Paperwork When Buying a Car in Iowa

Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Iowa

When buying a car in Iowa, you will need to obtain some paperwork from the seller such as the vehicle title, and you'll also need to complete some paperwork yourself.

If you buy your car from a dealer, they will take care of the paperwork for you, but if you buy from a private seller, you’ll need to take a trip to the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to complete the transaction.

Read below for more information about the paperwork you need when you buy a car in Iowa.

Paperwork for Iowa Car Buyers

When you buy a car in Iowa, you’re required to title and register the car in your own name.

Most importantly, you’ll need to obtain the vehicle title from the seller. It should include:

  • The purchase price of the vehicle.
  • An odometer disclosure statement.
  • A damage disclosure statement.

Depending on the age of the vehicle and its title, the seller may need to give you a few other documents:

Also be sure the seller tells you:

  • The last county in which the car was registered.
  • The registration expiration date.

Iowa Title Transfers

The seller is required to sign over the title to you the moment you purchase the vehicle by signing and dating the title certificate. You will also need to sign and date it.

The title should also show:

  • The purchase price.
  • The odometer reading.
  • Disclosure of damages.

NOTE: If the title does not have spaces for the required information, you’ll need additional forms from the seller. See “Paperwork for Iowa Car Buyers” above.

If the seller does not have the title, they can apply for a duplicate. You should NOT buy a car that doesn’t have a title, since the title is proof of ownership.

You’ll title the car in your name when you register the car with your county treasurer. Read below for registration information.

Iowa Vehicle Registration

Registration of vehicles in Iowa is fairly simple as there are only a couple of forms that must be submitted in person at your Iowa county treasurer’s office.

Registration Deadlines

You have 30 days to register your vehicle with the Iowa DOT.

Applying for Registration

To apply for registration, visit your county treasurer’s office in person with:

Once all of these documents are submitted, the state will issue you new license plates for your car.

For more information about Iowa vehicle registration, see our Register a Car in Iowa page.

Vehicle History Report

To protect against fraudulent practices such as odometer fraud or hidden damage, you can buy a vehicle history report.

These reports contain vital information about a vehicle’s history, including odometer readings, accidents, and damages, using the car’s unique vehicle identification number (VIN).

A vehicle history report can ensure that the information you get from a seller is, indeed, correct.

Iowa Lemon Law

There is currently a lemon law in the state of Iowa for vehicles that:

  • Are still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Less than 2 years from the purchase date.
  • AND
  • Have fewer than 24,000 miles.

If your car meets these requirements and you are concerned about an issue or repair, you must contact the manufacturer first to resolve the problem.

See our Lemon Law in Iowa page for more details.

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