Dealer Licensing in Wisconsin

Thinking of a career as a car dealer? Before you put out any cars for sale, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) Dealer and Agent Section has a few requirements you must meet—namely, setting up a proper car dealership and obtaining a retail dealer license. We’ll go over these requirements and more on this page.

WI Retail Dealer Licenses

You’re legally allowed to sell up to 5 motor vehicles annually as long as:

  • You own the vehicles (i.e. they’re titled and registered in your name and you operated them for personal use).
  • You did not acquire any of the vehicles for the purpose of selling them.

However, if you want to go into business buying, selling, or otherwise dealing with motor vehicles—even if you obtain just 1 motor vehicle for the purpose of selling it—you must obtain a retail dealer license.

In Wisconsin, a retail dealer license is your basic new and/or used car dealer license, and allows you to deal in motor vehicles with the public.

Other Types of Licenses

Aside from standard retail dealer licenses, Wisconsin also issues other kinds of motor vehicle-related licenses, which include:

  • Buyer’s License.
  • Manufacturer License.
  • Moped Dealer License.
  • Motorcycle Dealer License.
  • Recreational Vehicle Dealer License.
  • Representative License.
  • Salesperson License.
  • Salvage Buyer ID (BID) Card.
  • Salvage Dealer License.
  • Wholesale Auction Dealer License.
  • Wholesale Dealer License.

If you’re applying for any of these licenses, carefully read the application instructions provided on each license type’s page. Some of the requirements are different from those for basic retail dealer licenses.

Requirements for WI Car Dealerships

Your car dealership must meet Wisconsin’s business facility requirements, meaning it must have a/an:

  • Permanent building that:
    • Is not a residence.
    • Has an office space inside.
    • Has an area of at least 12 feet by 20 feet for vehicle display, preparation, and repair within the building.
  • Repair shop on the property OR a service agreement with a nearby repair shop (you must attach a copy of the service agreement to your dealer license application).
  • Outdoor display lot adjacent to the office OR all vehicles displayed indoors.
  • Sign describing hours of operation posted on or beside the entrance.
  • Exterior sign showing the business name in letters, unless prohibited by local zoning ordinances.

ADDITIONALLY, you must own or lease the premises and your dealership must comply with all local building code, zoning, and permit requirements.

Your dealership could be inspected at any time, so make sure your facilities are up to state standard to avoid any future setbacks.

NOTE: If there are other motor vehicle businesses sharing your premises, the vehicle display lots must be completely separate and you must submit a lease agreement AND a diagram showing how the premises are shared with your dealer application.

Apply for Wisconsin Retail Dealer License

Once your car dealership meets Wisconsin’s business location requirements, you can submit the following to the DOT’s Dealer and Agent Section:

Visit the DOT’s website to download all necessary forms.

Mail everything to:

Dealer and Agent Section
P.O. Box 7909
Madison, WI 53707

You’ll receive your dealer and salesperson licenses, dealer plates, and educational resources once the Dealer and Agent Section processes your application and conducts any required background checks.

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