Salvaged Vehicles in Wisconsin

If your car has been totaled or sustained a good amount of damage, you have more options for dealing with it than you may expect—let’s find out what Wisconsin requires when it comes to salvaged and reconstructed cars.

What Is a Salvaged Car in WI?

A salvaged car, or total loss, is defined in Wisconsin as one that is under 7 years old and has been so damaged that the cost to repair it would exceed 70% of its fair market value

You have several options for dealing with a salvaged car, including repairing it and getting it back on the road. As part of this process you must obtain a salvage title and then a reconstructed title with the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

Salvaged Insurance Settlements

Usually, the first thing you do when your car suffers extreme damage is file a total loss claim with your insurance provider. Upon determining your car meets the criteria for a salvage, your carrier will likely offer you the choice between a: 

  • Full settlement.
    • You take complete payment, less any deductions in your policy, and sign the car title over to your insurance company.
    • Aside from releasing any liens (if applicable), the car is no longer your responsibility.
  • Partial settlement.
    • You take partial payment, minus any deductions outlined in your policy, and retain vehicle ownership.
    • You can:

Going forward, we’ll assume you decide to keep the vehicle.

Apply for a WI Salvaged Title

To apply for a Wisconsin salvaged title, you need:

  • The original car title assigned to you.
  • A completed Title Application/Branding Notification (Form MV2849).
    • You CANNOT use this form if there’s still a lien on the car—you’ll need to make arrangements with your lienholder to remove the lien before going forward. Otherwise, your lienholder may need to apply for the salvaged title.
  • All applicable paperwork from your insurance company stating the car is a total loss by state standards.
  • A written statement from you that affirms the vehicle is a salvage.
  • A check made payable to “Registration Fee Trust” for the applicable fees:
    • Title fee: $164.50.
    • Counter fee: $5.

Mail everything to:

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 7949
Madison, WI 53707

Once you have your WI salvaged title, you can start rebuilding your car and are a step closer to retitling your vehicle for the road again!

However, BEFORE you start repairs, take pictures of the front, back, and sides of your car to document the damage—you’ll need to submit these photos when having your vehicle inspected, which we’ll get into next.

For additional help, call the Wisconsin DMV at (608) 264-7447.

WI Reconstructed Car Titles

In Wisconsin, passing a salvage vehicle inspection is the first step to applying for a reconstructed car title. Once your car passes, the inspector will forward all your reconstructed title application materials to the WI DMV. 

Rebuilt Salvage Vehicle Inspection

Salvage vehicle inspections are performed to ensure you didn’t use stolen parts to repair your car and to verify the vehicle meets state safety standards. To start, make an appointment with a certified salvage vehicle inspecting agency.

At your appointment, the salvage vehicle inspector will need you to provide:

  • A completed:
  • Your rebuilt vehicle.
    • The exterior, engine, and transmission areas must be clean.
    • You can drive the vehicle to and from the inspection site without a permit or registration.
  • The salvage title.
  • Proof of identification.
  • 4 pictures of the car before repairs.
    • Pictures must show the front, rear, and each side of the vehicle.
  • An original bill of sale for each replacement major part, which must include the:
    • Name of the major part.
    • Make, model, year, and vehicle identification number of the vehicle from which the part(s) came.
      • If this information isn’t available, you must include the name of the major part(s) seller and state the vehicle source as unknown.
    • Date of the sale.
    • Seller’s signature.
    • Buyer’s (your) name.
    • Price paid for the part.
  • An envelope with first-class U.S. postage.
    • You’ll address the envelope according to whether you’d like standard or fast service.   
    • The inspector uses this envelope to submit your reconstructed title documents and fees to the Wisconsin DMV.
  • A check made payable to “Registration Fee Trust” for the applicable fees:
    • Inspection fee: $80.
    • Reconstructed car title: $164.50.
    • Vehicle registration: $85.

Salvage vehicle inspections in Wisconsin are no joke! Prior to your appointment, you may want to call the inspection station to confirm you have all the necessary documents and fees and/or to ask any last-minute questions you have about your salvage inspection.

Applying for a WI Reconstructed Title

Once your vehicle passes, the inspector will complete a certificate of inspection and include it, along with the documents and fees you submitted for your salvage inspection (listed above), in the DMV-addressed envelope you provided. It’s the inspector’s responsibility to submit your reconstructed title application (and accompanying materials) to the Division of Motor Vehicles. Once everything’s been processed and approved, the DMV will send you your reconstructed vehicle title!

Remember, except to drive your vehicle to and from the inspection site, you CANNOT legally operate it until you receive your reconstructed title and registration.


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DMV application for an original Wisconsin title AND/OR registration.
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