Car Registration in Iowa
All vehicles must be registered to legally be driven in Iowa. You must register your vehicle(s) with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) at the county treasurer's office where you live. This page will help guide you through the process of registering your car for the first time.
If you're looking for information on how to renew an existing Iowa vehicle registration, please see our page on Registration Renewals in Iowa.
You have 30 days from the time you establish residency in Iowa to register your vehicle with the county treasurer's office. New residents must first have an Iowa driver's license in order to register their vehicle. You must register and get Iowa license plates even if your old plates are still valid in your previous state.
To register your vehicle:
- Submit your current vehicle title.
- Complete and submit an Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration for a Vehicle (Form 411007).
- If your vehicle is leased, you will instead submit the Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration of a Leased Vehicle (Form 411179).
You are not required to get an Iowa title, but if you do not title the vehicle, your registration will be non-transferable. You will not be able to sell the vehicle with a non-transferable registration.
If you've lost the original title, you will need to contact your previous state to get a new title issued.
You will have to title your vehicle in Iowa and receive a transferable registration before you can sell the vehicle.
Vehicle registration can only be completed in person at your local treasurer's office or satellite office – you cannot register your vehicle by mail or online.
Vehicles Purchased or Leased from a Dealership
Dealerships will generally fill out the paperwork required to register your vehicle, and send it all in to the Division of Motor Vehicles for you. They will usually issue temporary tags that will be good until you get your actual license plates in the mail. The registration and titling fees can be combined with the purchase price of the vehicle.
You can also opt to have the dealership give you the completed paperwork and take it in to the treasurer's office yourself. You will need to submit all the paperwork and pay the registration and titling fees.
Registering a leased vehicle is usually taken care of by the dealers. If you have to register it yourself, you can follow the steps listed below and use the Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration of a Leased Vehicle (Form 411179) instead of the regular application for registration of a vehicle.
Vehicles Purchased from a Private Party
When purchasing a vehicle in Iowa from a private individual, you must first have an Iowa driver's license. It is recommended that you and the seller of the vehicle complete and sign a Bill of Sale to prove a transfer of ownership, though the Iowa DOT doesn't specifically require this for vehicle registration.
Make sure the seller provides you with:
- The vehicle title. You and the seller will both need to sign the title for a legal title transfer.
- The vehicle's odometer statement. You'll need to fill in the odometer statement on the registration application before you submit it to your county treasurer's office.
- A damage disclosure statement.
Once you have all paperwork from the seller, go to your local county treasurer's office and:
- Present your valid Iowa driver's license.
- Complete the Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration for a Vehicle (Form 411007) with the vehicle odometer reading written in the appropriate box.
- Present the vehicle title, loan paperwork, or other documents proving ownership of the vehicle.
- If there is a loan on the vehicle, you will need to contact the lender in order to complete the paperwork to register the vehicle.
- Pay the registration fees (see “Iowa Vehicle Registration Fees" below).
You will receive your new Iowa license plates when you complete the registration. In Iowa, vehicle registrations expire on the last day of your birth month.
Residents of Iowa who are serving in the Armed Forces must abide by the same registration laws as other Iowa residents, and pay the same vehicle registration fees.
Non-resident members of the military serving in Iowa do not have to register their vehicle(s) in the state. If you do choose to register your vehicle with the state, you will follow the same steps listed above in “ New to Iowa?" with the following exceptions:
- Registration fees will be based solely on the weight of the vehicle.
- You must have your commanding officer fill out a certification of residency in Iowa.
In Iowa, some vehicles will pay a standardized registration fee, while others will pay registration fees based on a percentage of the vehicle price plus its weight.
Vehicles required to pay standardized fees are:
- Motorcycles: $10 - $20
- Multipurpose vehicles: $55.
- Examples: Chevy Blazer, Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, etc.
- All vehicles over 12 years old except as listed above: $50.
- Specially-equipped vehicles (modified to accommodate a disability): $60.
- May be less due to the age of the vehicle.
Price- and Weight-Based Fees
Some registration fees will be a combination of a percentage of the list price added to a fee based on the weight of the vehicle. These calculations pertain to:
- All passenger cars.
- Low speed vehicles.
- Multipurpose vehicles manufactured since 1993.
- Trucks built since 2010 and have less than 10,000 miles.
Percentages of List Price
- 1% for vehicles from 1 to 7 years old.
- 0.75% for vehicles from 8 to 9 years old.
- 0.50% for vehicles from 10 to 11 years old.
For every 100 lbs. that your vehicle weighs, $0.40 will be added to the percentage of the list price of the vehicle.
Once you have figured out the percentage of the list price of the vehicle and the cost for the weight of your vehicle, you add both of those together to figure out the registration cost.
Registration Fees for Trucks
Trucks, truck tractors, and buses have a set registration fee based on age and weight. Fees for trucks can be found on the Truck Fees chart.
You will receive your new license plates when you register your vehicle for the first time.
If you buy the vehicle from a dealership, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will send you the license plates in the mail along with your registration.
The license plates will have a registration sticker with them for you to stick on the rear plate:
- For large license plates (cars, trucks, etc.), affix the sticker to the lower left corner of the plate.
- For small license plates (motorcycles), place the sticker on the upper left corner of the plate.
There are a number of different license plates available from the DOT for an additional fee, including personalized plates. Click here to view a list of special Iowa plates that are currently available. Special or personalized plates may not be immediately available when you register your vehicle, so you may have to wait for them to be mailed to you at a later date.
For more information, please visit our page on license plates in Iowa.