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Old 04-22-2017, 10:08 AM   #1
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Wisconsin License and Titling

Since we hijacked another thread with this discussion and to hopefully make it easier for future Cheesehead buyers to search and find this info, I thought I'd try to consolidate our experiences on its own thread

Background, before ETI started handling all the importation process, the universal experience had been that the DMV would not do anything with license and titling until the trailer was back in Wisconsin and all the import documents stamped at the border. Now with ETI handling the importation, the hope was that the process would become easier. But it seems, if anything, that it has become more confusing and capricious.

I'll try to summarize what has happened so far - participants please make corrections to anything I say.

Jimrules said "Did you go to the east side or west side DMV? We tried to register ours at the east side before we picked it up and got denied. We were told that we had to have a STAMPED import document to prove that it was already imported.

When we got back with the stamped import documents the guy at the information desk told us we would probably need to talk to "research" first, but we tried anyway. The clerk we got was great and we walked out with our plate, no problem.

Sounds like another case of luck of the draw."


bsmoke said he was easily able to get plates with Tammy's paperwork and get a license plate to take along: "I had no problem getting my plate at the Madison, Wisconsin DMV a few weeks ago with the paperwork that Escape sent. Took about 20 minutes. Pick up trailer on June 2nd."

My experience was: "In La Crosse, they made me send it in to the "Research" dept at the Madison main office and maybe I'll get my license and title back in 8 weeks they said... So it's in their hands now, no way for me to take it in.... I'm still working on my local police chief for a 90 day temp plate - we'll see... But I've got a copy of my check paying the fees and tax, and copies of all the paperwork that I will be taking along."

On the DMV website it makes reference to being able to use proof of payment to the DMV on mailed in applications and being able to get a 90 day temporary plate with that. I am currently exploring that option, but the La Crosse DMV flat out said no when I asked about a temp plate when there before they said I had to mail it all in.
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Old 04-22-2017, 11:54 AM   #2
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My experience, use DMV vehicle registration form to send bill of sale, import form, and check for tax and fees to state office. Tape your copy of registration form to inside back window of the trailer. Go camping. I waited a month for plates, no problem in the meantime. I drove back from BC with the form taped to the window.

On bill of sale be sure to highlight the conversion to US $.
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Old 04-22-2017, 11:58 AM   #3
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My experience, use DMV vehicle registration form to send bill of sale, import form, and check for tax and fees to state office. Tape your copy of registration form to inside back window of the trailer. Go camping. I waited a month for plates, no problem in the meantime. I drove back from BC with the form taped to the window.

On bill of sale be sure to highlight the conversion to US $.
This was in Wisconsin, correct?
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Old 04-22-2017, 01:00 PM   #4
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Yes, Wisconsin.
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Old 04-22-2017, 01:54 PM   #5
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There is a time period for registering your trailer with the State of Wisconsin. I was told when I registered my trailer that you have ten days after the trailer enters the State of Wisconsin to get it legally registered . The reason I was given for the rule was that the State of Wisconsin wants their sales tax , registration fees and license fees NOW not later .
Technically if you go past the ten day grace period , then you are guilty of tax evasion.
The DMV clerk in Rice Lake , Wisconsin may have been wrong but by the look on her face , I don't believe she was joking !!
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Old 04-22-2017, 02:02 PM   #6
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All kinds of contradictory info from the DMV. The clerk in La Crosse told me I only had two days! But since I sent in my full payment check for license, title and taxes along with all my paperwork to the mysterious "research" department, I've at least got that covered.

If I do get pulled over anywhere, I'll try to dazzle them with paperwork.
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Old 04-22-2017, 05:08 PM   #7
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Yes, about three years ago DMV decided that all imported trailers have to be registered through their offices at Hill Farms in Madison. That does not mean you can drive up, walk in and expect counter service. No, everything is done through the mail. There is no reason to go to your local office, all they will do is give you is the form to complete and mail in. You can get the form online.

Mine took about six weeks to get the plate. One thing you could do Is mail the registration once you have crossed the border to the US. Take a photo of the completed registration, your check and the envelope. If you are really cautious send it registered mail and keep your receipt. You can put one of those LAF cards for your license plate but I think that just calls attention to the fact you do not have a license.

