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First Time Vehicle Registration in Iowa

The process for registering a vehicle in Iowa for the first time depends on whether the vehicle was:

  • Purchased from a dealership.
  • Purchased from a private seller.


  • Brought into Iowa from out-of-state.

Vehicle Registration in Iowa: Vehicle Purchased at a Dealership

When you purchase a vehicle from a car dealership in Iowa, the dealer will typically process the titling and registration paperwork for you.

You may be given temporary tags that will be valid for 45 days. All license plate transactions are handled at your local county treasurer’s office.

IA Car Registration: Vehicle Purchased From a Private Party

Titling and registering a car purchased from a private seller requires action from both buyer and seller.

Once you purchase the vehicle, you’ll have 30 days to complete the title and registration transferring process. If you possess valid Iowa plates from a previous vehicle you owned, you may transfer them to the new vehicle.

If you don’t have valid plates to transfer to the vehicle, it’s best to get plates right away to avoid getting pulled over. However, you may drive the vehicle legally for 30 days as long as the vehicle registration is current and you keep the following documents in the vehicle with you:

  • Bill of sale.
  • Certificate of title (with your section filled out).

NOTE: The vehicle MUST BE registered to operate on streets and highways. If the registration is not current, you may request a 30-day temporary permit for $25 at the county treasurer’s office when you transfer the title of your vehicle.

Both the buyer and seller are encouraged to process the title transfer together at the local county treasurer’s office. If the seller cannot accompany you, you must provide the seller with a receipt stating you purchased the vehicle and accept delivery of the vehicle and title.

Visit the office and provide the:

  • Certificate of title. Both parties must complete the relevant sections OR the buyer can provide a completed Application for Certificate of Iowa Title and/or Registration (411007) instead.
  • Completed odometer disclosure statement filled out by the seller (if the vehicle is 9 years old or newer).
  • Name of the county in which the vehicle was last registered (the seller should provide this information).
  • Payment for the applicable fees.

Vehicle Registration in Iowa: New Residents

Register your vehicle with the Iowa Department of Transportation within 30 days of establishing residency to avoid a penalty.

At your local county treasurer’s office, you will need to provide:

Iowa Vehicle Registration and Title Fees

To calculate the title and registration fees for your new vehicle, use the IDOT fee calculator.

  • Move your mouse over the section marked “Tools” on the upper left of the page.
  • Click “Dealer Inquiry.”
  • Then click “Fee Estimator.”
  • Provide the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Vehicle registration fees in Iowa vary based on the type of vehicle and the weight*.

  • Gas powered passenger vehicles: $.40 per pound and an additional:
    • 1% of the vehicle’s list price for vehicles that are 1-7 years old.
    • .75% of the list price for 8-9 year-old vehicles.
    • .5% of the list price for 10-11 year-old vehicles.
    • $50 for vehicles 12 years old or older.
  • Motorcycles:
    • $20 for motorcycles between 1-5 years old.
    • $10 for motorcycles 6 years old or older.

*Additional fees apply to electric and hybrid vehicles.