax. You’ll be amazed at how much Washington could change when given the funds. 

    • Rumbles December 31, 2019 (1:11 pm)

      Give them even more money?  No thanks!  How about the government spends the money they get a little more responsibly?

      • Don humble January 8, 2020 (12:28 pm)

        You nailed it!

    • WSResidentsince1996 December 31, 2019 (1:21 pm)

      State income tax is not the answer. I find it hilarious that people see that as a form to fix neighborhoods. What should be focused on is the money management from our government. It’s too bad to see that office go even though they have terrible customer service. Hopefully another agent can replace them in a different location in West Seattle. 

    • CandrewB January 5, 2020 (9:30 am)

      How hard is it to ignore the last five years of record revenue? Do you actively tell yourself to ignore it or does it just come passively?

  • Friend O'Dinghus December 31, 2019 (6:09 am)

    It looks as if I am a rarity, but in my opinion that licensing office was not worth keeping open. I hope the new West Seattle licensing office, whomever is awarded the contract, and wherever it may be located, doesn’t treat their patrons as poorly as the location on California Avenue did. It’s almost like they thought they worked at the DMV itself. Perpetual lines, perpetual lack of urgency, perpetual cold and uncaring dispositions. Change is good, and in this case, and in my opinion, change is very, very good.

    • Jake from State farm January 3, 2020 (11:52 pm)

      What makes you think WSDOT has to reopen a location in West Seattle?Someone can apply, and try to open a new location, but that might not happen. Think of the cost to open a new business in West Seattle, the profit margins to pay the over head. It’s not a good business model in 2020.  B&O tax is not going away…only in Seattle.

  • K December 31, 2019 (6:58 am)

    Great, the title for my new car is being mailed to that office. They frequently get titles mailed directly to them. Where will those go?

    • Lilwash December 31, 2019 (9:15 pm)

      K -Since mine had been sent there yesterday and their phone was off the hook today I called the Burien location and they put me in touch with someone from the main office. She said they would be picking up all the paperwork from the WS location on Thursday or Friday and either notifying the people or you can contact them to request they either be mailed to you or you can select a new location to pick them up.

  • steve December 31, 2019 (7:11 am)

    I ordered by mail a few times. Why does it take so long to return what is basically a stamp? 6 weeks or more?

    • KM December 31, 2019 (8:54 am)

      This is so interesting, my experience has been 1-2 weeks for the past decade or so. I request them to be mailed from the WS office too. One time I did have to go into the office there, and they tried to fudge my new (to me) car registration details to save me money. That was interesting.

    • Seriously? January 4, 2020 (8:00 pm)

      Well, go work there to help with the huge backlog shoved on the overworked, underpaid CSR crew everyone seems to get mad at, because they LOVE being bullied by people who can’t plan ahead . . . yours, you might be shocked to learn, is not the only renewal mailed in that needs to be processed.

  • Junction Lady December 31, 2019 (8:42 am)

    Bummer!  Seems like the County is trying to cut operating costs, but unfortunately that usually ends up overburdening remaining staff and loss to consumers.  Wonder if the employees will be relocated to another office??

  • Kate K December 31, 2019 (8:43 am)

    I’ve been going there for 20 some years to pick up my tabs and transfer titles. Always very helpful. Sorry to see WS Licenses closing. 

  • Disabled December 31, 2019 (8:43 am)

    Wow, I’m really surprised that people liked this place. I have had horrible experiences there and been treated very poorly many times.  They are “know-it-alls” and literally will not listen to you when you try to explain things in full. I was trying to get setup with my disability license plates, and they treated me so bad I literally had tears running down my face. One of the worst experiences I’ve had in my life.i yelled out “YES” when I saw this headline! They run a terrible operation. I know it will be a pain until we have a replacement, but it has to be better than this group. I do mail my tabs every year. I just renew as early as possible and have had no issue. A licensing office is nice though for anything more complex (purchase/sale).I’m sure they were not renewed due to their poor treatment of customers. Karma had gotten them! Happy new year!

  • Ryder December 31, 2019 (8:49 am)

    I always order by mail and have them sent to me.  I specify King County as the agency, and usually have them within a week.  Maybe selecting one of the sub-agents for mail service takes longer?  Still, there are times that I need to go in in person, and I’d much rather make the drive to Georgetown or Burien than run the gauntlet trying to get into the county building downtown.

  • David December 31, 2019 (10:07 am)

    No loss for me – every time  I went in there they were crabby. Did business for work with the Ballard office and they were always pleasant.

