Buying and Selling FAQs in Iowa

Buying and selling vehicles can be tricky business. Refer to the answers below to some of your most frequently asked questions.

How do I register my newly purchased imported vehicle?

Registering an imported vehicle in Iowa is similar to registering any other vehicle. However, one of the most common problems associated with registering an imported vehicle is a faulty VIN number.

Motor vehicles in the United States must have a 17-digit VIN number that uniquely identifies the vehicle and includes a digit in the ninth position that is mathematically correct under a formula developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If there is a typographical error in the VIN number, you'll need to contact the vehicle's manufacturer to have it corrected.

For more details, refer to the NHTSA Vehicle Importation Regulations.

What should I do with my license plates after selling my vehicle?

According to Iowa law, license plates follow the owner of the vehicle and not the vehicle itself. When you sell your vehicle, remove the license plates and put them on your replacement vehicle.

However, if you don't purchase a new vehicle, you'll be expected to return your plates to the nearest county treasurer's office.

What are temporary tags?

If you're a new resident who has never owned a motor vehicle in Iowa or are purchasing a different type of vehicle than the one you currently own, you may need temporary tags. Also known as a "registration applied for" card, temporary tags make it possible to legally drive a newly purchased vehicle for up to 45 days.

A licensed motor vehicle dealer can give you a "registration applied for" card if you've completed the registration application and paid all applicable fees. The card should be used only until your license plates arrive, however.

What fees and taxes are associated with buying a vehicle?

After buying a vehicle, you'll need to pay the title, use tax, and registration fees. These fees vary according to the type of vehicle you've purchased, so you'll want to contact your county treasurer's office for additional information. For your convenience, many offices offer the option of credit card payments.

When you purchase a motor vehicle from a licensed dealer, a sales representative from the company will guide you though the process of completing the paperwork and paying for the necessary fees.

Can I get a refund for unused registration fees when I sell my vehicle?

If you sell your vehicle and don't purchase a replacement, you may be eligible to receive a refund of unused registration fees if the remaining amount is at least $10 and you return your license plates. Complete the Claim For Refund(Form 411047) and return it to your county treasurer's office.

If you sell your vehicle and purchase a replacement within 6 months, you can have your old registration fee credited to your new vehicle registration if the amount of the credit is at least $10. Check your registration receipt from the county treasurer for further information on how to apply for this credit.

However, registration fee credits can not be transferred unless you are selling or giving your vehicle to a parent, spouse, or child.

How does the name connectors "and", "or", or "and/or" on the face of my vehicle title affect my ability to sell my vehicle?

If your vehicle title lists two names with the "and" or the "and/or" connector, both parties must sign the title as sellers.

If the "or" connector is used, only one person needs to sign the title to sell the vehicle.

What is a damage disclosure statement?

A Damage Disclosure Statement (Form 411108) is a document describing any problems with your vehicle. It is required for all sales in the state of Iowa, unless your purchase meets one of the following criteria:

  • New motor vehicles with mileage of less than 1,000 miles.
  • Motor trucks and truck tractors with a gross vehicle weight rating of 16,000 lbs or more.
  • Motor vehicles over 7 years old.
  • Special mobile equipment.
  • Motorcycles.
  • Motorized bicycles.


Claim for Refund
File this form when requesting a registration fee refund from the Iowa Department of Transportation for reasons allowed by law. Consult the form for eligibility.
Damage Disclosure Statement
Complete this form when selling a used vehicle to declare any damage. MUST be signed by both the buyer and seller.
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