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    Wisconsin Vehicle Registration

    Whether you're a new resident or the owner of a new car, you'll need to register it with the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Below you'll find all the information you'll need on how to obtain Wisconsin license plates.

    If you already have a registered vehicle and you need to renew your Wisconsin vehicle registration, please visit our guide on Registration Renewal in WI.

    New to Wisconsin?

    You must register your vehicle with the Wisconsin DMV after establishing residency. You can register in person or by mail. Most Wisconsin vehicle registration certificates are valid for 1 year.

    Register in Person

    Visit your local WI Division of Motor Vehicles office with:

    • Your current out-of-state car registration.
    • A completed Title/License Plate Application (Form MV1).
    • Proof of identification (e.g. driver's license, valid U.S. passport, military ID).
    • Proof of sales tax paid to your prior state if you've owned the vehicle for less than 90 days.
    • Payment for registration and title fees, plus applicable municipal or county wheel tax (see Wisconsin Vehicle Registration Fees below).
      • You will not be re-charged when you apply for a WI title.

    Register by Mail

    If you choose to register by mail, keep in mind that the mail processing time takes several weeks. If your current out-of-state plate is close to expiring, consider applying in person.

    To apply, send a completed Title/License Plate Application (Form MV1) along with proper payment (make check or money order made payable to Registration Fee Trust) to the address listed on the application.

    NOTE: Unlike most other states, providing proof of auto insurance is not required when registering a vehicle in Wisconsin, or is proof of passing a vehicle inspection. However, your vehicle may be required to pass a smog check when it comes time for registration renewal.

    Registering a Vehicle in Wisconsin

    State law requires that you display Wisconsin plates “temporary or permanent“ on your new vehicle within 2 business days of purchasing.

    Keep in mind that:

    • Driving without plates can result in a fine of up to $200.
    • Handmade License Applied For or dealer-issued plates are not valid.
    • If you mail your registration application to the DMV, bring proof of payment to your local DMV office to obtain a 90 day temporary plate for free.

    NOTE: DMV Temporary License Agents charge $3 for the application and temporary tags. You may also be charged a $5 service fee.

    Vehicles Purchased from a Wisconsin Dealership

    If you purchase from a dealer, the dealership will submit your WI car registration paperwork for you. Before leaving the dealership, be sure to get a temporary plate.

    Vehicles Purchased from a Private Party

    If you buy from a private party, you'll need to register the vehicle on your own. You can apply in person or by mail.

    Register in Person

    Visit your local DMV office with:

    • A completed Title/License Plate application (Form MV1).
    • Proof of identification (e.g. driver's license, U.S. passport, military ID).
    • Payment for all applicable registration, title, and tax fees (see Wisconsin Vehicle Registration Fees below).
      • Even if you're not applying for a title at this time, the state requires you to pay the title fee. You will not be re-charged when you apply for a WI title.

    Register by Mail

    Only register by mail if you're in no hurry to obtain permanent plates. Processing can take several weeks.

    Submit a completed Title/License Plate application (Form MV1), along with proper payment for registration, title, and tax fees (see Wisconsin Vehicle Registration Fees below), to the address listed on the application.

    Your WI vehicle registration certificate is valid for 1 year, starting on the registration date.

    NOTE: Proof of car insurance is not required when registering a vehicle in Wisconsin. Proof of passing an emissions test only comes into play during registration renewal.

    Temporary Wisconsin Vehicle Registration

    To apply for a temporary 90 day registration while waiting for your permanent registration to arrive, visit your local WI Division of Motor Vehicles office with:

    • A completed Title/License Plate application (Form MV1).
    • Payment for your permanent WI car registration certificate (see Wisconsin Vehicle Registration Fees below).

    If you're a non-resident shopping for a vehicle in Wisconsin, you may buy a temporary plate to drive the vehicle home. Temporary plates cost $3 (you'll also be charged a service fee no higher than $5). Visit any Wisconsin DMV office to obtain them.

    Custom-Built Cars

    If you have a custom-built car that doesn't have a title certificate, you'll need to apply for one first. Visit your local Wisconsin DMV office and provide:

    • Proof you own all major components of the vehicle, such as bills of sale, receipts, or invoices.
    • The vehicle identification number (VIN), if applicable.
    • A State Patrol inspection verification.
    • The certificate of title for the body of the vehicle, signed over to you (if applicable).
    • Payment for the titling fee.

    Contact the Wisconsin DMV before your visit to make sure there aren't any additional documents required and for fee information.

    Once you have a certificate of title for your custom vehicle, you can have it registered following the steps listed in "Registering a Vehicle in Wisconsin" above.

    Transferring WI License Plates

    You may transfer your existing license plates to your new vehicle provided that:

    • The vehicle is of the same type (e.g. car to car, motorcycle to motorcycle).
    • The license plate is still valid.

    To notify the DMV, submit a Title/License Plate application (Form MV1), making sure to complete Section B. Mail it to the address on the application. No fee is required if the plates are valid.

    Military & Non-Resident Vehicle Registration

    WI Military Residents

    Residents of Wisconsin who are in the military and currently in state may register their vehicles using either of the methods outlined above (in person or by mail).

