Iowa

Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Division
P.O. Box 9204
Des Moines, IA 50306-9204
(515) 244-8725 | www.iamvd.com

Iowa DOT Office of Vehicle and Motor Carrier Services
P.O. Box 9278
Des Moines, IA 50306-9278
(515) 237-3110 | www.iowadot.gov

Iowa State Patrol
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 725-6090 | www.dps.state.ia.us/ISP

Iowa Department of Transportation
800 Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50010
(515) 239-1101 | www.iowadot.gov

Title Application

All motor vehicles, trailers, and motor homes, if driven upon the highways, must be registered and titled, except for mobile or manufactured homes.

Private school buses are required to be titled.

Non-travel trailers with an empty weight of 2,000 lbs. or less are exempt from title requirements.

Applications for registration and certificates of title are made to the county treasurer in the county of the owner or lessee’s residence.

The application for registration and certificate of title requires the owner’s name, social security number, driver’s license number, date of birth, bona fide residence, mailing address, vehicle description, statement of liens, and amount of use tax to be paid.

The application must be signed in ink.

The last issued certificate of title must be submitted with the application for a new certificate of title for a used vehicle.

If a certificate of title is lost or destroyed, the owner or lienholder must apply for a replacement of the original certificate of title. There is a 5-day waiting period unless the applicant surrenders the original to the MVD or the county treasurer. The application must be signed by the lienholder if there is a lien.


Title Transfer of Ownership

Upon the transfer of any registered vehicle, the owner must endorse an assignment of title upon the certificate of title for the vehicle with a statement of all liens and encumbrances. The owner must deliver the certificate of title to the purchaser or transferee at the time of delivering the vehicle. The owner must indicate the name of the county in which the vehicle was last registered and the registration expiration date.

The transferee within 30 calendar days after purchase or transfer must apply for and obtain from the county treasurer of purchaser’s residence a new registration and a new certificate of title.

The applicant will be required to pay a delinquent fee from the 1st day the registration fee was due prorated to the month of application for the new title.

When a vehicle is sold outside of the state for purposes other than for junk, the seller must detach the registration plates and indicate on the reverse of the registration card the name and address of the out-of-state purchaser or transferee over the seller’s signature. The seller must surrender the registration plates to the county treasurer, unless the registration plates are properly attached to another vehicle.

The transferor of a used motor vehicle must provide the transferee with a damage disclosure statement for vehicles seven model years and newer before a new certificate of title will be issued. The new certificate of title and registration receipt shall state whether a prior owner had disclosed that the vehicle was damaged to the extent of 50 percent or salvaged.

The transferor of a motor vehicle less than 10 model years old must furnish an odometer statement that is in compliance with federal law and regulations. This odometer statement must be furnished with the application for a new certificate of title. The statement must reflect whether the mileage is “actual,” “not actual,” or “exceeds mechanical limits.”


Titles for Mobile Homes

The owner of a mobile home must submit a tax clearance form to show that no taxes are owed prior to obtaining the title.

A mobile home or manufactured home that is located outside a mobile home park is converted to real property by being placed on a permanent foundation. It will then be assessed for real estate taxes. The assessor will note the conversion on the face of the certificate of title and deliver it to the county treasurer for cancellation.

When a mobile home is reconverted from real property by adding a vehicular frame, the owner may apply for a bonded certificate of title.

Registration Application

A vehicle is registered for the “registration year,” which is the period of 12 consecutive months beginning on the first of the month following the month of the birth of the owner of the vehicle. A vehicle registered for the first time in the state will be registered for the remaining unexpired months of the registration year, and the registration fee will be prorated. The county treasurer may adjust the renewal and expiration date when deemed necessary for administrative efficiency.

A vehicle may be operated without registration plates for 45 days after the date of delivery from a dealer with a “registration applied for” card.

A vehicle’s registration card must be carried at all times in the vehicle.

Application for renewal of a vehicle registration may be made on or after the first day of the month prior to the expiration or registration and up to and including the last day of the month following the month of expiration of registration. The county treasurer will refuse to renew the registration if the treasurer knows that the applicant has a delinquent account, charge, fee, loan, taxes, or other indebtedness owed to or being collected by the state.

A vehicle owner who moves out of state can receive a refund on their registration fees by returning their vehicle plates and proving that they are registered in another state within 6 months of moving.

Delinquencies begin and penalties accrue the first of the month following the purchase of a new vehicle, and 30 days following the date a vehicle is brought into the state.

The owner of the vehicle must inform the county treasurer of the county where the vehicle is registered of a change of address, change of name, or change of fuel type within 10 days.

The registration fee is computed on the month of purchase of a new vehicle, except that the registration fee on a new vehicle acquired outside the state is based on the month that the vehicle was brought into Iowa.

The registration fee for a vehicle from another state or country becomes due in the month that the vehicle is sold or transferred to an Iowa resident or the month that a non-resident owner establishes Iowa residency or accepts employment of 90 days’ duration or longer.

If a vehicle is in storage and the registration is not delinquent, the owner may surrender the registration plates to the county treasurer and will not be obligated to register the vehicle while it remains in storage.


Registration for Non-Residents

If a non-resident owner or operator of a vehicle is employed within the state or carries on business within the state, the owner must register the vehicle, pay the same fees for registration, and maintain the same financial liability coverage as required for residents of the state. However, these requirements do not apply to a person commuting from the person’s residence in another state or whose employment is seasonal or temporary, not exceeding 90 days.

