May 26, 2016

Wisconsin Vehicle Identification Numbers

In the state of Wisconsin, the Lemon Law can be found in the “Wisconsin Revised Statutes Annotated 51:1941 to 51:1948: Motor Vehicles Warranties.” According to the laws of Wisconsin, you can’t buy or sell a car which doesn’t have a VIN code. If a car doesn’t have a VIN, then they were either manufactured prior to 1980 or they were imported illegally. Checking the VIN code and history will enable the consumer to learn about the history of the vehicle.

As of March 1, 2014 there have been changes made to the Wisconsin Lemon Law, depending on when you purchased your car and the year of your car, these changes may affect your lemon law claim. There has also been a consumer alert for Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles which is included below.

Wisconsin Lemon Law on or after March 1, 2014:

Wisconsin Lemon Law

Wisconsin Lemon Law Statute before March 1, 2014:

Wisconsin Lemon Law Statute

Volkswagen Consumer Alert

How do you check on a VIN number in the state of Wisconsin?

There is an online Title Search offered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; but it will only display the date that the WisDOT last processed a title for a vehicle if the VIN and the owner identifier entered match the records which they have. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation also has a lien holder search which will tell you if there are any outstanding liens on any vehicles.

Another searchable database that is very useful is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, which is used for cars that have been in the possession of auto recyclers, junk yards, and salvage yards. Places like this are often easy prey for thieves to steal VIN numbers from cars which have been destroyed. Therefore, they are more heavily regulated by the government and the data to be reported is mandated, including:

  • The name, address, and contact information for the reporting entity;
  • The VIN;
  • The date the automobile was obtained;
  • The name of the person or entity from whom the automobile was obtained;
  • A statement of whether the automobile was crushed or disposed of, or offered for sale or other purposes; and
  • Whether the vehicle is to be exported out of the country.

VINCheck is also a good check to run on vehicles, as it is connected to a database which is recommended by the National Insurance Crime Bureau. NICB is a free service which allows the public to search to see if a vehicle has been reported stolen and not recovered, or if it has been reported as a salvage vehicle by a cooperating NICB insurance company. You can perform a search with a VIN number and search a maximum of five (5) searches within a 24-hour period.

Finally, there is instaVIN®, which provides the most up-to-date vehicle records that you can either download or you can get by visiting your local DMV. Your instaVIN® vehicle history and title report should include the following information:

  • Current State of Title Information;
  • Historical Title Information;
  • Disclosure of Brand History on Title:
    • Flood;
    • Salvage;
    • Odometer Rollback
    • 61 Possible Problem Events.
  • Odometer Information – when a car registration is performed in Wisconsin an odometer reading is taken. A vehicle history report includes this reading;
  • Information on Previous Accidents – an LA vehicle history check contains accident-related information. If a vehicle has been in an accident it may affect the life and/or the safety of a vehicle;
  • Open Lien/Loan Information Including: Issuing Financial Institution – if there are any liens or loans against the vehicle then upon purchasing the car you assume the responsibility for those liens. In some states, debts such as child support can also be tied to the car, therefore, it is imperative that you make sure there are no outstanding liens against the car that you are purchasing;
  • Impound & Towing Events
  • Active Theft Data

If you suspect fraud, you should contact the NICB in one of the following ways:

  1. Text the keyword “FRAUD” to TIP411 (847411;)
  2. Call 800-TEL-NICB;
  3. Report fraud online using the form below;
  4. Download the NICB Fraud Tips App for iPhone/iPad

If you would like to file a complaint against a motor vehicle dealer, you can contact the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles Dealer & Agent Section.

Wisconsin Online Check

Wisconsin Online Lien Holder Check

Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicle Locations

National Title Motor Vehicle Information System

VINCheck – recommended by the NICB:


Problems with Motor Vehicle Dealers

MV2338 – Dealer Complaint Form

Lemon Law in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Lemon Law changed as of March 1, 2014. The complete text of the lemon law can be found at Wisconsin Statutes § 218.0171. The Wisconsin lemon law doesn’t cover used cars or previously owned vehicles. It does cover any motor driven vehicle which:

  1. Is required to be registered or is exempt from registration as a nonresident or foreign-registered vehicle; and
  2. A consumer purchases or accepts transfer of in Wisconsin.