Most law enforcement are not looking for Escapes without tags and will accept most any documentation you can show them. Crooks do not usually have import papers.
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Old 04-22-2017, 05:20 PM   #8
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Yes, about three years ago DMV decided that all imported trailers have to be registered through their offices at Hill Farms in Madison. That does not mean you can drive up, walk in and expect counter service......
Well, unless you get lucky like Jim or exceptionally lucky like bsmoke! At least the inconsistency seems consistent....
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Old 04-22-2017, 10:08 PM   #9
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I was at the Madison East DMV at 2001 Bartillion Dr.
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Old 04-22-2017, 10:24 PM   #10
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I was at the Madison East DMV at 2001 Bartillion Dr.
You won the sweepstakes there Bruce. No one else (that we know about) has ever gotten a plate to take with them.
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Old 04-22-2017, 11:25 PM   #11
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To be clear the first time we went to the DMV we just believed the information desk person who told us that we didn't have what we needed to register the trailer and gave up on it. They were so specific about what we needed that we didn't even question it. When we got to a clerk all that we tried tried to do was register the Jeep that we had just bought in Illinois.

Our mistake may have been expaining everything up front instead of just saying that we were there to register a travel trailer.

You'd think by now I'd remember that it's easier to get forgiveness than permission.
Oh well, no harm done. We passed and were passed by many cops on the trip back and never got stopped.

Right or wrong, I guess I wasn't really that worried about anyway. Since Wisconsin doesn't require plates for trailers under 3,000lbs, we never even got one for our motorcycle tent trailer. We pulled that thing through a dozen different states (and a few provinces) for over 8 years and never got stopped for not having a plate on it.
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Old 04-23-2017, 08:53 AM   #12
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Jim, I agree on all points. Looking back I wonder if instead of handing the clerk all the paperwork from ETI, if I only would have handed her my application and the certificate of origin if she might have just registered it. The mountain of border paperwork I presented her with caused her to look mystified and then ask another clerk, who replied - "Canada? Has to go to research."

When we picked up our 2010 we dropped off the sold Scamp in Bozeman and I just took its plates along, not even knowing then that trailer plates don't transfer like car or truck ones do here. Given that it all seems quite confused at the offices, I'm fine with having mailed in the application with copies of everything and my full payment check. Having that copy of my full payment check would make it difficult for the DMV to cause any problems when we get home.

In the spirit I started this thread with, to try to help future Cheeseheads with the process, my recommendation would be; if you have a close by office, take in your paperwork, but only offer your MV1 application and the certificate of origin and see if you get lucky! If they refuse, send in your application, copies of everything and full payment of fees and taxes and keep a copy your check. Then head off for ETI with all your paperwork and rely on the fact that no one from WI has yet had any problems traveling home with no plates.
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Old 04-23-2017, 09:01 AM   #13
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Actually, all rvs in Wisconsin require plates regardless of weight. $15 per year. Utility, cargo, and boat trailers rated under 3000 lbs don't need plates. The tent trailer didn't count as an rv. So it can be confusing for public and law enforcement.

It can be easy to sell a stolen small trailer in Wisconsin because of the lack of titles and confusion over the 3000 lb rule. I suggest running the VIN through a website that tracks stolen vehicles.
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Old 04-23-2017, 09:08 AM   #14
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Viajante - good points. My old utility trailer doesn't even have a VIN. If someone stole it they would certainly have no trouble reselling it. It's best anti-theft feature is its ugliness!
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Old 04-23-2017, 10:31 AM   #15
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Wisconsin is a STRANGE place. I went to my local office of the
Wisconsin DMV to get the yearly license tabs for my truck .
To my surprise , they could / would not sell me the tabs but told me that I could buy them over the counter at the local tavern at a $10 premium or I could drive a 100 miles to a different DMV office.

When we moved to Wisconsin we had a hard time learning the language especially the local dialect . Gave up on trying to understand the local customs . All I know is that life in Wisconsin revolves around beer , deer hunting and the Packers!!.
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Old 03-30-2018, 11:56 AM   #16
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Being born and raised in Wisconsin, but having lived several other places, I'd have to add bratwursts to Steve's list of Sconnie fascinations... Yah hey!

