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 able to transfer your plates.

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

Looking for personalization and specialty plate options? Get complete details on our Special License Plate and Special Plate Applications pages.

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

What are the 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.

For more information about these plates, see our Types of IA Specialty Plates page. For application details, see our Special Plates Application page.

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

How to 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.

How to Renew Iowa Car 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 (certain counties), 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.

How to Replace License Plates in Iowa

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.


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.
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