Title Application

A certificate of title must be applied for regardless of whether a vehicle is operated on the highways of Wisconsin, if it is a newly acquired vehicle, or if the owner of a vehicle applies for registration of the vehicle but does not hold a valid title in the owner’s name.

Application is made to the DOT and must include: the name and address of the owner; a description of the vehicle, including make and identification number; odometer reading for vehicles over 10 years old; the date of purchase of the vehicle; the name and address of the person from whom the vehicle was acquired, or the signature of the dealer who sold the vehicle if it is a new vehicle being registered for the first time; and the applicant’s social security number.

Title Transfer of Ownership

The DOT will refuse to issue a certificate of title if the applicant has failed to furnish the mileage disclosure form from the most recent titled owner and of all subsequent non-titled owners.

The owner of a vehicle that is being transferred must execute an assignment and warranty of title to the transferee at the time of delivery of the vehicle and must mail or deliver the certificate to the transferee.

The transferee must promptly execute an application for a new certificate of title once the vehicle has been delivered to him or her.

No transferor may transfer ownership of a motor vehicle without disclosing the vehicle’s mileage in writing to the transferee by specifying the odometer reading.

Mopeds, vehicles that are 10 years old or older, and vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating of more than 16,000 lbs. are exempted from the odometer disclosure requirements.

Titles for Mobile Homes

Mobile homes or manufactured homes built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used as a dwelling are exempt from registration.

Registration Application

Application for original and renewal registration is made to DOT, and application forms are available at the regional DOT office or online.

Application for original registration must contain the name and birth date of the owner; the name of the town, city, or village in which the owner resides; the owner’s business or residential address; and a description of the vehicle, including make, model, color, and identification number.

An application for registration will not be accepted unless a valid certificate of title has been issued to the applicant.

At least 30 days prior to expiration of the registration, the DOT must mail a notice of renewal and an application form for renewal to the last known address of the registrant.

If the applicant for registration is under age 18, the application must be accompanied by a signed statement from the applicant’s parents or person having legal custody which states the applicant has their consent to register the vehicle.

Whenever a person moves from the address named in the application for registration, or when the person’s name changes, the person has 10 days to notify the DOT in writing of the old and new addresses or names.

There is no period of grace for late registration.

Trailers and camping trailers weighing 3,000 lbs. or less and trailers that are not operated in conjunction with a motor vehicle are exempt from registration.

Registration for Non-Residents

Any vehicle registered in another state is exempt from the laws of Wisconsin pertaining to registration if the vehicle carries a license plate indicating it has been registered in another state, the vehicle is owned by a non-resident, and the state in which the vehicle is registered accords similar privileges to Wisconsin residents.

If a non-resident moves to Wisconsin or sells or leases his vehicle to a Wisconsin resident, the vehicle becomes immediately subject to Wisconsin’s registration laws.

Military personnel on active duty in Wisconsin may maintain out-of-state vehicle registration.

Registration Type

Wisconsin follows a staggered registration system.

Following the initial registration of a new vehicle by a retail purchaser, a minimum of 1 model year must elapse before the vehicle is subject to emission inspection once again.

Registration is usually annual, but may also be done on a quarterly or consecutive monthly basis for certain vehicles.

Motorcycles, mopeds, and farm trucks weighing 12,000 lbs. or less are registered only on a biennial basis.

Emissions Inspection

In Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Washington, and Waukesha counties, all non-exempt vehicles subject to inspection must have the inspection completed at an inspection station not more than 90 days prior to renewal of annual registration. The emissions inspection is initially required beginning the 3rd year following the vehicle’s model year and every 2 years thereafter.

If a vehicle is more than 5 model years old at the time of an ownership change, the vehicle must be submitted for inspection within 45 days of an ownership change registration issuance, unless the vehicle passed inspection within 180 days prior to the ownership change registration.

OBD is utilized as part of the state emissions inspection process.

Visit the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for more information.

Safety Inspection

No statewide periodic vehicle safety inspection requirement. Vehicles may be subject to inspection by any traffic officer or motor vehicle inspector to ensure the vehicle meets emission requirements and to ensure its equipment is in proper adjustment or repair.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $69.50

Registration Fee: $75.00


Title Fee: $69.50

Registration Fee: $23.00 (biennial fee)


Plate Fee: $2.00–$6.00

Registration Fee: $2.00

Driver’s License Fee: $14.00

Title Fee: $20.00

Special Plates: $5.00–$75.00

Plate Disbursement

The DOT issues 2 plates, both of which must be displayed.

