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If you have recently purchased a vehicle through a dealership or a private seller, you will need to apply for a car registration. All vehicles in your possession must be registered in your name to be driven legally in your state. You cannot typically apply for a new vehicle registration online or by mail. You must visit a DMV office in person to register a car. To make sure that you are fully prepared for the process, download our informative digital guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know to register your vehicle with ease. You will also learn how to replace or renew your car registration, and how to change your name or address.

2. By Mail

Some states allow residents to register cars by mail. However, these applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as temporarily residing out of state or having purchased the vehicle out of state. To obtain your new car registration by mail, you will need to send your completed application and all necessary documents (such as proof of ID, a bill of sale, an insurance card, etc.) to your local DMV office. You will also need to send in a check or money order for the full payment amount. Due to mailing and processing times, delays are common with the mail-in application method. It may take several weeks for you to receive your new car registration.

3. In Person at a DMV Office

In most instances, you will be required to get your car registration in person at a local DMV office. You must submit a filled-out application, proof of your identity, evidence of the car purchase and proof of auto insurance coverage for the vehicle. Additionally, you need to provide payment for all applicable fees, such as registration fees, titling fees and state taxes. Because many car owners are not sure which forms are required or which fees must be paid, application delays are common at the DMV. Additionally, any mistakes on DMV forms will add to your potential wait time for receiving your new registration.


A vehicle registration in Iowa is required for all resident-owned cars that will be driven on state roads. Overall, the IA DMV registration process differs depending on whether you are buying a new car, buying a used car or bringing a vehicle from another state. That is because the sellers or previous registrars in each of these cases provide different paperwork to the new owner.

In this article, you will learn all that you need to know about registering a car in Iowa: how much it costs, which documents you are required to submit, which forms you need to fill out and how you can get an IA license plate. Furthermore, you will learn how the process varies based on where you initially bought your car.

Iowa Car Registration Requirements

In order to register a car in Iowa, you will need to obtain liability insurance. Then, you will need to fill out and submit the “Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration” form. Additional requirements will vary based on how you bought the car.

It is important to note that, in general, IA does not require vehicles to undergo any inspections, unless they have a salvage certificate of title. Overall, you have 30 days to register a vehicle from its date of purchase. Furthermore, you can only get a vehicle registration in IA if you are a resident of the state.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in Iowa

When evaluating how much car registration costs in Iowa, you should also factor in the fees for obtaining auto liability insurance. This type of insurance policy does not pay out funds in the event of an accident, but ensures that any fiscal damage you may have caused during an accident is compensated. Before you can get a vehicle registration, you need to have liability insurance that covers:

  • $15,000 worth of property damage
  • $20,000 worth of injury or death for each individual inside the other vehicle during the accident
  • $40,000 worth or injury or death for all occupants inside the other vehicle during the accident

Insurance companies offer other forms of coverage as well, but they are not required according to Iowa state law for vehicle registration purposes. In any case, the liability insurance policy that you opt for needs to come from a company that is licensed to do business in IA.

Registering a Vehicle in Iowa

Car registration requirements in Iowa vary based on whether you are buying a new car, buying a used car or transferring in a car from a different state. Generally, the registration documents you will receive from a dealership are different from the ones you will get from a private seller.

How to Register a New Car in Iowa

The process of registering a car in Iowa is simple if you buy it from a dealership. In most cases, the auto dealership will handle the entire registration process for you. On the other hand, if you want to handle the registration process yourself, you are allowed to do so. The dealership will provide you with the necessary documents, including the signed title and an odometer statement. You will then need to bring all of these documents to your county’s treasurer’s office and pay the car registration fees yourself. Most offices accept cash, checks and debit/credit cards, but you will want to contact your office ahead of time to determine which forms of payment it currently accepts.

Temporary tags in Iowa will be provided to individuals who have proof of car ownership. These tags may be used until you receive your permanent license plates in the mail.

Registering a Used Car in Iowa

Understanding how to register a car in Iowa is more important for used car buyers than it is for new car buyers, since used car buyers cannot rely on the seller to complete the transaction on their behalf. Instead, the buyer will need to receive documentation from the seller and submit it at a local IA DMV office. Here is what you need to register a car if it has previously been owned by an Iowa resident:

Overall, you cannot register a vehicle online in Iowa. This means that, in most situations, the seller will need to accompany the buyer to the county treasurer’s office. In any case, the buyer may fill out the “Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration” form ahead of time, or they may do so at the office. If the seller is unable to go with the buyer to the treasurer’s office, the buyer will need to give the seller a receipt proving that the transfer of ownership took place.

Though the buyer is encouraged to register a vehicle in IA as soon as possible, the deadline requires them to do so no more than 30 days after the sale of the car. During that timeframe, the buyer will need to keep the title and bill of sale inside the vehicle while driving it.

How to Register a Car in Iowa as a New Resident

You need to get a new car registration in Iowa no more than 30 days after you have become a resident of the state. Residency is determined by a variety of factors, such as where you work, where you are registered to vote and where you attend school. However, as a general rule, you do not become a resident until you have lived in IA for at least 90 days.

In the event that your vehicle already has a car registration that was issued in another state, you need to fill out the “Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration” form. This application requires you to provide your name, address and date of birth. If you are buying the car as an individual, you will need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). Conversely, if you are buying the car for a business, you will need to provide the business’s Federal Employer Identification Number.Along with the car registration form, you will also need to submit the car’s current title to the county treasurer’s office. Generally, you are not able to get an Iowa car registration online, because the state needs to examine your documents in person.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in Iowa

Car registration fees in Iowa are the same for military service members and civilians. On the other hand, disabled veterans are able to register their vehicle without charge. Another notable difference is that military service members do not need to register their out-of-state vehicles with the IA county treasurer’s office.

Iowa License Plates

One of the most important car registration services in Iowa is the license plate program. The license plates provided to resident car owners allows law enforcement officers to look up vehicle registration details without pulling over the motorist. Moreover, the plates provide important information about vehicle registration renewal dates, as well as proving that the motorist has ownership of the car. In most situations, you will be able to order the license plates at the county treasurer’s office and receive them in the mail. However, if you would like to order a vanity plate after you have fulfilled all other car registration requirements, you may do so online or via the mail.

In order to get your plates online, you will need to visit the official Iowa Department of Treasury’s online portal and provide a drivers license number. You will need to pay for the plates using a credit card, then pick them up at the county treasurer’s office. In order to get your plates via the mail, you will need to send a “Special Plate Application” form to the following address:

Office of Vehicle & Motor Carrier Services

Iowa Department of Transportation

P.O. Box 9278

Des Moines, Iowa 50306-9278

Iowa Car Registration Fees

How much is a car registration in Iowa? The price varies based on a combination of the vehicle’s retail cost and weight. Thus, consider the following factors regarding registration fees:

  • The registration weight fee is .40 for every 100 pounds that the vehicle weighs.
  • The registration fee is one percent of the car’s cost if it was manufactured less than eight years ago.
  • The registration fee is three quarters of a percent of the car’s cost if it was manufactured eight or nine years ago.
  • The registration fee is half of a percent of the car’s cost if it was manufactured more than nine years ago.
Last updated on Wednesday, November 28 2018.

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