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Guide to the Wisconsin DMV

wisconsin dmv

If you’re new to Wisconsin or have recently purchased a car there, here are the basics on setting up your vehicle and licensing.

New Auto Registration in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, vehicles are registered in the county that the owner resides, through your local DMV. You can register in person or by mail. Most registration certificates are valid for one year.

In order to complete a new registration, you need to:

  • Your out-of-state car registration, if you have one
  • A completed Title/License Plate Application (Form MV1)
  • Proof of identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.)
  • Proof of sales tax paid to your prior state, if you have owned your vehicle for less than ninety days
  • Payment for registration and title fees, plus applicable county taxes

Wisconsin Vehicle Inspections

Certain counties in Wisconsin require eligible vehicles to undergo emissions inspections prior to registering, and then every two years subsequently. Failed vehicles must be repaired and retested. If you recently moved to Wisconsin, you have to bring your vehicle in for a test within forty-five days of registration if it’s older than five model years old and meets all other emissions test requirements. Qualifying Wisconsin counties are: Racine, Washington, Kenosha, Sheboygan, Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Ozaukee. Check with your county for further specifics.

Wisconsin Auto Registration Renewal

Your county will send you a registration renewal notice to remind you that your registration is about to expire. You will have to pay a $10 late fee if you don’t renew on time. Wisconsin allows you to renew by mail, in person, or online. In person, you can renew at DMV service centers or third-party agencies. Registration fees vary by type of vehicle, but cars cost $75 per year.

Wisconsin Vehicle Title Process

You are required to title your vehicle as soon as possible after moving to Wisconsin. If you purchase a vehicle from a dealer in WIsconsin, the dealer will complete the title application and submit it to the Wisconsin DMV. To complete the auto title transfer yourself, you will need:

  • Your original title
  • A completed Title/License Plate Application (Form MV1)
  • Proof of identity (valid driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, etc.)
  • Proof of paid sales tax in a prior state if you have owned your car for under ninety days
  • Payment for the title fee ($69.50, and $20 title replacement fee, plus $5 if transaction takes place at the DMV)

Getting Your Wisconsin Driver’s License

You are required to apply for your Wisconsin driver’s license within sixty days of establishing residency. Wisconsin doesn’t require written driving exams for new-to-state drivers, unless your out-of-state license is expired for more than eight years. You will only need to surrender your out-of-state license and pass a vision test. Your license fee will be between $28 and $34.

Wisconsin Auto Insurance Requirements

Wisconsin requires mandatory liability insurance and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to help you cover costs associated with any accidents you cause or property you damage. You must have insurance to cover the following minimums:


  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident if multiple people were hurt
  • $10,000 for property damage

Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person
  • $50,000 for total injuries per accident