Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Wisconsin

When you buy a used car from a private seller, there are several steps you'll need to complete. Here's everything you need to know to do a deal in Wisconsin.
PrivateAuto streamlines the private-party car buying experience and makes it safe and easy. Keep reading to see how to buy a car in Utah, and how we facilitate the process.

Find the Right Car at the Right Price

Most likely, you’ll be shopping for private-party used cars online, which means you’ll be using one of the many websites dedicated to this purpose. After defining your vehicle needs and budget, it’s time to start your search.
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Start Searching

When it comes to finding a car online, here are your options for finding the perfect private-party used car for you:

Auction websites such as Bring a Trailer and eBay Motors
Online classifieds
a. Local classifieds such as KSL Cars
b. National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader
Social media listings (e.g., cars for sale on Facebook Marketplace)

While these places can be great resources to find what you’re looking for, they fall short when it comes time for the transaction. That’s why we refer to them as “meetingplaces” instead of true marketplaces.

PrivateAuto is a transactional marketplace that offers self-serve technology solutions for every part of the deal. If you’d like to see how stress-free and simple buying privately can be, browse our used cars for sale to start the process.

We don’t hate other listing sites. Some have a lot more private-party car inventory than we do. But we still want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

That’s why we created a fast-track solution called DealNow. It allows you to create your own dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the owner of the car you want to buy, and get the deal done quickly.

Get your deal started now!

Get the Best Deal

You want to get the very best car for your budget. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on cars for sale. You never know if the vehicle’s owner will accept less than their asking price if you don't ask.

On other sites, you’d have to message the seller and have an awkward conversation. PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or counteroffer.

Research the Car

Smart buyers want to know about the car they’re paying for. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are a vehicle history report and research on the car’s title.

Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is a really smart idea when buying a used car. It covers ownership history and maintenance records and shows you how well the seller cared for the car.

PrivateAuto provides a vehicle history report for all premium listings, for your peace of mind.

Here are some reasons vehicle history reports are good to have.

1. You know how well the car has been cared for.
2. You have visibility into any accidents or insurance claims.
3. You can see service records, major repairs, and other work.

A vehicle history report can help you steer clear of buying a faulty used car and help you identify the good ones.

Conduct Title Research

Before meeting up with the seller, it’s good to do preliminary research on the car title.
The best way is to use the National Insurance Crime Bureau website and research the title of a vehicle to protect yourself from fraud.

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive. For instance, they may try to pass off a salvage title as clean.

Good title research will help you check for:

1. Reports of the car having been stolen
2. The car has been declared a total loss in an insurance claim
3. An outstanding lien (or lien release)

Just ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN) in advance of meeting up. Run the title check, and have one less thing to worry about.

Take the Car For a Spin

We let you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that never reveals your personal information to the seller.

1. Our handy in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen. No back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can opt to transact with verified sellers only, which tends to weed out bad actors who prefer to operate in the shadows.

You’ll schedule the test drive in seconds without ever needing to contact the seller. It’s just one of the many ways we streamline private car purchases.

Complete Wisconsin Paperwork

Paperwork is a critical part of the transaction process. Here is the paperwork involved in a Wisconsin used car transaction:

1. Title
2. Bill of sale
3. Emissions testing

Wisconsin Certificate of Title

You and the seller need to fill out the official Wisconsin Certificate of Title. A Wisconsin title will require you and the seller to complete the following information at the time of the sale the following info:

1. Odometer disclosure
2. Seller’s hand-printed name, signature, and address (if there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign)
3. Date of sale
4. Purchase price
5. Your hand-printed name and signature

Wisconsin Bill of Sale

While Wisconsin doesn't require a bill of sale, we recommend you always complete one with the seller. A bill of sale protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the VIN, the selling price, mileage, and the names and signatures of both parties. If the seller ever wants to contest the transaction or any part of it, you have their signature on a legal document with all of the terms and details to back you up.

PrivateAuto makes it easy with an official Wisconsin bill of sale right in our app. You and the seller review the details, and then digitally sign the bill of sale after inspecting the car. No printing or scanning—simply sign electronically in the PrivateAuto mobile app. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Emissions testing

According to the Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program (WIVIP) seven Wisconsin counties require emissions inspections:

1. Kenosha
2. Milwaukee
3. Ozaukee
4. Racine
5. Sheboygan
6. Washington
7. Waukesha

In most of these counties, emissions testing is done for free at a mechanics shop of your choice.

Make the Payment

Before PrivateAuto Pay, there weren’t any great ways to send large sums of money to a vehicle seller. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations associated with existing payment methods, so we created PrivateAuto Pay. Here’s how it works:

No transfer fees.
Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around banker’s hours.
No exchange of contact or banking info.
Act as your own escrow service with our secure deal flow.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way. Even if you’re buying a car on a different website, you can just invite the seller to DealNow and enjoy all the same benefits.

Wisconsin Title Transfer and Registration

After the title is signed over to you, you’ll go to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) office to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay your Wisconsin sales tax owed.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you transfer your car’s title at the DOT office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
A completed Wisconsin Title and License Plate Application
Lien information (if applicable)
Payment for the Wisconsin vehicle sales tax: 5% of the purchase price
Payment for Wisconsin’s vehicle title transfer fee: $164.50
Payment for Wisconsin registration: $85
Payment for the county wheel tax
Valid ID or driver's license
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to a Wisconsin title transfer for more info on the subject.
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Should I Buy from a Dealer or a Private Seller?

Here at PrivateAuto, we’re big fans of the private seller route. Here are the advantages of purchasing from a private party:

1. Get a better price by cutting out the middleman and going to the source. Dealers must buy low and sell high to make a spread and keep the lights on. You don’t need to help out with that.
2. Avoid fees. Car dealers charge documentation fees that range from $50 to over $1,000.
3. You drive the deal on your terms: PrivateAuto allows you to make offers and negotiate the best deal directly with the seller.
4. In some states, buying from a private seller means no vehicle sales tax. For example, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada charge sales tax on retail (dealership) car purchases, but not private-party ones.

We think you should be able to complete a private-party transaction as easily as you could buy a used car from a dealership. Read on to see how we can make this possible.

Wisconsin Vehicle FAQ

How much are standard license plates in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the standard "Dairyland" passenger vehicle plate is included with the _registration fee_. Meaning that it’s free…sort of.

You'll receive the classic Dairyland plates when:

- Registering a vehicle in your name
- Replacing lost, damaged, or stolen plates
- Trading down from specialty plates to standard plates

For more info on Wisconsin’s license plate types, visit the official Wisconsin Department Of Transportation page.

See our article on Wisconsin license plate costs for the full scoop.

How do I transfer a title online in Wisconsin?

How much is a vehicle registration renewal fee in Wisconsin?

What if I want to sell my car in Wisconsin?

Is there a lemon law for used cars in Wisconsin?

Can I use my old license plates on my new car in Wisconsin?