Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Alert: The following services will be unavailable on Saturday, January 5, 2013 from 12 a.m. (midnight) to 6 a.m. CST due to system maintenance.

Registration

License plates are evidence that registration fees have been paid and are a means of readily identifying a vehicle and tracing ownership.

Wisconsin issues a variety of license plates and registration stickers, depending on the design and use of the vehicle or the owner's special interest, such as AUT for automobiles, DIS, disabled parking for vehicles owned or used by persons with disabilities, COL, collector for vehicles owned by vehicle collectors. See special license plates or the Wisconsin license plate guide for more information.

Plate types issued for use on "heavy" vehicles include HTK (Truck), TOR (truck-tractors), FRM (farm trucks), SEMI (semi-trailers), BUS (not including school buses), etc. Vehicles registered under the International Registration Plan are issued apportioned plates.

Registration periods

Most license plates expire on an annual or biennial basis, but other valid registration periods are available for some license plates.

Automobile registration expires one full year from the date the registration initially began. Any operation within a registration period requires the full registration period fee. No prorated fees or refunds are given to partial registration periods.

Quarterly:

Registration is available on a quarterly basis (January/March, April/June, July/September, October/December) for vehicles registered with a gross weight over 8,000 lbs. (vehicles with special plates are not eligible). An extra fee of $5 is charged per application.

Consecutive monthly:

Consecutive monthly registration is also available (with a minimum registration period of three months) for registration of a number of special use vehicles. The fee is 1/12 the annual fee, times the number of months of registration, plus a fee of $15 per vehicle. Vehicles that qualify for consecutively monthly registration include:

  • A motor truck or a trailer or a truck tractor used exclusively to transport recycled metal salvage materials, logs or pulpwood, dirt, fill or aggregates or fresh milk, or to transport perishable fresh fruits or vegetables for canning, freezing, dehydrating or storage prior to processing, including return of waste, or to transport petroleum products
  • A motor truck or a trailer or a truck tractor equipped with a dump, box or other container used exclusively to transport gravel, concrete or cement and bituminous road construction materials or agricultural lime, feed, grain or fertilizer, or equipped with a mechanical mixer used exclusively to mix and deliver concrete
  • A motor truck or truck tractor which is owned or leased by a retail lumberyard used exclusively to transport building construction materials from that lumberyard to a building construction site
  • Any motor vehicle used exclusively for towing operations of stalled or disabled vehicles

Telephone authorization:

Telephone Authorization (TA) is a call-in procedure only for intra-state operation of motor carriers that allows them to operate on Wisconsin highways without displaying evidence of registration. The program allows for immediate operation of an unregistered or newly acquired vehicle. Vehicles registered quarterly or consecutive monthly may obtain Telephone Authorization for a $7.50 fee by calling (608) 267-5103.

Miscellaneous requirements

School buses:

Prior to issuing an original title for a new school bus, or a Wisconsin title for a used school bus purchased out-of-state, the bus must be inspected by the Wisconsin State Patrol. Contact the local State Patrol Regional Headquarters nearest you for inspection information. There is a $5 issuance fee for five-year school bus plates. To use a school bus for a charter operation, you need to register as a charter bus and pay regular gross weight registration fees. Quarterly or annual charter registration is available as well as a 72-hour trip permit.

SUVs and vans:

If seating capacity of the sport utility vehicle or van is greater than 50% of the total space available, you may license it as an auto. If cargo space comprises more than 50% of available floor space, you must register it as a truck at the appropriate gross weight.

Note: If the vehicle has an open truck bed it is considered a pickup and does not qualify for an auto plate.

Homemade trailers:

Title and registration are not required in Wisconsin for homemade trailers less than 3,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight. However, if you want to register a homemade trailer, complete form MV1 indicating the weight at which you wish to register the trailer. Attach information on the type of trailer, width, length, axles, year built and the builder. Enclose any receipts/bills of sale you have for the parts used to build the trailer. DMV will issue a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You then need to permanently attach this VIN to the trailer and have it inspected by either a licensed motor vehicle dealer or police officer. After you have returned the inspection form, DMV will issue a title and registration.

Farm trucks:

Trucks licensed as farm trucks may not be used for any non-farm occupation, trade or employment. If you use your truck for an outside job or other commercial purpose, you need to license your truck as a dual purpose farm vehicle. You may use a farm truck for personal or family purposes but not for commuting to another job. A heavy farm truck (registered at 38,000 lbs. or more) may not be used for personal or family purposes.

Manufactured homes, mobile homes, recreational vehicle trailers and camping trailers:

Some mobile homes are processed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), while others are processed by the Department of Safety and Professional Security. See manufactured homes, mobile homes, recreational vehicle trailers and camping trailers for additional information.

How to obtain forms

Download the vehicle registration and title application MV1 or obtain one at any DMV service center.

Heavy vehicle registration services are available at the La Crosse, Milwaukee and Madison DMV service centers.

License plate renewal

Questions? Contact us: Wisconsin DMV email service
Call: (608) 266-1466

Last modified: November 23, 2011

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