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You must renew your car registration every 12 months.
Renew WI Registration
You can't legally drive within the state on an expired registration.
Likewise, it's against the law to drive without current proof of financial responsibility. Most motorists use auto liability insurance to meet this requirement. If you need to obtain this coverage, or are simply looking for a new provider, visit our Insurance Center and quickly find carriers and compare rates.
See our "Check Your Renewal Notice" section below to learn about your renewal options.
Register a Vehicle in WI for the First Time
Did you just buy a car or move to the state? If so, you'll need to complete an initial vehicle registration. Find out how to do so at our main registration page.
Register a Non-Operational Vehicle
You'll need to complete a Non-Operation of Vehicle Statement to renew a vehicle that has this status. Your vehicle qualifies for non-operable status if it has been off the road for one full license period.
When you submit this form, you can keep your old plates and won't have to pay registration fees for the time the vehicle wasn't in use. But, you must renew either in person or by mail.
Call (608) 266-1466 if you have any questions about this matter.
You should receive a license plate expiration renewal notice from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) at least four weeks before your registration lapses. Pay attention to the expiration date listed on the form, as it could be any day of the month. If you didn't receive your notice, you can download a substitute form to use for mail or in-person renewals.
The notice contains other information such as the fees you owe, your emissions testing status requirement, and a renewal reference number (RRN) or product number (if you're eligible to renew your registration online).
Even if you didn't receive your notice, you must still renew the registration before your plates expire.
Avoid Late Fees and Penalties
Tardy renewal applicants must pay a $10 late fee, in addition to the customary registration fees. It's illegal to drive for any length of time within the state with expired plates.
To renew using this method, your renewal notice must reflect your current address, license plate number, and vehicle information.
To renew online:
- If applicable, determine whether your vehicle needs an emissions inspection. This information is on your renewal notice. If it does, you must wait 24 hours after your vehicle passes the inspection before you can begin the renewal process.
- Locate the RRN on your renewal notice.
- Be ready to pay your renewal fee (plus the $1 service fee) with your valid Visa, MasterCard, Discover Card, or American Express credit or debit card.
- Go to the online renewal site and follow the instructions provided.
- Receive the renewal confirmation number.
Allow one week to receive your renewal materials; if you've successfully completed the online renewal process, you may legally drive right away, even if you don't have the renewal stickers on your plate.
- Locate your renewal notice or current registration.
- Make sure your vehicle gets an emissions inspection if the renewal notice indicates one is necessary. It takes 24 hours for the record of a passed inspection to become available in the system, so plan accordingly.
- Have cash or a check to pay your renewal fee; DMV service centers add a $3 handling fee, and third-party agencies tack on up to an extra $10.
- Go to a DMV service center that offers renewal transactions, or a third-party agency.
You'll receive your stickers as soon as the transaction is completed. If you don't feel like waiting in line, drop your renewal notice and payment in the registration drop-off box at the DMV service center instead.
- Locate the renewal notice.
- Follow the instructions regarding the emissions inspection, if applicable.
- Make your check or money order for the fee amount payable to the Registration Fee Trust.
- Mail everything to:
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation
- P.O. Box 3279
- Milwaukee, WI 53201-3279
Allow 10 days to receive your renewal materials. However, if you're using a substitute renewal form, allow a few weeks for processing.
Follow the instructions provide to place your sticker in the appropriate spot on your license plate.
Residents in some states can deduct their renewal fees on their tax return. That's because the renewal fee in those states acts as a personal property tax from being assessed on a vehicle's estimated value.
Because Wisconsin doesn't determine its renewal fees in this manner, you can't take this deduction. Talk to a tax attorney for more information on this matter.
It's great to have the renewal process finished. However, there are other steps you can take to make traveling on the state's roads as safe as possible for yourself and other drivers. Maintaining your vehicle in the best possible shape is one way to do this.
Start with regular car care. This means doing little but important things, such as changing your oil and tuning up your car according to the manufacturer's recommended schedule. Don't neglect your tires, either; rotate them a couple of times a year, and replace worn tires promptly.
Find a skilled, reliable mechanic who can not only handle these matters, but keep a close watch for possible other problems before they become dangerous. Consider investing in an after-market warranty, too. Although these policies may seem expensive at first, they can easily pay for themselves over time.
And, lastly, join a roadside assistance program. No matter how careful you are about keeping your vehicle in good shape, emergencies are bound to happen, and being a member can help you safely handle these situations.Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks