Car Registration in Wisconsin

SUMMARY: How to Register Your Vehicle in Wisconsin

Vehicles can be registered with the Wisconsin in person or by mail. You'll need to provide proof of ID, a completed application form, and payment for your registration fee. New residents to the state will also need your out-of-state registration and proof of sales tax to your previous state (if applicable). Temporary registrations are also available. The DMV also allows you to transfer your existing plates to your new car if you choose.

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).

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.

NOTE: For special vehicle types, such as ATVs and snowmobiles, please visit our page on Other Vehicle Registrations.

Just Moved?

Find all the information you need to finish your moving requirements with the DMV.

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.

How to Register a Car 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 $3.

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

Make sure you have an active car insurance policy when registering your vehicle.

Compare rates and buy your policy online: Visit the Insurance Center >>

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 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.

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. 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.

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: $85.
  • Electric vehicle: $175.
  • Motorcycle/moped: $23 (biennial fee).
  • Duplicate registration: $2.
  • Title Fee: $164.50.

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:

  • Eau Claire County: $30.
  • St. Croix County: $10.
  • Iowa County: $10.
  • Langlade County: $15
  • Marathon County: $25.
  • Milwaukee County: $30.
  • Dane County: $28.
  • Dunn County: $20.
  • Crawford County: $20.
  • Green County: $20.
  • Portage County: $25.
  • Richland County: $20.
  • City of Adams: $25.
  • City of Ashland: $20.
  • City of Chilton: $20.
  • City of Boscobel: $10.
  • City of Milwaukee: $30.
  • City of Beloit: $20.
  • City of Evansville: $40.
  • City of Eau Claire: $24.
  • City of Fort Atkinson: $20.
  • City of Gillett: $20.
  • City of Green Bay: $20.
  • City of Janesville: $40.
  • City of Kaukauna: $10.
  • City of Lodi: $20.
  • City of Lomira: $30.
  • City of Madison: $40.
  • City of Manitowoc: $20.
  • City of Milton: $30.
  • City of Montello: $20
  • City of New London: $20.
  • City of Platteville: $20.
  • City of Portage: $20.
  • City of Rice Lake: $20.
  • City of Ricer Falls: $10.
  • City of Sheboygan: $20.
  • City of Appleton: $20.
  • City of Waterloo: $15.
  • Township of Arena: $20.
  • Village of Bellevue: $20.
  • Village of Doylestown: $20.
  • Village of Eden: $30.
  • Village of Iron Ridge: $10.
  • Village of Oregon: $40.
  • Village of Port Edwards: $35.
  • Village of Prairie du Sac: $20.
  • Village of Redgranite: $25.
  • Village of Tigerton: $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:

Department of Transportation
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 online convenience fees.

Go to the DMV 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:

Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 7949
Madison, WI 53705

For special plates, mail the application and check to:

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

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.


Title/License Plate Application
DMV application for an original Wisconsin title AND/OR registration.
Duplicate Certificate of Registration Application
Request a duplicate Wisconsin registration certificate from the DMV.
Replacement License Plate Information and Application
Request replacement license plates from the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles.
Substitute Renewal Notice/Non Operation Statement
Use as a replacement registration renewal notice if you lost or did not receive one from the WI Division of Motor Vehicles. Can also be used to claim non-operation of a vehicle and exemption from registration renewal fees.
DMV.ORG BBB Business Review