New Registration

Vehicles in the state of Wisconsin can be registered by through the mail and in person at your local DMV office. New residents and owners of new cars will need to apply for a new registration with the DMV. The DMV is responsible for the record keeping and issuing regarding all motor vehicles across the state.

Registration Process for Purchased Vehicles

Wisconsin state law requires you to display either temporary or permanent plates on your newly purchased vehicle within two business days of the purchase. If you drive without plates, you can be fined up to $200. If you send your application by mail, you should go to the local DMV office with proof of your payment to get a temporary plate for $3. This temporary plate will last for 90 days.

When you purchase a vehicle from a dealership in the state, the dealer is in charge of handling the registration paperwork. You won’t need to worry about submitting it. You should be sure to get your temporary plate before you leave the dealership.

If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller, you’ll be responsible for registering the vehicle. You can apply either through the mail or in person at your local DMV office.

To register in person, bring the following documentation to your local DMV:

  • Your complete Title and License Plate Application
  • Proof of your personal identification such as your passport, military ID, or valid driver’s license
  • Payment for taxes and registration and title fees

Even if you don’t submit the title simultaneously with your registration application, you’ll still need to pay the title fee when you apply to register.

You should only send your application through the mail if you don’t need permanent plates for a while. Processing a mailed application can take several weeks. To apply by mail, place the following documentation in a secure envelope:

  • Your complete Title and License Plate Application
  • Payment for the tax fees as well as registration and title fees

The mailing address will be printed on the application.

You don’t need to provide proof of car insurance when you register a vehicle, but you are required to keep proof of insurance in your vehicle. You also don’t need to pass an emissions test to register a new vehicle, but you will have to pass an emissions test when you renew your registration.

Temporary Registration Documentation

You can apply for temporary registration documents while waiting for your permanent registration documents to arrive. A temporary registration is valid for 90 days after its issue. You will need to go to your local DMV office in person with the following:

  • Your complete Title and License Plate Application
  • Payment for the permanent registration certificate (or proof of payment if you send your registration application by mail)
  • $3 to cover the cost of a temporary plate
  • $5 to cover the service fee

Transferring Wisconsin License Plates

The license plates of your old car can be transferred to your new vehicle if the vehicle is the same type (motorcycle to motorcycle, car to car, etc.) and the license plates are still valid. You will need to notify the DMV of the transfer by submitting a complete Title and License Plate Application and filling out Section B. No fee will be charged provided the license plates are still valid.


Non-residents don’t have to get a Wisconsin registration if they do not pay WI income tax, do not have their primary home in WI, and have not registered to vote in the state.