Gifting a Car in Wisconsin

Gifting a motor vehicle in Wisconsin will require you to visit the Department of Transportation to transfer the title and register the vehicle under the new owner’s name.
Written by Sara Brody
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If you want to gift a car in Wisconsin, you’ll need to complete a title transfer at the Wisconsin DOT.
  • When gifting a car in
    Wisconsin
    , following the proper process can help you waive taxes and fees associated with a private vehicle sale.  
  • In most cases, it’s easier to transfer the title of a vehicle you already own, rather than gifting a brand-new car. 
  • Car ownership comes with its own expenses—so discussing the future costs of the gift, like
    car insurance
    , is an important last step. 

How to buy a new car as a gift in Wisconsin

If your goal is to gift a brand-new car to a family member, friend, or loved one, it’s usually best to include that person throughout the buying and financing process. Making them a part of the
car buying process
may not have the same affect as surprising them in your driveway, but it will make the legal and financial aspects of car-buying a lot easier to complete. 
One reason for this is that you cannot gift a financed vehicle. Rather, you must pay off any
car loans
if you intend to transfer the vehicle’s title to your recipient. 
Despite ruining the element of surprise, it’s best to include your recipient so that you can ensure they get the car they want and avoid unexpected legal or financial stressors.
Key Takeaway You’ll need the Certificate of Title in-hand before you can gift a car to someone else—so if you’re planning to gift a brand-new vehicle, bringing your giftee to the dealership can be helpful for everyone involved. 

How to gift a used car in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the best way to gift a car is to
transfer the title
of a vehicle you already own to your new recipient. But that doesn’t mean that only old vehicles can be given as gifts! 
While you could certainly give away an existing vehicle that you’ve already paid for in full, you can also transfer the title of a brand new car, too. Whether you’re preparing for a dramatic driveway reveal or just offloading a car you’re not using to a loved one, the steps are the same. 
Here’s what you’ll need to do: 
  • Negotiate the terms of the gift: Since a title transfer is a necessary part of the gifting process—and one that involves fees—you must consider more than just the purchase price of the gifted car. In Wisconsin, a title transfer is fairly pricey compared to other states—expect to pay $164.50 for the majority of title transfers, or $157 for a low-speed vehicle. The only situation in which title transfers are free is when the vehicle is inherited. 
  • Record the gift: A
    bill of sale
    acts as a legal record of your transaction. By signing the bill of sale, both you and your recipient certify that you have agreed to the terms of the gift. 
  • Transfer the title: The transfer of title is especially important, as it’s how you officially transfer ownership of the car to your intended recipient. 

Transferring a car title in Wisconsin

The title transfer process for a gifted vehicle is more or less the same as with a private sale. In the case of a gifted or donated vehicle, the person gifting (or donating) the car acts as the seller, while the recipient acts as the purchaser. 
In some cases, title transfers can be completed online or by mail. But whether you’re starting the process virtually or in person at a Wisconsin Department of Transporation (WISDOT) office location, you’ll need to make sure you bring the following required documents:
  • The current original title, assigned to you by the seller/previous owner
  • A completed
    Title/License Plate Application
    (Form MV1)
  • A valid driver’s license or ID
  • License plates to transfer to the vehicle
Additionally, you’ll also want to bring enough money to cover the vehicle registration fee and title transfer fees, along with any applicable taxes. 

Costs to discuss with your gift recipient

A car can be an incredible gift—but once it’s given, there will be costs for the new owner to consider. Here are some costs associated with car ownership that should be considered beforehand: 
Cost
Wisconsin average
Car title transfer
$164.50 in most cases
Registration fee
$85
Insurance
$1,624 (liability only), $1,648 (full coverage) per year
Maintenance
$1,186 per year
Fuel
$7,929 per year

Purchase Wisconsin liability insurance—or full coverage

Regardless of whether you or your recipient is paying for it, you’ll want to make sure that the gifted car is protected with
valid Wisconsin car insurance
. In Wisconsin, drivers are required to carry set amounts of liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage—but opting for extra protections, such as comprehensive or collision coverage, may be a worthwhile investment (especially if you’re gifting a newer vehicle). 
Once a valid auto insurance policy is secured, your gift recipient is ready to drive off into the sunset!
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FAQs

Nope! In Wisconsin, if you inherit a car or receive one as a gift, you are not required to pay sales tax.
If you’re not planning to sell your car for a fair market price, the gifting process is the safest and most legitimate way to transfer a car’s title.
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