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  • License Plates & Placards in Iowa

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    When you purchase your first motor vehicle as an Iowa resident, you'll receive a set of license plates after you pay your registration fees. Your license plates will contain a unique plate number that refers to only your vehicle.

    In Iowa, license plates are used for many years, and they follow the driver―not the car. For example, if you sell your vehicle and purchase a replacement within 30 days, you can simply put your old plates on your new vehicle once you've paid the necessary registration fees.

    If your license plates are ever lost or damaged, you can obtain replacement plates at your county treasurer's office for $5. Take along the remaining license plate, if you have it, and your registration when you apply for a duplicate plate.

    Specialty or Personalized License Plates

    You can make your vehicle as unique as your personality by purchasing one of Iowa's many specialty or personalized license plates. The selection of designs includes plates for organ and tissue donor awareness, breast cancer awareness, Iowa's Motorcycle Rider Education program, and plates for each of Iowa's state universities. There are also a number of personalized license plates to honor military veterans, ex-prisoners of war, and Purple Heart recipients.

    In most cases, personalized plates are available for cars, trucks, motorcycles, sport utility vehicles, vans, motor homes, trailers, and travel trailers. If you do not wish to have your plates personalized with your own unique word or phrase, you can also request a numbered license plate in one of the specialty designs.

    Fees for specialty or personalized license plates are in addition to your normal annual registration fees. License plate fees vary according to the design you choose.

    Specialty or personalized license plates may be purchased through your county treasurer's office using the application forms you can find if you click on the plate you want. If you wish, you may also order the plates as a gift for a friend or family member.

    Disabled License Plates and Placards

    Iowa law allows people with disabilities that limit their mobility to receive special license plates that entitle them to park in designated areas. In most cases, handicapped license plates are issued to drivers with permanent disabilities. However, plates can also be issued to the custodial parent or guardian of a permanently disabled child.

    If you have a temporary disability, you may be able to receive a removable windshield placard or a sticker to place over your current license plates.

    To receive a disability license plate, you must complete an Application for Persons With Disabilities Parking Permit for Iowa Residents (Form 411055) and provide a medical statement from your physician or another qualified medical professional. The application should be returned to your nearest driver's license station or county treasurer's office during regular business hours.

    Surrendering License Plates in Iowa?

    The Iowa Motor Vehicle Division does not require you to return their license plates after relocating to another state or selling your vehicle, unless you want to apply for a registration refund or transfer the old plates to a new vehicle.

    To apply for a plate refund after moving or selling a vehicle, you must do so within 6 months. You'll need to:

    • Complete a Claim for Refund (Form 411047).
    • Ensure that there is at least $10 remaining on the registration.
    • Surrender your license plates.
    • Submit your application and plates to any Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) county treasurer's office.

    NOTE: If you plan to keep your license plates and transfer the remaining registration credit of at least $10 to a new vehicle, you must do so within 30 days.