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Wisconsin License Plate Lookup

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License Plate Lookup in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin license plate lookup is the retrieval of the information attached to a vehicle's license plate number that is registered in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin license plate lookups can obtain official records and information attached to the vehicle to which the license plate is assigned. These records generally include selected Wisconsin traffic records as well as:

  • Ownership history details
  • Odometer readings
  • Vehicle service and maintenance history
  • Accident history
  • Fire, flood, and hail damage reports (if applicable)
  • Lien and repossession information
  • Title checks including salvage title and rebuilt title brands
  • Personal, commercial, or rental use verifications
  • Updated market evaluations
  • Service and repair history of the vehicle
  • Auction photos and history.

License plate lookups retrieve information available on license plates, almost like a background check on a person would. The information retrieved from a license plate lookup can be useful for a number of reasons, including identifying delinquent drivers and selecting used vehicles for purchase. License plate lookup services are available online from multiple third-party user applications that offer either free or paid services or both. It should be noted that license plate lookups conducted using paid user applications typically retrieve better-updated information than free license plate lookup applications.

It is also possible to lookup information about a license plate in Wisconsin by submitting a request to the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, privacy concerns may restrict the amount of information obtainable to third parties without explicit permission from the owner of the information.

What is a Wisconsin License Plate?

A Wisconsin license plate is a unique identification tag issued by the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to duly registered vehicles in the state. Consequent to sections of Chapter 341 of the Wisconsin Statutes, it is unlawful for any person to operate an unregistered motor vehicle on any highways in the state. This includes all recreational vehicles, motorcycles, trailers, and semi-trailers operated in the State of Wisconsin. Valid Wisconsin license plates provide evidence vehicle registration fees have been paid and means of identifying vehicles and their owners.

A typical license plate in Wisconsin will receive a validation sticker, upon registration and after renewals, that indicates the expiration date of the vehicle's registration. The license plate will display the state name, license plate number, and the inscription "American Dairyland". The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles issues the following types of license plates to vehicles in the state:

  • Standard license plates
  • Disability license plates - identify persons with disabilities and process access to designated services, such as parking.
  • Personalized license plates - standard license plates customized to the registrant's instructions.
  • Special interest license plates - commemorative license plates issued by the DMV

How Do I Get a License Plate in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Statutes dictate that every vehicle on a state road or highway display a license plate to legally operate in the state. Residents are required to title and register their vehicles within two business days of obtaining the vehicle or establishing residency in the state. Wisconsin DMV issues vehicle registrations that expire one year from the date the registration was initiated. The DMV also issues temporary license plates that are valid for 90 days. Vehicle registration applications can be submitted online, by mail, or in person at the local Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office.

For new residents to Wisconsin, submit the following documents to the DMV office:

  • Current out-of-state vehicle registration
  • Completed Title/License Plate Application form
  • Copy of valid photo ID
  • Copy of receipts for sales tax to the prior state (for vehicles less than 90 days)
  • Payment (checks and money orders should be made out to the Registration Fee Trust)

Submissions can be in person at the local DMV office or by mailing the application package to:

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

Persons who mail in their registration applications can obtain temporary license plates from their local DMV office for free; they will need to provide proof of payment for their permanent license plates.

Residents who purchase their vehicles from registered dealers in the state will have their vehicle registration paperwork submitted by the dealer. Obtain temporary plates from the dealership pending the arrival of the permanent vehicle registration and license plates.

Persons who purchase their vehicles from out-of-state dealers or private individuals must submit the vehicle registration application by themselves. Applicants are required to submit:

  • Completed Title/License Plate Application form.
  • Copy of valid photo ID.
  • Payment. Applicants are also required to pay the vehicle title fee.

The applications can be submitted online, in person, and by mail. In-person submissions should be at the local DMV office and mail-in submissions should be sent to:

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

Residents can obtain a temporary license plate while awaiting delivery of their permanent plates from the DMV. To do so, submit a completed Title/License Plate Application form and proof of payment for the vehicle registration and permanent plates to the local DMV office.