This includes demonstrator or executive vehicles, but not mopeds, semitrailers, or trailers designed for use in combination with a truck or a tractor trailer.

A “lemon” is defined as a new vehicle, not more than one (1) year old, and still under warranty which:

  • Has a serious defect the manufacturer or dealer(s) either did not or were unable to fix in four (4) attempts: OR
  • Has one or more defects that prevent you from using the vehicle for 30 days or more – the 30 days need not be consecutive.

The lemon law covers vehicle “nonconformities.” A nonconformity is defined as a condition or defect that:

  1. Is covered by an express warranty of the manufacturer which is applicable to the motor vehicle or to a component of the motor vehicle; and
  2. Substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of a motor vehicle.

Nonconformities do not include conditions which are the result of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations to the vehicle by the consumer.

A nonconformity must be repaired if, before the expiration of the warranty or one year after the vehicle was first delivered to the consumer – whichever is sooner – the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, lessor, or authorized dealer, and makes the vehicle available for repair.

The Wisconsin lemon law defines “reasonable attempt to repair” as the as the occurrence of any of the following within the term of a vehicle’s warranty or within one year after the vehicle’s first delivery to a consumer, whichever is sooner:

  1. The same nonconformity is subject to repair by the manufacturer, lessor, or any of the manufacturer’s authorized dealers at least four (4) times and the nonconformity continues. A nonconformity may be subject to repair if the vehicle was presented to the dealership for repair; or
  2. The vehicle is out of service for at least thirty (30) days because of warranty nonconformities.

A consumer may not bring an action in a small claims court unless the consumer first goes through an informal dispute settlement procedure that has been certified by the Department of Transportation. Only manufacturers who have an informal dispute settlement procedure which substantially complies with 16 C.F.R. Part 703 can have a state supported informal dispute settlement procedure. The decision of the arbitration board is binding to the manufacturer, but it is not for the consumer and the consumer has the right to take the manufacturer to court if they lose in arbitration. The manufacturers who participate in the Better Business Bureau AUTO LINE informal dispute resolution in Wisconsin are:

  • Audi, Bentley, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC Truck, Hyundai, Indian Motorcycle, Infiniti, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Lotus, Mazda, Mercury, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, smart USA, Volkswagen, and Workhorse Custom Chassis.

If you have questions you can contact the Wisconsin Department of Transportation:

Dealer & Agent Section

4802 Sheboygan Avenue

Room 201

P.O. Box 7909

Madison, WI 53707-7909


Bureau of Consumer Protection

2811 Agriculture Drive

P.O. Box 8911

Madison, WI 53708-8911


Wisconsin Consumer Rights

Wisconsin Lemon Law

Wisconsin Better Business Bureau Information

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Dealer & Agent Section

Wisconsin Department of Consumer Protection

When is it time to hire a Lemon Law Attorney?

Although the lemon law appears to be clear, they can get confusing. When you are dealing with corporations and manufacturers it may be beneficial to have an attorney on your side. You are dealing with professional negotiators and many find it helpful to have an attorney or a professional on your side.

Lemon Law lawyers are also helpful because:

  • Knowledge of the law – Experienced lemon law lawyers not only know they law, but they can also make educated decisions about your case;
  • Experience – Attorneys who have experience with lemon law cases in the past will be able to handle your case better;
  • Negotiating Power – Although it sounds unfair, having an attorney will help the process go faster and smoother and will help compel the manufacturer to comply; and
  • Trusted Advice – your attorney can provide you with advice and can provide you the best ways to move forward.

To search for an attorney in Wisconsin you can always search the Wisconsin State Bar Association for a reputable attorney to handle your case.

Wisconsin State Bar Association

Wisconsin State Bar Lawyer Search

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
4802 Sheboygan Ave
1 608-264-7447Motor Vehicle Division
6073 N Teutonia Ave
1 414-266-1000Elkhorn Customer Service Center, Division of Motor Vehicles
835 S Lincoln St
1 608-264-7447WisDOT Marshfield Service Center
503 S Cherry Ave
1 608-264-7447Tomah Customer Service Center, Division of Motor Vehicles
1021 N Superior Ave
1 608-264-7447

State Of Wisconsin Department of Transportation
711 Association Dr
1 608-264-7447

