State Regulations in Iowa

Most drivers will go through the process of buying and selling a vehicle several times throughout their lives. For example, people just starting out often purchase inexpensive used vehicles and upgrade as their financial situation improves. But whether you're buying a new set of wheels or trading in your current vehicle, you'll need to follow some important processes and complete a small pile of paperwork.

How to Buy a Vehicle

When you buy a vehicle through a licensed dealership, the dealer will usually complete the registration and title paperwork for you and send it in. If you have traded in a previous vehicle, you can put those license plates on your new car or truck. If you have never owned a motor vehicle in Iowa, the dealer will probably give you a "Registration applied for" card to use until your metal plates arrive.

When you buy a vehicle from a private individual, the seller should provide an Odometer Disclosure Statement (Form 411077), a Damage Disclosure Statement (Form 411108), and an estimate of fair market value. Be sure to get a Bill of Sale. The seller will transfer the title by signing over his title to you.

After your purchase, you'll have 30 days to register your vehicle. You'll need to submit the above documentation when you do so.

When you're buying a new vehicle, remember that Iowa's Lemon Law protects you in case the vehicle ends up having substantial unrepairable defects. The law entitles you to a refund or replacement if your vehicle develops a problem that can't be fixed within the first 2 years or 24,000 miles after the delivery of the vehicle

However, there is a standard set of procedures that you must follow to make your claim. To learn more, see Chapter 322G of the Iowa vehicle code.

How to Sell a Vehicle

Unfortunately, you can not legally sell your vehicle if you don't have a title. If you lost or damaged the original title, you'll need to complete the Application for Replacement of Iowa Certificate of Title to a Motor Vehicle (Form 411033) and submit it to the county treasurer where your title was first issued. There is a $25 fee for a duplicate title. Note that while you are obligated to provide the buyer with a valid title, you don't need to supply the registration certificate; the buyer doesn't need it to transfer the title.

If you're selling your vehicle to an Iowa dealer, the dealer will guide you through the title transfer process. If you wish to sell your vehicle to an Iowa resident, you must provide the buyer with the following:

Iowa license plates follow the owner, not the vehicle, so remove them from the car when you sell it. If you buy another vehicle within 30 days,you can simply transfer the plates to your new vehicle after paying the registration fee. However, if you haven't bought another vehicle after 30 days, you must return your license plates to the county treasurer's office.

If you sell your vehicle and don't replace it, you may be able to receive a credit for the unused portion of that car's registration fee. However, no credit will be given if the amount is less than $10.

If you sell your vehicle to your spouse, parent, or child, you can transfer the credit to that person. For additional information, call the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Information Center at (800) 532-1121.

You can find additional information about selling your vehicle at our Buying & Selling FAQs page.


Damage Disclosure Statement
Complete this form when selling a used vehicle to declare any damage. MUST be signed by both the buyer and seller.
Odometer Disclosure Statement
Complete this form when transferring a vehicle to a new owner. Buyer AND seller must sign.
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