The plates must be attached to the front and rear.

License plates are validated by stickers sold by the DOT or other authorized providers.

Special plates are issued for persons with disabilities, veterans, amateur radio station licensees, and various special groups.

Personalized plates may also be issued upon application.

The color scheme for license plates is blue on white, red on white, and black on white.

Transfer of Plates

If a vehicle being transferred is a motorcycle, a motor home, a motor truck, or a dual purpose motor home or dual purpose farm truck with a GVW of not more than 8,000 lbs., the owner must remove the license plate and keep it for use on another vehicle. If the vehicle being transferred is any other type of vehicle, the plate remains with the vehicle.

Driver's License Examination

Examination includes a knowledge test, including ability to read and understand highway signs, a driving skills demonstration test, and a vision test (20/40 visual acuity required).

Graduated Driver's Licensing

Wisconsin has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At 15 years and 6 months of age, after passing a knowledge test, individuals are eligible for an instruction/ learner’s permit.

  • During this stage, individuals may drive only when supervised by a parent or guardian or a person meeting the requirements of those permitted to travel with the holder of an instruction permit.
  • Drivers must hold this permit for at least 6 months and accumulate at least 30 hours (10 at night) of parent/guardian supervised driving.
  • Permittees may not operate a motor vehicle during the hours of darkness unless accompanied by a qualified instructor or licensed person who is 25 years of age or more, has at least 2 years of licensed driving experience, and is occupying the front passenger seat.

At 16, upon successful completion of the permit stage, drivers are eligible for an intermediate license.

  • Probationary license holders may not drive unsupervised between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
  • Drivers may not transport more than 1 passenger (family members exempted).

Driver education is required for license applicants younger than 18.

After holding an probationary license for 9 months, the nighttime and passenger restrictions are lifted, drivers are eligible for a full unrestricted license at age 18.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

An application for a license must include the full name and address of the applicant, the applicant’s date of birth, eye color, hair color, sex, height, weight, race, and social security number.

If an applicant is under the age of 18, the application must also include documentary proof that the applicant is enrolled in a school program or high school equivalency program, or has graduated from high school or is enrolled in a home-school program. The applicant must also have accumulated at least 30 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, including 10 hours of driving during darkness, and the application must be signed by the applicant’s parent, step-parent, or adult sponsor.

A special restricted license may be issued to a person who is at least 14 and physically disabled, or at least 16 years old, and has passed all required examinations. Special restricted licenses are issued only for motor bicycles or mopeds, or specially designed vehicles having a maximum speed of 35 mph. A special restricted license expires 2 years after the date of issuance.

Non-residents who are at least 16 years of age and hold a valid driver’s license from their home jurisdiction need not apply for a Wisconsin driver’s license.

Persons operating a motor home, a vehicle towing a 5th-wheel mobile home, or a single-unit recreational vehicle need not obtain a commercial driver’s license if the vehicle is operated and controlled by the person and is transporting only members of the person’s family, guests, or their personal property.

Licenses must be carried at all times while operating a motor vehicle.

Licenses must include a photograph. Social security number is not required.

A restricted license may be issued to a person under 18 but at least 14 years of age if the DOT is satisfied that it is necessary to allow the applicant to operate a vehicle, the applicant has appeared in person with his or her parent or guardian with a birth certificate showing the applicant to be at least 14 years of age, and the applicant has passed all necessary examinations. A restricted license is valid until the applicant obtains a regular driver’s license or reaches the age of 18 and does not permit operation of any authorized vehicle during the hours of darkness.

Driver’s License Renewal

All original licenses, reinstated licenses, and probationary licenses expire 2 years from the date of the applicant’s next birthday. All other licenses and license endorsements expire 8 years after the date of issuance.

A renewal photograph must also be taken every 8 years.

The DOT is responsible for mailing a notice of expiration at least 30 days in advance to the licensee’s last known address.

Upon change of address or name, a licensee must apply for a duplicate license within 10 days of the change.

Any license issued to a person on active military duty does not expire. Active duty military licenses expire 30 days after return to Wisconsin or 90 days after discharge from active duty, whichever is earlier. This extension does not apply to military dependents.

