Paperwork When Buying a Car in Wisconsin

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When buying a car from a dealer in Wisconsin, you'll find that the dealer will take care of the necessary paperwork on your behalf.

With a private sale, though, you and the seller must deal with the paperwork yourselves. You'll need to get paperwork from the seller as well as title and register the vehicle with the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Keep reading for more information about the paperwork you'll need to take care of when you buy a car in Wisconsin.

Required Paperwork

Before you give the seller any type of payment, be sure that all of the paperwork is in order, which means obtaining:

  • A Bill of Sale or other document showing the purchase price of the vehicle and signed by both you and the seller.
  • The Certificate of Title, signed in the proper place by the seller, with the correct odometer reading entered in the available box on the title certificate.

If there is a lien showing on the title and it is not stamped "paid" and signed by the loan company, do NOT pay the seller until the release can be proven.

In some cases, the title may not have been available at the time it was paid off. In that case, a letter would have been prepared on the loan company's letterhead with detailed information about the loan and the vehicle. If the seller cannot produce any information about the finalization of the loan, you will not be permitted to transfer the title or register the vehicle.

Buying a Car Without a Title

You cannot legally buy a vehicle without a title; the responsibility falls on the seller for obtaining a copy of the title.

So, before initiating a sale, the seller must complete a Title/License Plate Application (Form MV1) and pay a $20 fee to replace a lost title or a $69.50 fee to title the vehicle in the seller's name for the first time. The seller can then sign over this title document to you.

Vehicle Registration

A vehicle does not have to be registered to be sold. As the buyer, you will need to obtain either temporary or permanent license plates within 2 days of purchasing the car. You can do this at any DMV office.

You can also transfer you license plates from your old car or apply for a new license plate. Fees for temporary tags, transfers, and new plates vary based on the vehicle weight, location, and other factors.

Bill of Sale

Though a bill of sale is not required, it's an important document to own for your records. It serves as your proof of purchase and protects your position should any discrepancies arise over wheel and/or local tax rates. You can easily download this form from our Bill of Sale page.

Vehicle History Report

A report on the history of a car is not mandatory paperwork, but it is a good idea so that you have all of the information you need to make a good decision about the car.

Vehicle History Reports provide several kinds of information, including an odometer reading estimate, damage to the vehicle, an accident history, and other issues like flood damage or theft.

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