We recently navigated the process of licensing our Escape trailer in Wisconsin (as of January 2018), and I thought I'd share our experiences.

I visited my local office after realizing the DMV was moved from the (new) Hill Farms State Office Building to 8417 Excelsior Dr, Madison, WI 53717 and was similarly provided a telephone number and referred to the "Research" office. The comment from the person at the desk at Excelsior was "They don't let us touch those..." The triage person answering the main DMV phone line directed me to the "Research" office. After waiting on hold for ~20 minutes, I spoke with Vicki (?), who recognized what I was trying to do and was specific about what she needed sent in the mail. (I think our experience was similar to that described by Viajante above.)

1) Completed MV1-1 form, available online

2) "Certificate of Origin for a Trailer" provided by the ETI offices

3) Copy of bill of sale provided by ETI

4) Check for fees and sales tax based on conversion to USD: she was not concerned that we track conversion rates over the several payments made at different times: an average conversion was fine. Only a few municipalities in WI have their own taxes that need to be included in this computation: we paid both state and county, but not municipality taxes.

She did not need copies of: 1) the North American Free Trade Agreement Certificate of Origin OR 2) the Pacific Customs Brokers, Inc., US Customs Invoice, OR 3) the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Importer ID Input Record OR 4) the Entry Summary form from the same group, OR 5) the US DOT, NHTSA Declaration of Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment subject to ...standards (OMB no.2127-0002).

I made copies of all forms mailed to their office.

She was helpful in suggesting we include a prorated fee to cover the period from our March completion date to the yearly April date upon which all trailers in WI renew, and to request that the initial license run from the April 2018 to April 2019...

She requested that I write the trailer Vehicle Identification Number on our check.

She requested we mail our forms and check to WI Dept. of Transportation, PO BOX 7949, Madison, WI 53707-7949.

We did NOT need documentation of importation, stamped by authorities at the border, and thereby were able to complete this process before picking up our trailer...

A couple of weeks later, the title arrived, followed by the plate (which apparently originates from a separate office)... (There is no plate "renewal" sticker for the first year of registration.)

I think the rest of you have done the "heavy lifting" regarding this process and requests to title and license imported trailers now have an identified "workflow" at the WI DMV. Hopefully the process will be smoother for future Escape owners going forward. We'll see... One conclusion is that you can probably skip the local DMV office...

So thanks to all of you for plowing the ground here...

-- Claude
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Old 03-30-2018, 08:56 PM   #17
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I can add that we got a title and plate at the Madison east side DOT office today after following Jim's advice and getting Terry at the information desk involved. The counter person was perplexed as to what to do and Terry was returning to his info desk when we flagged him down. Pretty much as Claude described; needed Bill of Sale, MV1-1 form completed and Certificate of Origin. Taxes computed on what we calculated on our three payments. Still took an hour of wait time. Claude has the done a service to those in Wisconsin who don't live near a larger DOT office.
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Old 03-31-2018, 04:46 AM   #18
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I just have to throw in my most usual question asked by a DMV clerk here in Tennessee.
My goal was to correct the title on an almost new Audi from Bill, to Bill or Earline, due to an error by the car dealer.
After completing all her paperwork, and checking it for the third time, the clerk looked up and asked "is the car still White?" When I just stared at her, she then said in her defense: "Well some people change their cars."
I agreed that it was still white and put my credit card in the machine.
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Old 03-31-2018, 08:59 AM   #19
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I can add that we got a title and plate at the Madison east side DOT office today after following Jim's advice and getting Terry at the information desk involved. The counter person was perplexed as to what to do and Terry was returning to his info desk when we flagged him down.
Tony
Iím curious how you recognized Terry.
Was he wearing a tropical Jimmy Buffet type of shirt?
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Old 03-31-2018, 10:28 AM   #20
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Iím curious how you recognized Terry.
Was he wearing a tropical Jimmy Buffet type of shirt?
Yes Jim it was the shirt, although I asked one of the DOT folks not occupied what his name was.
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