Selling your vehicle

Selling your vehicle can be simple, but to avoid problems between you and the buyer, you should know what the law requires.

If the vehicle will be operated, the buyer should title and register it within two business days after purchase. When the vehicle is titled in the new owner’s name, the vehicle record will be updated to reflect the change in ownership.

  • The vehicle must first be titled in your name before you can sell it (even if you have never driven the vehicle).
    • You can sell a vehicle that isn't titled to you only if you are a licensed dealer
  • If you lost the original title you will have to apply for a replacement title. Sign the replacement and give it to the buyer - even if you find the original. If you find the original title after applying for a replacement, you should destroy it.
  • If you have a loan on your vehicle and you would like to sell it, you must obtain the title first, which means paying off the vehicle loan. For more information on how to do this, contact your lender. If you do not know who your lender is, see the Lien holder search.
  • If you are trying to sell a vehicle that is a part of a deceased estate, see Transfer a vehicle to an heir

  • On the back of the title, you must:
    • Sign and date the title in the area for the signature of the selling owner or owners.
      • If the title has more than one owner and the names are separated by the word "and," all owners listed must sign.
      • If the word "or" separates the names, any of the owners listed may sign.
    • Fill in the vehicle on the title. This is required under federal law.
    • Complete the area on the title (if applicable).
    • Fill in the selling price on the title. The Department of Revenue checks titles and investigates suspiciously low sale prices.
    • Fill in the name and address of the buyer or buyers on the title.
  • If there is a lien listed on the title, provide the buyer with a lien release document from your lien holder; the buyer will need both documents to get a title.
  • Remove the license plates from the vehicle. However, the license plates stay with the vehicle if the vehicle is:
      • a truck registered at 10,000 pounds or more
      • a farm truck registered at 16,000 pounds or more
      • a moped
      • a trailer or a recreational vehicle trailer
  • You may transfer unexpired plates to another similar type of vehicle you own (i.e. auto to auto, light truck to light truck).
    • You can transfer them to a vehicle that is titled to you, your spouse, or same sex domestic partner
    • If you don't transfer the plates:
      • You can't get a refund for any remaining registration time.
      • Do not return the plates to DMV.
      • You should destroy them (cut them up) if you are not going to use them on another vehicle.
      • You may still receive a renewal notice when the license plates expire. You can disregard the notice unless you transferred the plates to another vehicle.
      • If you left the plates on your vehicle, download and complete a License Plates Cancellation Application form MV2514 (Spanish MV2514).
  • If you sell your vehicle as junk, and you don't want the vehicle to be driven again, write the word "Junk" across the title before you give it to the buyer or salvage dealer.
    • If you lost your title, you don't need a replacement title to junk the vehicle.
    • Once a vehicle is junked, it can never be titled or licensed again, even if someone repairs or restores it.
  • Complete seller notification if it was a private sale from one individual to another individual.
  • If you wish to have a record of the sale, you may also complete the Instructions for Selling a Vehicle, form MV2928 (Spanish MV2928). The Bill of Sale is provided for your convenience, it is not a required form. You may keep a copy with your records and make a copy for the buyer as documentation of the sale. You may draft your own bill of sale including such information as:
    • Make, year, model, vehicle identification number and an odometer reading for the vehicle
    • Name, address and telephone number of the buyer
    • Name, address and telephone number of the seller
    • Signatures of both buyer and seller
    • Selling price and date sold

If your vehicle is a model year 2011 or newer, you must write in the odometer reading on the back of the title. The odometer reading is the number of miles on the vehicle, not on the engine (even if the engine is newer than the rest of the vehicle). Along with providing the odometer reading, you must show whether the miles are:

  • Actual = The odometer has always worked properly and recorded all miles the vehicle has traveled.
  • Not Actual = Cannot certify that the odometer has always worked or has been recorded properly
  • In Excess of Mechanical Limits = The odometer showed 99,999 miles and turned to zero, instead of to 100,000 (this may be the case in older model vehicles)

Learn more about odometers

A "brand" is a permanent notation on the vehicle record that gives a prospective buyer important information about the history of a vehicle. There are penalties up to $5,000 for failing to disclose title brand information.

Your title must be branded if, during the time you owned the vehicle, you could answer "yes" to any of the following questions:

  • Was your vehicle used as a taxi or for public transportation?
  • Was it salvaged?
    • Note: A "salvage" brand is needed if your vehicle is less than seven model years old and was damaged more than 70% of its fair market value. If your vehicle was salvaged, repaired and passed inspection, your title should have the brand "rebuilt salvage."
    • For example, a brand "STFARM NOT INSPECTED" is placed on a vehicle declared by State Farm Insurance as a total loss, but not submitted as salvage, and was part of the State Farm settlement with the Department of Justice. The vehicle has not passed an inspection by a certified state salvage inspector. This is not a salvage brand. No registration can be issued until the vehicle has passed a salvage vehicle inspection.
  • Was it flood damaged? A "flood damaged" brand is needed if water damage was more than 70% of its fair market value.
  • Was it used as a police vehicle?

Learn more about brands

You must have a dealers license in Wisconsin if:

  • You buy a vehicle for the sole purpose of re-selling it OR
  • You sell more than five vehicles in a 12-month period

For more information see the Dealer License page. Contact the DMV Dealer & Agent Section at (608) 266-1425 or if you have questions about becoming a dealer.

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