Guide to ATV and UTV Laws in Washington

guide to washington atv and utv laws

Continuing in our series of articles analyzing the ATV laws in every state, which stemmed from this article, we are addressing the ATV laws in Washington in this article. It should also be noted that, while I am an attorney, I am not your attorney and am not giving legal advice.  If you have questions, you should consult a local attorney.

How does Washington Define ATV and UTV?

Washington refers to ATVs as wheeled all-terrain vehicles, or WATV.  A WATV is a motorized, non-highway vehicle with handle bars that meets the following criteria:

Also included as a WATV are UTVs.  Washington refers to UTVs as utility-type vehicles designed for, and capable of, travel over designated roads that meets the following criteria:

  • Has 4 or more low-pressure tires of 20 PSI or less.
  • Is less than 74 inches wide (How big are common UTVs?).
  • Weighs less than 2,000 pounds (Want to see how much UTVs weigh?).
  • Has a wheelbase of 110 inches or less.
  • Meets 1 or more of the following:
    • Is at least 50 inches wide.
    • Weighs at least 900 pounds.
    • Has a wheelbase of over 61 inches.

Are you Required to Title and Register your ATV or UTV in Washington?

You are required to title and register your ATV or UTV in Washington and obtain ORV decals or tags.  You must do so by visiting a vehicle licensing office within 15 days of purchasing your ATV or UTV.  Failure to do so will result in additional fees.

You should not keep your title with your ATV or UTV, but your registration must be on you or your vehicle when you are riding.  The metal ORV decal is required to be fastened to the rear of ATV or UTV.

The registration requirements to not apply to the following vehicles:

  • Off-road vehicles owned and operated by the government;
  • Off-road vehicles operated on and across agricultural and timberlands owned, leased, or managed by the off-road vehicle owner or operator or operator’s employer;
  • Off-road vehicles owned by a resident of another state, which also offers reciprocity to Washington (currently just Idaho), that have a valid ORV use permit or vehicle registration issued in accordance with the laws of the other state.
  • Off-road vehicles while being used for emergency management purposes under the authority or direction of an appropriate agency that engages in emergency management,  or search and rescue, or a law enforcement agency;
  • Vehicles validly registered for operation over public highways; and
  • Off-road vehicles operated by persons who, in good faith, render emergency care or assistance with respect to an incident involving off-road vehicles.

Note that you can also get a 60 day temporary permit if you don’t require a year-long permit.

washington utv laws

Where are you Permitted to Ride your ATV or UTV in Washington?

Unlike the crazy laws in Massachusetts, Washington’s ATV and UTV laws do not apply to riding on private lands, except to the extent they require you have permission from the land owner before riding on private land.

When it comes to where you can ride your ATV or UTV, it all depends on whether you have it registered to ride on the streets.  If you do, there are a lot of restrictions you need to read about below.  If you are just riding off-road, we will discuss that here.

While it may not be that helpful, off-road use is controlled differently in whichever area you are riding.  In other words, you are permitted to ride on any non-highway road and in parking areas serving designated off-road
vehicle areas if the state, federal, local, or private authority responsible for the management of the non-highway road authorizes the use of off-road vehicles.  Even simpler, you can ride where they say you can ride.

How to get your ATV or UTV Street Legal in Washington?

To operate on public streets, you must obtain both an on-road and off-road tag when you register your ATV or UTV.  You need to be careful; however, as an on-road tag doesn’t permit you to ride on any streets.

Typically, you are limited to roads where the speed limit is 35 mph or lower.  Additionally, the actual roads where you are permitted to ride is governed by cities and counties so you have to check with your local authority to ensure you know what roads you may ride on.

Note that you must have a valid driver’s license to operate an ATV or UTV on a public road.

To qualify for an on-road tag, there are three steps you have to follow:

  1. First, you have to ensure your ATV or UTV is equipped with the following:
    1. Head lamp to be illuminated whenever you are driving on the road;
    2. Tail lamp (2 are required for a UTV);
    3. Stop lamps;
    4. Reflectors;
    5. Turn signals;
    6. Brakes;
    7. Mirror (2 are required for a UTV);
    8. Horn or warning device;
    9. Muffler and spark arrester;
    10. Windshield (unless wearing face protection, like our favorite goggles);
    11. Seatbelts (for UTVs only of course);
  2. After making any necessary modifications, you must have your ATV or UTV inspected by a Washington licensed WATV dealer or repair shop. They will complete Part 1 and sign the Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicle Road Use Declaration form.  You should be aware the maximum charge for such an inspection is $50.00.
  3. Once you have the inspection completed, you need to take the following to a vehicle licensing office:
    1. The WATV Road Use Declaration form;
    2. copy of the receipt showing you paid for the inspection – attached to form; and
    3. The vehicle’s title.

What are the Age Restrictions for ATV and UTV use in Washington?

ATV and UTV operation on public lands in Washington is restricted to those aged thirteen or older.  However, those aged under thirteen may operate an ATV or UTV  so long as they are under the direct supervision of someone aged eighteen or older who possesses a valid driver’s license.

guide to washington atv and utv laws

Other Restrictions on ATV or UTV use in Washington

  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in such a way as to endanger the property of another.
  • It is unlawful to ride from dusk until dawn without a headlight and taillight on any land not owned by the operator.
  • It is unlawful to ride without operable brakes on any land not owned by the operator.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV without a spark arrester approved by the department of natural resources.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV without an adequate, and operating, muffling device which effectively
    limits vehicle noise to no more than eighty-six decibels on the “A” scale at fifty feet.
  •  It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV upon the shoulder or inside bank or slope of any non-highway road or highway, or
    upon the median of any divided highway.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in any area or in such a manner so as to unreasonably expose the underlying soil, or to
    create an erosion condition, or to injure, damage, or destroy trees, growing crops, or other vegetation.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV on any non-highway road or trail, when these are restricted to pedestrian or animal travel.
  • It is a misdemeanor to operate an ATV or UTV while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance.
  • Unless you are in a UTV with seat belts and roll bars, or on private land owned by the operator or on agricultural land, it is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV without wearing a helmet fastened securely while in motion.  If you are in need of a great helmet at our great value, this is our favorite helmet.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in such a way as to endanger human life.
  • It is unlawful to operate an ATV or UTV in such a way as to run down or harass any wildlife or animal.
  • It is unlawful to  carry, transport, or convey any loaded weapon in or upon, nor hunt from, an ATV or UTV except by permit
    issued by the director of fish and wildlife.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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