Oconomowoc DMV
200 W South St
1 608-264-7447

Baraboo DMV
1000 Log Lodge Ct
1 608-264-7447

Wisconsin Rapids DMV
1681 2nd Ave S
1 608-264-7447

Janesville DMV
645 S Wright Rd
1 608-264-7447

Antigo DMV
2124 Clermont St
1 608-264-7447

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
2019 Golf Rd
1 414-266-1000

Abbotsford DMV
203 N 1st St
1 608-264-7447

Beloit Customer Service Center
2727 Prairie Ave
1 608-264-7447

South Milwaukee Customer Service Center, Division of Motor Vehicles
1835 College Ave
1 608-264-7447

Madison East DMV
2001 Bartillon Dr
1 608-264-7447

Milwaukee-Northwest DMV
7301 W Mill Rd
1 608-264-7447

Racine/ Sturtevant DMV
9531 Rayne Rd
1 608-264-7447

Madison Odana Renewal Center
6514 Odana Rd #4
1 608-264-7447
Open until 4:00 PM

Milwaukee-Southwest DMV
5500 W Grange Ave
1 608-264-7447

Dodgeville DMV
316 W Spring St
1 608-264-7447

Mauston DMV
318 E State St
1 608-264-7447

Alma DMV
407 S 2nd St
1 608-264-7447

West Bend DMV
1516 W Paradise Dr
1 608-264-7447

Portage DMV
260 Eastridge Rd
1 608-264-7447

Green Bay Service Center
942 Van Der Perren Way
1 608-266-2353

Transportation Department
N7146 E Plaza Dr
1 920-885-4717

Saukville DMV
501 N Dekora Woods Blvd
1 608-264-7447

Eau Claire DMV
3115 Melby St
1 608-264-7447

Wisconsin DOT District 2 Electric Shop
935 S 60th St
1 414-266-1151

Manitowoc DMV
3651 Dewey St
1 608-264-7447

Fond du Lac Customer Service Center, Division of Motor Vehicles
833 S Rolling Meadows Dr
1 608-264-7447

Stevens Point Customer Service Center, Division of Motor Vehicles
1001 Maple Bluff Rd #2
1 608-264-7447

Milwaukee Central DMV
2701 S Chase Ave
1 608-264-7447

Platteville DMV
31 Means Dr
1 608-264-7447

Oshkosh DMV
2301 Omro Rd
1 608-264-7447

Milwaukee-Downtown DMV
Downtown DMV, 819 N 6th St
1 608-264-7447

Wisconsin DMV Service Center
N5273 WI-27 #1
1 608-264-7447

LaCrosse DMV
East, 9477 WI-16
1 608-264-7447

Rhinelander DMV
510 Hanson Lake Rd
1 608-264-7447

Madison West DMV
4802 Sheboygan Ave
1 608-264-7447

Viroqua DMV
1316 N Main St
1 608-264-7447

Stevens Point DMV
1001 Maple Bluff Rd #2
1 608-264-7447

Waupaca DMV
801 W Fulton St
1 608-264-7447

Marshfield DMV
503 S Cherry Ave
1 608-264-7447

Tomah DMV
1021 N Superior Ave
1 608-264-7447

Wausau DMV
5301 Rib Mountain Dr
1 608-264-7447

Elkhorn DMV
835 S Lincoln St
1 608-264-7447

Appleton DMV
W., 711 Association Dr
1 608-264-7447

Kenosha DMV
4911 88th Ave
1 608-264-7447

Prairie Du Chien DMV
65 Riverside Square #6
1 608-264-7447

Sheboygan DMV
3603 Kohler Memorial Dr
1 608-264-7447

Oconto DMV
1008 Pecor St
1 608-264-7447

Darlington DMV
197 Christensen Dr
1 608-264-7447

Fond Du Lac DMV
833 S Rolling Meadows Dr
1 608-264-7447

Milwaukee-Northeast DMV
Milwaukee Northeast DMV, 6073 N Teutonia Ave
1 608-264-7447

Wautoma DMV
715 W Main St
1 608-264-7447

Eagle River DMV
302 W Pine St
1 608-264-7447

Beaver Dam DMV
N7146 E. Plaza Drive, N7146 E Plaza Dr
1 608-264-7447

Merrill Driver’s License Office
100 S Mill St
1 608-264-7447

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