The fee for a standard passenger vehicle registration and license plate in Wisconsin is $85 and the vehicle certificate of title costs $164.50. Temporary license plates cost $3 and there is an applicable $5 service charge. For the full list of license plate prices, see the Wisconsin DMV fees schedule. Several cities, towns, and counties in Wisconsin also charge a wheel tax on passenger vehicles and trucks under 8000 lbs.

Passenger License Plates vs Commercial License Plates

A passenger license plate is a license plate issued to passenger vehicles in Wisconsin by the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A passenger vehicle is an automobile or light truck that weighs less than 8,000 lbs. Typically, a passenger license refers to most standard license plates and plates assigned to these types of vehicles.

Commercial license plates are license plates issued to commercial vehicles in Wisconsin by the DMV. In Wisconsin, a commercial vehicle is a vehicle that weighs over 26,000 pounds, wherein the vehicle weight is determined by the highest of the following:

  • The manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)
  • The manufacturer's gross combination weight rating (GCWR) when the towed unit has a GVWR, registered weight, or actual gross weight over 10,000 pounds
  • The vehicle's actual weight
  • The vehicle's registered weight
  • The vehicle can hazardous materials that require placarding under federal laws
  • The vehicle is designed or used to carry 16 or more persons including the driver

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Wisconsin?

The owner of a license plate in Wisconsin can be identified by using a license plate lookup service to retrieve information on the license plate. A license plate lookup is an online service that searches for and retrieves available reports and records on a license plate number. Typically, license plate lookup applications are available as free or paid services; paid license plate lookup applications will generally return better-updated and more concise information. It should be noted that the information obtainable from some license plate lookups may be restricted because of privacy concerns.

The owner of a license plate in Wisconsin can also be identified by submitting a vehicle record request to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). However, this information is typically only available to the record owners and third-party requests will require authorization from the record owners.

Third-party aggregate sites are a convenient alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.

Wisconsin License Plate Renewal

The Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles sends renewal notices to residents 30 days before the expiration of their current licenses. There is a late fee charge for any renewal application received after the expiration date of the prior registration. Residents can also use the license plate search application to verify the expiration dates of their licenses and ascertain if emissions tests are required.

Vehicle registrations in Wisconsin can be renewed online, by mail, or in person. Persons who complete their renewal applications online will receive their new license plate sticker and certificate of vehicle registration within 7 - 10 business days. Mail-in and in-person renewal applications require the registrants to provide:

  • Registration renewal notice
  • Payment. There is a vehicle fuel surcharge for hybrid and electric vehicles

Mail-in renewal applications should be mailed to the appropriate address, based on the type of vehicle. The DMV will mail the new plate stickers and vehicle registration certificate within 10 business days.

For automobiles, light trucks, and most other plate types, send renewal applications to:

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 3279
Milwaukee, WI 53201-3279

For heavy trucks, tractors, trailers, motor homes, and buses, send renewal applications to:

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 3290
Milwaukee, WI 53201-3290

In-person applications can be submitted at the local DMV service center and obtained the same day; there is a $3 counter fee for such submissions. Renewal applications can also be submitted at Title Service Providers. A title service provider is a private agent authorized by the DMV to provide basic vehicle registration services. A title service provider will charge a maximum fee of $10 for renewal transactions and $19.50 for title transactions at title service providers.

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

It is possible to use a VIN - vehicle identification number - to obtain records and reports of a vehicle to which a license plate number was assigned. During the registration of a vehicle with the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles, the VIN is one of the details recorded against the vehicle's registration. As a result, a VIN can be used to retrieve information about the vehicle's license plate number and registration.

