Register Car in Iowa
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If you are a current resident who needs to renew an expired vehicle registration, please see DMV.org's section on Registration Renewals for more information regarding this procedure.
You will need to complete the registration process for the first time if you have:
- Purchased a new vehicle
- Moved to the state on a permanent basis
- Changed ownership on a vehicle, either by giving or receiving a gift
State law requires that drivers update their vehicle registration information within 30 days. This is necessary even if you are a new resident with a vehicle registration that is still currently valid in another state.
Registering your vehicle in your name is a fairly simple process, but it's not the only thing you need to do in order to legally operate your vehicle. State law requires that all drivers provide proof of financial responsibility. In most cases, this needs you will need to obtain a valid automobile insurance policy. Visit our Insurance Center to compare rates and learn more about how to find a policy that provides the protection you need.
If you purchased your car from a dealer, there will typically be a sales representative available to help you complete the necessary registration and title transfer documents. For more information about titling your vehicle, please see our page on Title Transfers.
To complete the registration process on your own:
- If you have just purchased the vehicle, ask the seller to provide you with their title, an odometer reading, an estimate of fair market value, and a disclosure of any vehicle damages.
- If you are not changing ownership, obtain a copy of the last-issued out of state title and registration. See our section on Replacing a Lost Title to learn how to order a duplicate for a lost or damaged title. If you need to change ownership before completing the registration process, review our page on Title Transfers.
- Complete a title and registration application. The application will ask for your contact information and lienholder details as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, and year of the vehicle. If you are leasing the vehicle, complete the title and registration application for a leased vehicle instead.
Learn more about Iowa's car registration policies through the Iowa State County Treasurer's Association list of FAQs.
If you have not yet purchased your vehicle, consider order a vehicle history report to make sure you are aware of any issues that may cause problems down the road.
Registration fees for vehicles 2010 and newer are determined by the vehicle weight and list price. For older vehicles, registration is a flat fee. To learn how to estimate your vehicle registration costs, visit the Iowa Treasurers website.
Keep in mind that registering your vehicle for the first time is more expensive than renewing a current registration due to the initial taxes and fees that are based on the purchase price. In addition, vehicle registration fees for first time vehicles increased on January 1, 2009 as part of a state effort to raise money for road repairs. For more information about these changes, please visit the Iowa Department of Transportation website.
A replacement title will be $25.00. Replacement license plates are $5.00. There is no charge for a replacement validation sticker, but you will need to show your current registration and fill out a brief application.
To register your vehicle, you'll need to visit your county treasurer's office. No appointment is needed, but office hours can vary. It's best to call ahead to confirm that the location will be open when you plan to visit.
If you need to order new license plates at this time, consider choosing personalized or vanity plates to reflect your own special interests. See our section on License Plates for details.
License plate frames featuring your favorite sports team, hobby, or special interest are another fun way to customize your vehicle.
After registering your vehicle, you'll receive validation stickers that should be affixed to your front and back license plates. This makes it easy for law enforcement officers to see at a glance that your registration is up to date.
Your registration information should be carried in your car at all times. If you are ever stopped by a police officer, they will ask to see this paperwork. If you do not have the vehicle's registration documents, you could be fined up to $100.
If you itemize deductions on your taxes, a portion of your vehicle registration fee may be deductible as a personal property tax expense. To qualify, your vehicle must be designed to carry 10 people or less. It must be constructed on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation. Fees paid to register pickups, hearses, non-passenger carrying vans, campers, motorcycles, motor trucks, work vans, ambulances, or motor bikes can not be deducted, however.
To learn more about income tax and claiming tax deductions, consult a qualified tax attorney.
After you've registered your car, it's time to think about how you can stay safe while on the road.
A roadside assistance package can be useful if you're driving an older vehicle that may have mechanical problems or you're not sure you'd be able to handle an emergency situation on your own. Finding a mechanic you trust and looking into purchasing after-market auto warranties is also a smart move.
A number of accessories are available for those who are concerned with safety on the road. Auto emergency kits and hands-free headsets are useful for all drivers, while parents will also want to invest in a quality child safety seat.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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