Types of Driver's Licenses

Driver’s licenses are separated into the following classes:

  • Class A: Commercial license permits the operation of any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating of over 26,000 lbs. if the GVW rating of the vehicle or vehicles being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs.
  • Class B: Commercial license permits the operation of any single vehicle with a GVW rating of over 26,000 lbs. and any such vehicle towing a vehicle or vehicles with an aggregate GVW rating of 10,000 lbs.
  • Class C: Commercial license permits the operation of any single vehicle with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less, including any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVW rating of less than 10,000 lbs. if the vehicle is designed to transport more than 16 passengers or the vehicle is transporting hazardous materials.
  • Class D: Permits operation of any motor vehicle not included in Class A, B, C, or M.
  • Class M Permits operation of a motorcycle.

Distracted Driving

Text messaging while driving is prohibited. Drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses may not use a cell or other wireless phone while driving. Handheld cell phone use is prohibited in work zones.


No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.

Impaired Driving

All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

Wisconsin requires the use of ignition interlocks for repeat and high BAC (.15 BAC or greater) impaired driving offenders only.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers traveling in the same direction and approaching an authorized emergency vehicle or roadside service vehicle, including a tow truck, that is displaying flashing lights and parked or standing on or within 12 feet of a roadway, to vacate the lane closest to the stationary vehicle, if safe to do so, or reduce speed. Also included in the law are utility vehicles and road maintenance vehicles.

Seat Belts

All passengers in a motor vehicle need to be restrained, either with a seat belt, booster seat or a child seat.

Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck beds is not permitted, except for parades, hunting, farm operations, and employees on duty; some other exceptions apply.

Child Passenger Safety

Children must ride in a rear-facing car seat until the age of 1 and at least 20 lbs.

Then they must ride in a forward-facing child seat until age 4 or they weigh more than 40 lbs. Children under age 4 must be properly secured in a child restraint system in the rear seat, if possible. They must then ride in a booster seat until they turn 8, weigh more than 80 lbs., or are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

The operator of a vehicle must stop at a railroad crossing when a traffic officer or railroad employee signals stop or when a warning device signals stop.

A motor bus transporting passengers, school buses, and any vehicle transporting hazardous materials must stop within 50 feet, but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of a railroad crossing. Such stop need not be made when a police officer or flagman directs traffic to proceed, or a traffic control signal directs traffic to proceed.

School Buses

Vehicles approaching a school bus from the front or rear that has stopped and is displaying flashing red warning lights, must stop not less than 20 feet from the bus and must remain stopped until the bus resumes motion. This provision does not apply to operators of vehicles proceeding in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

Bumper Height

Modification of original vehicle bumper height is permitted 4 inches above or below manufacturer’s specs.

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used during hours of darkness (effective October 1, 2016, and during periods of limited visibility, unless equipped with daytime running lights).

Hazard Light Use

Hazard lights are not permitted while driving except to indicate a traffic hazard or when a hazardous condition is present.

Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are not permitted, except for authorized emergency vehicles, vehicles used to deliver mail, school buses from November 15 to April 1, and automobiles with out-of-state registration (only if in the course of passing through the state for a period of not more than 30 days).

Glass/Window Tinting

All glass used for the vent, side, or rear windows must be safety glass. Vent and front side windows may be tinted to a degree that permits 50% of visible light to pass through. Rear windows may be tinted to a degree that permits 35% of visible light to pass through.

Video Screens

No person may drive while directly observing any electronic device located within the vehicle that is activated and that is providing entertainment primarily by visual means, with certain exceptions.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.

Windshield Stickers

No sticker, other than a certificate or other sticker issued by order of a government agency, may be placed on the front windshield of any motor vehicle. Permitted stickers may not cover more than 15 square inches of glass surface and must be placed in the lower left-hand corner of the windshield. Exempts a monitoring and feedback device mounted to the front windshield.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Motorcycles must be equipped with footrests or pegs such that any passenger can rest his or her feet when the motorcycle is in motion.

Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps. The headlamps on a motorcycle must be in use whenever the motorcycle is in operation. A headlamp modulator is permissible, but may not be used during the hours of darkness.

All motorcycles must be equipped with at least 2 direction signal lamps to the front and 2 direction signal lamps to the rear which must be visible from a distance of 300 feet.

No person who holds an instruction permit or who is under the age of 18 may operate a motorcycle unless the person is wearing protective headgear, and no person may carry a passenger under 18 years of age unless the passenger is wearing protective headgear.

No person may operate a motorcycle without wearing a form of eye protection; protective face shield attached to headgear, glasses, or goggles.

It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle if the handgrips are more than 30 inches above the lowest point of the top of the driver’s seat.

Motorcycle Licenses

Persons under the age of 18 will not be issued a Class M license unless the person has successfully completed an approved basic rider course.

