Buying and Selling FAQs in Wisconsin

We have many sections devoted to the important matter of buying and selling vehicles, including our State Regulations section. Here we address some of our most frequently-asked questions.

What is a bill of sale?

It's a written document that helps provide proof of transfer of ownership of personal property, such as a car. It contains the purchase price of the vehicle, the sale date, a description of the vehicle, and the names of the buyer and seller.

You don't need to have a bill of sale when buying or selling a vehicle, but the state recommends that you do.

Where can I get a blank bill of sale?

Glad you asked. We provide a generic version for you to use.

I'm selling my car. Do the plates stay with me or the car?

The plates stay with you, so remove them. You may use the plates on another car you or your spouse own, hang them above the fireplace, or destroy them. Just don't take them to the Division of Motor Vehicles―they don't want them!

I'm selling my moped. What should I do with the plates?

Unlike with cars, plates stay with the vehicle in this case. The same goes for trailers, mobile homes, trucks weighing at least 10,000 lbs, and farm trucks weighing at least 16,000 lbs.

I just sold my vehicle. Can I get a refund on my registration, since my vehicle is no longer in use and my registration hasn't expired?

You can receive a refund if you prepaid your registration for the next period and request a refund before that period beings. You cannot receive a partial refund for a vehicle sold during the registration period.

I sold my vehicle. Do I need to let the state Department of Transportation know?

As of January 1, 2016 you must notify the Department of Transportation within 30 days if you have sold a vehicle. This includes junked vehicles sold with a bill of sale. You must report:

  • Date of sale
  • Price.
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle
  • The name of the buyer

I'm buying a vehicle from a private seller. How long do I have to register and title the vehicle?

If you're planning on using the vehicle, you have 2 business days to perform these transactions.

I'd like to buy a vehicle from my next-door neighbor, but there's a lien showing on the title. Is it OK to proceed with the sale?

No. Unless "paid" is stamped on the title and it's been signed by the lienholder, or a lien release from the lienholder can be produced, back away from the sale. You won't be able to transfer the title if there's an outstanding loan.

How much does it cost to register and get plates for my new vehicle?

That's a good question, but there isn't a simple answer. These fees vary depending on the type and weight of your vehicle.

How do I get temporary plates, and how long are they good?

If you're buying a vehicle from a dealer, the dealer will supply you with the plates. (That's assuming you don't have plates from another vehicle to transfer.) In other instances, you may obtain the plates at a DMV customer service center that offers this service, or at a temporary license plate agent.

Be prepared to pay a $3 temporary plate fee, a $5 service fee if using a temporary license plate agent, and an application fee.

I'm having all sorts of problems with my new car. Where I can find out more about Wisconsin's Lemon Law?

We cover this subject in our Lemon Law section, and the DMV offers some information, too.

I'm having trouble with the used car I just bought. What can I do?

You have more protection if you bought from a licensed Wisconsin dealer than a private seller. The DMV takes a look at what you can do.

I have a complaint about a dealer. What should I do?

If you can't resolve the issue with the dealer, file a Dealer Complaint (Form MV2338) form with the state. Send the completed form to:

  • Department of Transportation
  • Dealer & Agent Section
  • 4822 Madison Yards Way, Room 201
  • P.O. Box 7909
  • Madison, WI 53707

If you have questions about how to proceed, you can call the department at (608) 266-1425. You may have to hire an attorney if the department cannot resolve the issue to your satisfaction.

Do I have three days after the vehicle sale to cancel my purchase?

Not in most cases. The DMV covers this matter.

Where can I find more information about registering and titling cars?

An excellent place to start is by looking at our registration and titling sections.

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