    If you're a military resident who is currently stationed outside of Wisconsin, you have two options:

    • You may have someone register the vehicle in person for you. They must explain that you are on active duty, and may be required to show copies of your military ID and duty orders.
    • You may register by mail using the process outlined above.

    NOTE: You may also be eligible for a refund of any unused portion of your registration fee upon entering the military. Please see Vehicle Registration Fees below for details.

    Temporary Plates While on Military Leave

    While on leave for up to 30 days, you may obtain temporary plates for any vehicle owned or designated by you. You do not have to register this car with the WI DMV, and the plates are free. You can apply in person or by mail.

    To apply in person, visit any Wisconsin DMV service center with:

    To apply by mail, send the application to the address listed on the form.

    Pro-Ration of Registration Renewal Fees for Non-Operation

    With proper military identification or proof of orders, you're eligible to receive credit for periods of non-use of your vehicle of less than 12 months. Contact your local Wisconsin DMV office for more information.

    Wisconsin Vehicle Registration for Non-Residents

    If you're a visiting non-resident, you do not have to obtain Wisconsin plates provided:

    • You do not pay Wisconsin income tax.
    • Wisconsin is not your primary home.
    • You have not registered to vote in Wisconsin.

    If you're an out-of-state student enrolled in a Wisconsin college or university, you're also exempt from registering with the Wisconsin DMV provided you maintain your student status.

    Wisconsin Vehicle Registration Fees

    What you pay to register your vehicle is based on registration fees, titling fees, and a possible wheel tax, depending on your place of residence.

    WI DMV offices take cash, checks, Discover, MasterCard, American Express and most debit cards.

    Vehicle Registration & Titling Fees:

    • Passenger vehicle: $75.
    • Motorcycle/moped: $23 (biennial fee).
    • Duplicate registration: $2.
    • Title Fee: $69.50.

    Wheel Tax

    A Wheel Tax is charged depending on your town, village, city, or county of register. Some charge, others don't. The current places that collect the wheel tax are:

    • St. Croix County: $10.
    • City of Milwaukee: $20.
    • City of Beloit: $10.
    • City of Janesville: $10.

    All passenger cars or trucks weighing 8,000 lbs. or less will be subject to the tax.

    The state does not dictate or regulate the amount of the tax. It is based on the sole discretion of your place of residence.

    Fee Refunds

    You may request a refund on the unused portion of your registration when entering the military, as well to civilians if you request one before the beginning of a new registration. .

    To request a registration refund, gather:

    • Your current WI car registration certificate.
    • The vehicle registration year sticker.
    • A letter explaining the reason for your refund request.

    Send documents to:

    Research & Information
    P.O. Box 8070
    Madison, WI 53708

    Obtain a Duplicate Wisconsin Vehicle Registration

    If your Wisconsin vehicle registration certificate has been lost, stolen, or damaged, you can order a duplicate. You can do so online, by mail, or in person.

    Online Replacement

    To be eligible to replace your registration online, you must:

    • Be the registered owner of the vehicle.
    • Own a printer with standard-sized paper.
    • Have access to Adobe Acrobat (the certificate will be in PDF form).
    • Have a valid method of payment (credit/debit card or e-Check) for the $2 application and $.50 convenience fees.

    Go to the DMV’s online replacement portal and submit:

    • Your e-mail address.
    • Your WI driver's license or ID number.
    • The last 4 digits of your Social Security number.
    • Your birth date.
    • Your VIN number.

    Replace by Mail

    To replace your registration certificate by mail:

    Replace in Person

    If you wish to replace your registration in person at your local DMV office, complete the Duplicate Certificate of Registration Application (Form MV2026) and hand it in, along with your $2 replacement fee, to the office agent.

    Wisconsin License Plates

    When applying for your WI car registration certificate you'll have the choice between a standard plate or one of many specialized plates. To learn more about your options, visit our License Plates & Placards page.

    Replace a WI License Plate

    If you need to order a duplicate license plate for any reason, follow the steps below.

    For standard plates:

    • Complete a Replacement or Duplicate License Plates Application (Form MV2118).
    • Write a check made payable to “Registration Fee Trust.” Depending on the plate type, fees range from $2 to $6.
    • Mail the application and check to:
    • Department of Transportation
      P.O. Box 7949
      Madison, WI 53707-7949

    For special plates, mail the application and check to:

    Department of Transportation
    Special Plates Unit
    P.O. Box 7911
    Madison, WI 53707-7911

    The WI DMV highly suggests notifying local law enforcement if you suspect your plate or plates were stolen.

    Register a Non-Operational Vehicle

    If your vehicle has been in storage, you'll need to complete a non-operation statement to avoid late Wisconsin vehicle registration penalty fees.

    To qualify for this waiver, your vehicle must have been off the road for one of the following scenarios:

    • 12 months, if your vehicle is registered annually.
    • 1 quarter or more, if your vehicle is registered quarterly.
    • 1 month or more, if your vehicle is registered under the state's consecutive monthly registration program.

    If you qualify, you can submit a completed registration renewal notice or completed Substitute Renewal Notice/Non-Operation Statement (Form MV2016). You can submit either document by mail (to the address listed on the form) or in person at your local Wisconsin DMV office.

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