Dealer-related Information in Iowa

When you're a motor vehicle dealer, there are many Iowa laws and regulations that apply to your business. Understanding this dealer-related information is essential if you are to remain successful.

Business Notification Guidelines

To maintain a valid motor vehicle dealer's license, you must notify the Iowa Department of Transportation of any change in the name, location, ownership, or nature of your business.

For example, if you change your business hours or add a new make of cars to your inventory, you have 10 days to submit updated license information to the Office of Vehicle and Motor Carrier Services. The same guidelines apply if you have a license to sell mobile homes or travel trailers.

Iowa's Lemon Law

Iowa's Lemon Law was written to protect consumers who have purchased vehicles with substantial defects. Lemon Law guidelines apply for the first 2 years or the first 24,000 miles after the buyer's purchase.

The buyer may receive a refund or replacement for the defective vehicle if one or more of the following conditions have been met:

  • The owner has sent the vehicle in for repairs at least 3 times for the same problem with no success.
  • The vehicle has been sent for repairs on a malfunction that could cause death or serious injury and the problem has yet to be fixed.
  • The vehicle has been out of service for at least 20 days total and it still doesn't work correctly.

For more information about Iowa's Lemon Law, see Chapter 322G of the Iowa vehicle code.

Dealer Plates

Licensed Iowa motor vehicle dealers can receive the following types of license plates:

  • Regular dealer plates for cars, motor homes, multipurpose vehicles, or trucks.
  • Trailer dealer plates for display on mobile homes and travel trailers.
  • Motorcycle dealer plates for motorcycles or motorized bicycles.
  • Limited-use plates for the purpose of disposing of vehicles acquired as a result of a damage settlement.
  • Transporter plates.

Limited use and transporter plates have their own order form. You may order regular, trailer or RV, or motorcycle dealer plates when you apply for your dealer license; if you need more, use the Dealer Plate Order Form.

Dealer plates are not eligible to be used on rental vehicles, leased vehicles, trucks loaned to service customers, or loaded trucks without demonstration permits.

To comply with licensing regulations, dealers must keep a written record of all vehicles displaying dealer plates. Towing and hauling using dealer plates is illegal.

"Registration Applied For" Cards

Licensed motor vehicle dealers may request "Registration applied for" cards at their local county treasurer's office. A "Registration applied for" card allows a newly purchased vehicle to be legally driven on Iowa roads for no more than 45 days. However, a dealer can't issue a card to a buyer unless a registration application has been made and the buyer has a receipt for the fees that have been paid.

A licensed motor vehicle dealer may attach a "Registration applied for" card to a new motor vehicle delivered to a buyer even if the vehicle was purchased from an out-of-state dealer. In this case, the card should be marked with the registration number of the dealer delivering the vehicle in question.

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