For a variety of reasons, I've spent a lot of time noticing license plates. Living in a border community like the Twin Ports, we really have access to seeing a wide variety of license plates from a number of different states.  Obviously Minnesota and Wisconsin plates are heavy in that mix, but our area sees a lot of Michigan, North and South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa plates, too.

Along with the different states represented - and each states corresponding speciality plates, I also took note of the wide variety of conditions that each plate represented.  Especially for Minnesota and Wisconsin, I noticed both "older" and "newer" designs on the display - depending on the age and life of the vehicle. And then I also noticed that some plates - even if they were an "old" design - were in better shape than others. Some of these beat-up and damaged plates were difficult to read.

It got me to wondering:  what do you do in the case of a plate that's so damaged it's not legible?  Or, at what point is replacement necessary?  And if it does need to be replaced - what's the process?  And, who's responsible.

Well, the answer to that last question is you! Illegible plates are illegal plates, and you are the one who ultimately needs to make sure that these identification markings are visible and readable.

And there's something else about the process you might not like:  You're responsible to pay for the replacement plates.  In other words, even if Mother Nature has take it's wrath out on your license plates and the salt from WISDOT plow trucks has caused them to pit and corrode, the title holder foots the bill.

Thinking about skirting the cost of replacement plates by not doing something about it?  Well, there is a cost involved with inaction, too.  "Improper display of registration plates can result in a citation and forfeiture totaling $150.10, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation".

So if your plates are in bad shape, you'd better start the process of getting them replaced.  Here are the costs for replacement plates:

  • Standard, dual plate vehicles:  $8.00
  • Single plate vehicles (like motorcycles, moped, trailers):  $4.00
  • Special group plates (i.e. Packers, military, EMS, UW, etc):  The cost varies from $10.00 to $12.00
  • Personalized plates:  The cost varies from $4.00 to $6.00 per plate

Keep in mind, too that if you use a credit card or debit card to pay for it, the State of Wisconsin charges you a "convenience fee" of 2%.

To get started and to replace those plates, click here to visit the Wisconsin DMV website.

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