VIN Number Lookup

VIN refers to ‘vehicle identification number'. Every vehicle during its manufacture is assigned a unique identification number that identifies that particular vehicle, like a fingerprint. A VIN can be used to retrieve records and reports about a particular, irrespective of the number of owners and registrations. A VIN is composed of 17 alphanumeric digits that specify details about the manufacture and assembly of the vehicle. Of these 17 digits:

  • Digits 1-3 - World manufacturer identifiers: These digits identify where the car was manufactured, the manufacturer, and the vehicle type.
  • Digits 4-8 - Vehicle descriptor sections: These digits provide information about the vehicle's safety features, body style, engine size and type, and transmission.
  • Digit 9 - Check digit: This digit verifies the validity of the VIN.
  • Digits 10-17 - Vehicle identifier sections: Digit 10 identifies the vehicle model year, digit 11 identifies the plant of assembly, and digits 12-17 are the vehicle production number.

VIN lookups are online user applications that retrieve any reports and records attached to specific vehicle identification numbers. This information can include vehicle registrations, ownership details, sales information, mileage readings, lien details, and accident records. These user applications are available in free and paid versions. Usually, the VIN of a vehicle is imprinted on the driver's side dashboard facing the windshield and on the door jamb on the driver's side.

Can Civilians Lookup License Plates in Wisconsin?

Yes. Civilians can look up information on license plates for vehicles in Wisconsin through the Department of Transportation license plate search tool. However, the level of information available to individuals is limited. Only law enforcement officers have access to detailed license plate information through agency databases.

Civilians interested in doing a license plate lookup in Wisconsin may also use information service providers. These providers are independent of government agencies and provide license information based on data aggregated from multiple sources.

The information obtained from third party sources may not be used to assess credit worthiness, employment background check, or official purposes. Individuals may, however, use the results of Wisconsin license plate lookup to satisfy their personal curiosity.

What Do Police See When They Run Your Plates in Wisconsin?

The information available to police officers when they run a license plate typically include:

  • Vehicle information
  • Driving status
  • Criminal history
  • Outstanding warrants

Police officers typically run license plates in traffic stops, especially when there is probable cause. For example, if the driver had been speeding or found to be driving under the influence. The tools the police use for their license plate search are different from what is available to civilians through aggregate sources. Law enforcement officers often use automated license plate readers (ALPRs) that connect to and pull information from agency databases.

Law enforcement officers doing the search will see the vehicle information, including the year of manufacture, VIN, license expiration date, and the name of the registered owner. In addition, they will also have access to the driver’s information, including their biodata and physical description, social security number, and contact information. In many cases, an officer may also access the driver’s criminal history as well as tickets and outstanding warrants on the vehicle, its registered owner, or the driver.

While the public may not have access to the databases law enforcement officers use for license plate lookup, a lot of the information they get are publicly available through other sources. One major difference is that civilian searchers may have to use multiple sources to pool the information. Furthermore, sensitive information like the driver’s social security number and house address may be sequestered from public knowledge.

Free License Plate Lookup in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin DOT license plate search tool is free to use. Interested persons may also use the service provided by third-party aggregate sites if they want additional information unavailable through the government portal. Aggregate websites that provide license plate lookup services typically charge a fee for the service. However, there are free options available to persons interested in looking up a Wisconsin plate.

Most people use search engines to conduct a free license plate lookup. Entering the license plate number directly in the search bar may provide information already available on the web regarding that plate. However, there is no guarantee that the search results will be useful.

Alternatively, an interested person may search for “free license plate search” on the search engine instead. The search results will provide a list of third party websites that provide license plate lookup for free. Many of these free sites, however, limit the information available for free searches. In many cases, the searcher will be able to access basic information like the vehicle description and owner’s name. Obtaining additional information would require paying for the service.

How to Search for Ticket by License Plate in Wisconsin

Wisconsin drivers looking for lost or unpaid traffic tickets may contact the municipal court or county court in the location where the ticket was issued. Concerned persons may also use the Wisconsin Judiciary search tool to find unresolved tickets and make payments. The portal supports searches by name, traffic citation number.