Failure of the driving skills test on 2 previous occasions necessitates successful completion of an approved rider course before a license will be issued.

Motorcycle permits are available and are valid for 6 months. A permit holder may only transport passengers who hold a license endorsed for operation of a motorcycle and have at least 2 years of driving experience. A permit holder may operate a motorcycle during the hours of darkness only when accompanied by such a passenger who is at least 25 years old.

The driving skills test may be waived by persons who hold a motorcycle permit and have completed an approved basic driver course.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

No person may operate a motorcycle without a functioning muffler.

Mopeds & Other

Operation of a moped requires possession of a valid operator’s license of any class, or a restricted license, or a special restricted license, for persons age 14 until 18.

It is illegal to transport a passenger on a moped.

A moped instruction permit is available, but holders of such permits may operate a moped only during daylight hours and may not carry any passengers.

Mopeds are required to observe the lighting requirements imposed on motor vehicles and must have at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 70 feet; trailer length: 48 feet (for trailers, excluding bumpers, stake pockets, air deflectors, ad refrigeration units); motor home length: 45 feet; width: 8 feet 6 inches (for trailers, excluding appurtenances up to width of rear view mirrors); height: 13 feet 6 inches.

Trailer Brakes

Any trailer, semitrailer, or other towed vehicle with a GVW of 3,000 lbs. or more must be equipped with brakes adequate to stop the vehicle.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

The drawbar or other connection between 2 vehicles may not exceed 12 feet in length.

In addition to the hitch, every towed vehicle must be coupled to the towing vehicle by means of safety chains, leveling bars, or cables. This provision does not apply to a vehicle equipped with a 5th-wheel and kingpin assembly.

Trailer Lighting

A mobile home, trailer, or semitrailer must be equipped with at least 1 red tail lamp, mounted on the rear that is plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet. If a vehicle was originally equipped with 2 red tail lamps, it is unlawful for such vehicle to be operated or towed unless both tail lamps are in proper working order.

All mobile homes, trailers, and semitrailers sold after January 1, 1968 must be equipped with at least 2 direction signal lamps to the front and 2 direction signal lamps to the rear which must be visible from a distance of 300 feet.

Any trailer having a width at any part of 80 inches must be equipped with 2 amber clearance lamps mounted on the front of the vehicle, 2 red clearance lamps mounted on the rear of the vehicle, and 2 red reflectors mounted on the rear.

It is unlawful to tow or operate any trailer during the hours of darkness if not equipped with 1 red reflector on each side of the rear of the trailer.

Trailer Mirrors

Any vehicle must be equipped with a mirror or mirrors sufficient to reflect to the operator a view of the roadway for a distance of 200 feet to the rear of the vehicle.

Trailer Speed Limits

Same as for passenger cars.

Trailer Towing

It is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle towing a 5th-wheel mobile home when any person under the age of 12 is in the 5th-wheel mobile home, unless that person is accompanied by at least 1 person who is at least 16 years old.

No vehicle with a load or fixture which extends more than 4 feet beyond the rear of the bed or body of the vehicle may be operated during the hours of darkness unless a red light or lantern, visible from a distance of 500 feet, is displayed on the extreme rear of the load or fixture. When such vehicle is operated at a time other than during the hours of darkness, a red flag not less than 12 inches square must be displayed on the extreme rear of the load or fixture.

A motor vehicle may be towed without being equipped with brakes if the GVW of the towed vehicle is not more than 40% of the GVW of the towing vehicle and the towing vehicle has brakes adequate enough to stop the combination of vehicles.

It is unlawful for a single vehicle to tow more than 1 vehicle unless the vehicles are being towed by the drive-away method and their overall length does not exceed 65 feet.

Trailer Other Provisions

It is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle towing a 5th-wheel mobile home while passengers are in the 5th-wheel mobile home unless there is a 2-way communication device capable of providing voice communications between the operator of the motor vehicle and the occupants of the 5th-wheel mobile home.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be reported when involving death or injury, when private property damage exceeds $1000.00 or government property damage of $200.00 or more.

Reportable crashes require immediate notice to law enforcement by the quickest means of communication.

Liability Laws

Liability insurance is mandatory.  State has security-type law applicable in event of accident causing property damage in excess of $1,000 or personal injury or death.

Minimum financial responsibility limits: $25,000/$50,000/$10,000. Noncompliance could result in revocation of operating/registration privileges.

State has non-resident service of process law; it does not have guest suit law.