Vehicle owners must obtain an Iowa DMV license plate within 30 days of purchasing a new or used car. As such, motorists must apply for new registration plates when they register their vehicles with the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT). If you already have a registered and titled car, then it is your responsibility as a vehicle owner to renew license plate stickers on an annual basis as part of the car’s registration renewal process.

Overall, car owners may complete license renewals through their county treasurer’s office. To learn more about how to get a license plate in IA, as well as how to transfer, replace or renew existing credentials, read the following sections.

Types of License Plates in Iowa

When applying for car registration plates and completing the vehicle registration process in Iowa, car owners can choose from a variety of different options offered by the Department of Transportation. Available DOT car tags include standard plates, temporary tags, special plates, disability plates and personalized plates. Moreover, drivers are required to place a registration sticker on all types of license plates. On standard plates, motorists must place the sticker in the bottom left-hand corner of the plate. For smaller plates, vehicle owners must place the emblem in the upper left-hand corner of the plate. In the case of DNR vehicle registration plates, drivers must place the sticker in the bottom right-hand corner of the tag.

After obtaining an IA car registration tag, you must renew its stickers every year. Additionally, you must replace your plates every 10 years, as part of an initiative to ensure that tags are still legible. Furthermore, after you obtain a new tag, you may recycle your old plates. In general, you do not need to surrender any plates to the Iowa DOT.

How to Apply for a License Plate in Iowa

As a general rule, you must get a license plate within 30 days after purchasing a new vehicle. If you need to get Iowa car tags after purchasing a vehicle from a private seller, you must visit a county treasurer’s office to register your vehicle and apply for new plates in person. When applying for car registration plates on your own, you must submit the vehicle’s current certificate of title as well as the appropriate application form. On the other hand, if you purchase a vehicle from a car dealership, the dealer will apply for new tags on your behalf.

You may operate a new vehicle without car registration tags for up to 30 days without penalty. However, you must carry the car title or the bill of sale inside the vehicle until the new plates arrive. Overall, you must apply for new registration plates as soon as possible in order to avoid possible citations or fines. Otherwise, you may request a temporary permit from your car dealership or county treasurer’s office.

How to Renew License Plate Tags in Iowa

In addition to applying for car tags in Iowa, you must renew license plate credentials once per year before the last day of your birth month. As a reminder, your IA county treasurer office will send you a notice to complete the car registration renewal procedure one month before your registration is set to expire. In general, the process of how to renew a license plate varies according to each county.

Certain counties allow you to renew car tags online through an official portal, while other counties will require you to complete the process in person or by mail. When renewing license plate stickers in person, you must visit a county treasurer’s office to submit your renewal notice and pay for the applicable renewal fees. Conversely, you can mail your renewal notice along with an acceptable payment method to the address included on the notice.

How to Replace License Plates in Iowa

You must replace license plate credentials whenever they sustain significant damages, disappear from your vehicle or become illegible. When replacing license plate in Iowa, you must visit your county treasurer’s office in person to submit your vehicle’s license plate number and current registration certificate. If you lose or damage your registration certificate, you must pay for a duplicate registration card as well. Additionally, you must pay a replacement car tag fee and surrender any remaining plates, if they are available.

How to Transfer License Plates in Iowa

Rather than buying new registration plates after acquiring a new or used vehicle, you may transfer your current car tags to your newly acquired vehicle. However, you are required to complete an Iowa DOT car tag transfer within 30 days of acquiring the new car. To do so, you may request this transfer at the same time that you register your vehicle in the state.

If you do not purchase a new vehicle after selling your previous one, you must surrender its car registration tag to your local county treasurer’s office. Moreover, if you plan to move outside of the state, you must surrender the plates along with the vehicle’s current registration certificate. In some cases, you may qualify to receive a refund for the unused portion of your vehicle’s registration.

Iowa License Plate Fees

Specific fees for vehicle registration tags vary according to the type, model year, weight and list price of a car. Furthermore, there are other applicable DOT license plate fees for replacing, renewing or transferring an existing car tag.

Iowa license plates are issued with vehicle registrations, as such your registration fees typically cover the cost of a plate. Most specialty plate fees include a $25 base fee in addition to fees for customization and other options.

License Plate Lookups in Iowa

Before purchasing a used vehicle, you may perform an online DOT license plate lookup, which will provide you with peace of mind during the car buying process. When you perform a lookup for car registration plates in Iowa, you can learn more about each vehicle’s previous owner, engine type and manufacturer. Additionally, you can learn about the car’s involvement in any accidents, safety recalls and more.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 10 2020.