License Plates & Placards in Wisconsin
You'll need Wisconsin license plates to drive a vehicle on WI roads. You can apply for plates by registering your car in person. You'll renew your tags by renewing your vehicle registration, which can be done online. If your plates or stickers are lost or stolen, you can order replacement plates in person or by mail, and replacement stickers by phone or online.
Read below for details about standard license plates and tags in Wisconsin.
Do you need to apply for a disabled parking plate? Visit our Disability Placards & Plates page for application requirements and other details.
What are the Types of Wisconsin License Plates?
In Wisconsin, passenger vehicles and other vehicles driven on public roads must have license plates issued by the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Wisconsin law requires:
- 2 license plates on most passenger vehicles, displayed on the front and back.
- 1 license plate on motorcycles, displayed on the back.
All license plates require validation stickers on the rear license plate so that they're visible without obstructing the plate number. The stickers display the month and year that the plates and registration expire.
The standard Wisconsin license plate features a sun, birds, and a small house, as well as the phrase “America's Dairyland."
Other Types of License Plates
The WI DMV also offers a wide range of special license plates that feature various organizations and affiliations, as well as personalized plates.
For more information, visit our pages:
You may be eligible for disabled parking license plates if you have a qualifying disability. See our Disabled Placards & Plates page for application details.
Vehicle dealers, financial institutions, and WI DMV tag agents can provide temporary tags that allow you to operate your vehicle while waiting for your permanent license plates.
They are valid for up to 90 days.
Temporary tags are $3 when you get them from a dealer or a lending company when you buy a car. If you have submitted your permanent registration you can also receive temporary tags valid for 90 days at a DMV office for no additional fee.
A temporary tag is also available if you:
- Buy a car in a private sale.
- Buy a car in WI but live in another state. (This temporary tag is only valid for 30 days.)
- Fail the emissions test and your car is being repaired. (This temporary tag is valid for 30 days and can be reapplied for while your vehicle is repaired).
- Move to WI and do not have valid out-of-state tags.
- Are waiting for replacement plates when yours are lost or stolen.
You can receive temporary tags from the Wisconsin DMV. The fee will be:
- A $3 tag fee.
- A service fee of up to $5.
How to Apply for License Plates in WI
To apply for WI license plates for your car, truck, motorcycle, or other vehicle, you must register your vehicle with the WI DMV:
- When you buy a vehicle, you have 2 business days to display either permanent or temporary license plates..
- When you move to Wisconsin, you must register your vehicle as soon as you become a resident of the state.
Visit our Car Registration page for more information about registering your vehicle and getting WI tags.
How to Renew Wisconsin Tags
You must renew your vehicle registration to renew your license plates and get a new validation sticker.
Vehicle registration is usually valid for 1 year. Commercial vehicles and other types of vehicles may have different renewal schedules.
The WI DMV offers online registration renewal and several other renewal methods.
For more information, see our page about Wisconsin registration renewal.
Replace WI License Plates & Stickers
You can replace your license plates and/or validation decals if yours are lost, stolen, or damaged.
License Plate Replacements
To request replacement license plates, you will need to:
- Report the loss or theft to the police.
- Complete the Replacement or Duplicate License Plates Application (Form MV2118).
- Pay the appropriate fee:
- $4 fee for replacement standard plates.
- Fees for other plate types vary and are listed on the application.
Submit your application and fees:
- In person at your local WI tag agent.
- By mail to the address on the form.
You can obtain temporary tags while you wait for your permanent plates to arrive. See “Temporary Tags" above for more information.
Expiration Sticker Replacements
If you need ONLY the decal, you can request a replacement:
- By phone at call (608) 264-7447.
- Online using the DMV contact form.
Be sure to have the following information available when calling or emailing:
- Your vehicle identification number (VIN) and license plate number.
- Your contact information.
The Wisconsin DMV will mail your replacement sticker.
Transfer & Surrender License Plates
When you sell or trade in your vehicle, or when you move outside of Wisconsin, you can transfer, surrender, or keep your license plates. (You may wish to destroy unused license plates so no one else can use them.)
Transfer License Plates
In Wisconsin, you can transfer license plates ONLY IF you transfer them to:
- The same class of vehicle.
- A vehicle that will be registered in your name, your spouse's name, or your domestic partner's name.
If you buy a car from a dealer, they can handle the plate transfer for you.
If you buy a car in a private sale, you can request the transfer when you register the car.
NOTE: You DO NOT have to pay registration fees unless your registration renewal is due.
Surrender License Plates
You DO NOT have to surrender your license plates to the WI DMV if you no longer need them.
If you sell your vehicle or move to another state, you may wish to destroy your Wisconsin license plates so that no one else can use them.
- In some situations, you may be eligible for a refund of the unused portion of your registration. Eligibility varies based on your registration period:
- For annual, quarterly, or monthly registrations—You must request a refund BEFORE your new registration period is set to begin.
- For biennial registrations—You must request a refund BEFORE the beginning of the 2nd year.
- You will receive a refund for the unused year.
To request a refund, complete the License Plate/Registration Refund Request (Form MV2030) and send it to the DMV with:
- Your original registration certificate.
- The registration year sticker.
The mail-in address for each plate type is listed on the form.
Fees for Wisconsin License Plates
The Wisconsin DMV charges the following license plate fees:
- New standard plates AND renewal:
- Passenger car: $85 for 1 year.
- Trucks up to 4500 lbs.: $75 for 1 year.
- Motorcycle: $23 every 2 years.
- License plates: $4 per plate for standard plates. Fees vary for other plate types.
- Decals: Free if requested by phone or e-mail. Contact the WI DMV for more information.
NOTE: License plate agencies may charge additional service fees for transactions.
Search for a WI License Plate
You may have several reasons to look up a license plate number. Various tools are available depending on the reason for your search:
- To check the availability of personalized license plate numbers, use the WI DMV personalized plate search.
- For more information about a specific vehicle, use its vehicle identification number (VIN) to order a vehicle history report.
- To report an abandoned or illegally parked vehicle, contact your local police. They can run the plate and contact the owner if necessary.