  • Brian Feusagach December 31, 2019 (10:21 am)

    I also handle all my tab renewals online and request deliver via mail designating King County as the agency. This saves the additional fee charged by these commercial agencies (yes,  they do have a business to run).  And my tabs have always arrived in plenty of time because I am notified early enough by using WSDOL’s License Express (https://www.dol.wa.gov/licenseexpress.html). One can use this system for all car tabs and drivers licenses in a household and renewal notices are sent out by email well in advance. This system can also be used to process the car tab renewal and vehicle transactions. One stop shopping for these simple DOL tasks – without paying for gas, parking, and agency fees.

  • webshaf December 31, 2019 (10:33 am)

    Wow. They were extremely helpful and supportive when we found out last summer that my husband never cleared his title when he paid off his(1988!) Mazda long ago(in a different state and the bank that was listed on his registration/title was taken over by another bank…nightmare!)   I hope the capable and friendly staff there are able to find jobs that let their talents shine.   Thank you all for your efficiency and jobs well done.

  • PatsPackHawksOhMy! December 31, 2019 (11:14 am)

    A competent management team would’ve set the deadline for renewal 90 days prior to end of contract and – if no agreement made – tender the contract out for bid and wrapped it up in that 90 day timeframe so there’d no lapse in services for the area. What say you Ms’ Herbold, Durkan, Gonzalez?  Too much to ask?  Too busy “fighting for the people”?

    • WSB December 31, 2019 (11:25 am)

      This has absolutely nothing to do with the city. King County is who runs them, as mentioned above. Your King County Councilmember is Joe McDermott

  • just wondering December 31, 2019 (11:51 am)

    Whenever I see a business that is located on California Ave. close I think a multi story building is coming! 

  • Lola December 31, 2019 (1:12 pm)

    There is one in Georgetown on Michigan just as you come off of I-5. 

  • Lola December 31, 2019 (1:14 pm)

    My husband used to go to this one all the time and he complained about them not being very friendly every time he went.  I always told him to do it by mail as it was less of a hassle.  

  • Super Dummy December 31, 2019 (1:44 pm)

    Once you renew your “tabs” online your plate is in the system so the Police know you paid your taxes. You won’t need sub agents when you buy your vehicles from honest dealerships like Huling Brothers or use public transportation 

  • ARPigeonPoint December 31, 2019 (2:10 pm)

    This is the first place I’ve lived where all vehicle/driving services weren’t handled at the DMV.  It’s always been odd (to me) to have to go to more than one place to get your car registered/renew your driver’s license. That being said, I’m sad to see this go.  I really liked the staff.

  • Chemist December 31, 2019 (7:30 pm)

    Several of the commenters saying renewing car tabs with the county/dol directly saves the subagent fee are a few years behind.  The state told the county/dol office to put those subagent fees towards ferries back in 2014.  The car tab service fee/ferry replacement also went up from $5 to $8 in the past year.  The most recent paper renewal notice has “$8 Service fee retained by subagent, or funds ferry replacement if renewed at County Auditor/DOL” printed as a line item.  A few years ago the base under-4,000 lbs weight fee also went from $10 to $25.  All the car tab increases wasn’t entirely from Sound Transit or the Seattle Transportation Benefit District.

  • Bike Girl December 31, 2019 (7:34 pm)

    Well, bicycles don’t need tabs. Hopefully a cool noodle place opens there instead. 

    • alki_2008 January 1, 2020 (1:17 pm)

      Good for you. Appreciate your able body while you have it.

  • Rick January 1, 2020 (9:30 am)

    Amazon will come to the rescue. 

  • ROBERT GOULET January 1, 2020 (10:15 pm)

    That’s a shame. I’ve had 3 weird title problems in the past, in part when dealing with estates of family members that have passed away, and the folks at this location were the best.  They gave me the advice and direction I needed as well as completed the forms required.  I’ll miss them and the convenience of their offices.  

  • bmc January 2, 2020 (9:58 am)

    Well this is a bummer…………. I went to the downtown Renton licensing place once – wow!!!! Took over an hour, huge long lines. I was warned – but in a major pinch so stuck it out.

  • Dunno January 3, 2020 (8:03 pm)

    Always nice to work with!  Georgetown 3 hour wait today.   This stinks!  Some of us need this service.  They really did know it all, by the way, I sure didn’t!  Roxbury Auto, now this.

  • WcR January 4, 2020 (4:33 pm)

    In my experience the staff were really rude and crabby most of the time. Had a terrible experience with them getting a title transferred that I went to Burien instead. They provided way better service. A bit out of the way, but I was already doing it because of the terrible staff in West Seattle. 

Sorry, comment time is over.