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  • License Plates & Placards in Iowa

    SUMMARY: Iowa License Plates

    If you live in Iowa, you’ll need license plate on your vehicle. You can apply for Iowa license plates by registering your vehicle in person with the IA MVD. To keep your plates valid, you’ll need to renew your plates by renewing your vehicle registration. If your plates are missing or damaged, license plate replacements can be ordered in person or by mail. If you sell your vehicle, you may be to transfer your plates.

    Read below for more information about Iowa license plates and tags.

    Applying for disabled parking? See our Disability Placards and Plates in Iowa page for application information.

    Types of Iowa License Plates

    The Iowa Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) issues license plates for vehicles. The standard Iowa license plate has a blue and white background with black lettering.

    Most vehicles in Iowa are required to have a license plate on the front and another on the back. Some vehicles, such as motorcycles, only need a rear plate.

    License plates also have decals that show the plate’s expiration date.

    The IA MVD offers a range of special license plates, including vanity plates and organizational plates.

    The MVD also issues disabled parking license plates. Learn more about these plates and how to apply on our Disability Plates and Placards page.

    Temporary Tags

    In Iowa, vehicle dealers can give out a temporary plate that says "Registration applied for." This temporary tag is good for 45 days and CANNOT be extended.

    If you buy a car in a private sale, you can get a temporary permit valid for 30 days from your IA county treasurer. The permit is $25.

    Instead of the temporary permit, you can:

    • Transfer your plates to the vehicle.
      OR
    • Drive for up to 30 days without registering the vehicle in your name IF the vehicle’s current registration is valid.
      • You must keep a bill of sale and the vehicle title in the car.

    Apply for License Plates in IA

    You’ll apply for your Iowa license plates as part of the vehicle registration process.

    You must register your vehicle:

    • Within 30 days of moving to IA.
    • Within 30 days of buying a car.

    If you buy a car from a dealership, they’ll usually handle the registration for you.

    Learn more about registering a car in Iowa on our Vehicle Registration page.

    Renew Vehicle Tags

    You’ll need to renew your tags by renewing your Iowa vehicle registration. You should receive a renewal notice before the sticker on your license plate expires.

    You can renew your registration online, by mail, or in person. When you renew, you’ll get a new expiration sticker to put over the old one.

    You’ll find more information on our Registration Renewal in Iowa page.

    Replace License Plates

    If your license plates are lost or stolen, or if they’re too damaged to read, you can get new ones in person at your county treasurer's office. You’ll need to take:

    • Any remaining plates.
    • $5 replacement fee.

    If your expiration sticker is damaged or missing, you can get a replacement from a county treasurer’s office. You’ll need:

    • Your vehicle registration card.
    • Applicable fees. Contact your county registrar for fees.

    Transfer & Surrender IA Tags

    If you sell your car and buy a new one, you can transfer your license plates as long as you buy the new car within 30 days of selling the old one. You’ll complete the transfer when you register the car.

    You must surrender your tags if you:

    • Do not transfer them.
    • Move to another state.

    You can surrender them in person or by mail to your Iowa county treasurer’s office.

    Registration Fee Refunds

    If you cannot transfer your tags, you may be eligible for a refund. You can apply for a refund if you:

    • Are owed at least $10 by the IA MVD.
    • Apply within 6 months of canceling your registration or registering your vehicle in another state.

    To apply for a refund, you must submit:

    • Claim for Refund (Form 411047).
    • Your license plates.
    • A copy of your out-of-state registration, if applicable.

    Take or mail your application to your county treasurer’s office.

    Fees for Iowa License Plates

    The fees for a license plate and to renew them vary based on your vehicle type, weight, and value.

    For detailed information about fees, see our Vehicle Registration and Registration Renewal pages.

    Replacement license plates are $5.

    Specialty or Personalized License Plates

    You can make your vehicle as unique as your personality by purchasing one of Iowa's manyspecialty 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.

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