Any non-resident owner of a private passenger motor vehicle, not required to register their vehicle in the state, may operate the vehicle in the state if the vehicle is duly registered in, and displays valid registration plates issued for the vehicle in the owner’s state of residence.

Non-resident members of the armed services are not required to register their vehicle in Iowa if the vehicle is properly registered in the person’s state of residence.


Registration Type

Multipurpose vehicles (SUVs and vans) are defined as motor vehicles designed to carry not more than 10 people, and constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation. Model year 1992 and older multipurpose vehicles are assessed a flat registration fee of $55 rather than a registration fee based on weight and list price.

A Class A motor home has a driver’s compartment and an entire body equipped with temporary living quarters. Class A motor homes also include passenger carrying buses that have been registered at least 5 times as a motor truck and which have been converted to provide temporary living quarters.

A Class B motor home is a completed van-type vehicle which has been converted or constructed to provide temporary living quarters.

A Class C motor home is an incomplete vehicle upon which is permanently attached a body designed to provide temporary living quarters.


Emissions Inspection

No statewide emissions inspections required.


Safety Inspection

There is no periodic statewide safety inspection requirement. Peace officers may stop and inspect a vehicle if the officer has reasonable cause to believe it is a danger to other motorists or lacks required equipment.


Title and Registration Fees

AUTOMOBILE

Title Fee: $258.00

Registration Fee: Vehicle registration fees for vehicles up to 11 years old are $0.40 per 100 lbs. plus a percentage of the vehicle’s value as decided by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles.*

MOTORCYCLE

Title Fee: $25.00

Registration Fee: 5 years old or newer: $20.00; more than 5 years old: $10.00

DUPLICATES

Plate Fee: $5.00

Registration Fee: $3.00

Driver’s License Fee: $10.00

Title Fee: $25.00

Special Plates: $25.00

*For vehicles up to 7 years old, 1% of the list price; for vehicles 8-9 years old, 0.75% of the list price; for vehicles 10-11 years old, 0.5% of the list price. For vehicles more than 12 years old, the total registration fee is $50.00.

Plate Disbursement

After receiving the registration and title application accompanied by the appropriate fee, the county treasurer will issue 1 license plate for a motorcycle, autocycle, motorized bicycle, or trailer, and 2 license plates for every other motor vehicle. The registration plates, including special plates, are assigned to the owner of the vehicle.

A person who acquires a vehicle which is currently registered or from a dealer’s inventory may operate the vehicle without plates for 30 days if ownership evidence is carried in the vehicle.

A person who acquires a vehicle which is currently registered or from a dealer’s inventory and who has possession of plates may operate the vehicle for 45 days if ownership evidence is carried in the vehicle.

The registration plate for a motorcycle, autocycle, motorized bicycle, or trailer must be displayed on the rear of the vehicle.

Annual validation stickers are issued after payment of registration fees for each set of plates. The stickers are to be displayed on the lower left corner of the registration plates, except for motorcycles and small trailer plates, where the stickers are to be displayed on the upper left corner of the plate.

The color scheme for license plates is black on a white scenic background.

Three-year or permanent registration plates are issued for trailers. Payments for permanent plates may be made at 5-year intervals or on an annual basis.

Special license plates are available for persons with disabilities.

Transfer of Plates

When the owner of a registered vehicle transfers or assigns ownership of the vehicle to another person, the owner must remove the plates from the vehicle. The owner must then either forward the plates to the county treasurer where the vehicle is registered or have the plates assigned to another vehicle within 30 days after transfer, upon payment of the required fees.

Driver's License Examination

The MVD may examine every new applicant for a driver’s license or any person holding a valid driver’s license when the MVD has reason to believe that the person may be physically or mentally incompetent to operate a motor vehicle, or whose driving record appears to the MVD to justify the examination. The examination may include a vision test (20/40 visual acuity is required in at least 1 eye), knowledge test, and driving skills test.

An applicant for a new or renewed noncommercial driver’s license may submit a vision report signed by a licensed vision specialist in lieu of the vision test.


Graduated Driver’s Licensing

Iowa has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 14, individuals are eligible for an instruction/learner’s permit.

  • Permit holders may not drive unsupervised and must accumulate at least 20 (2 at night) hours of parental/guardian certified driving hours. Supervised drivers include a parent, guardian, custodian, an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian.
  • A person possessing an instruction permit when he or she committed a moving violation or was involved in a collision must remain free of moving violations and not be involved in a collision for 6 months before he or she may be issued an intermediate license.

At age 16, individuals who have held a permit for at least 12 months, have completed driver education, and have passed the appropriate driving, written, and vision tests are eligible for an intermediate license.

  • Intermediate license holders may not drive unsupervised between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.
  • For the first 6 months of licensure, intermediate license holders may not drive with more than one unrelated passenger under age 18, unless waved by a parent or guardian.
  • Individuals must also accumulate an additional 10 (2 at night) hours of parental/guardian supervised driving in the intermediate stage.

Persons who were convicted of a moving violation or involved in a contributive traffic collision while holding an instruction permit or intermediate license are subject to a remedial driver improvement action or suspension of the permit or intermediate license.

At age 17, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license who: (1) have held an intermediate license or a comparable license from another state for at least 12 months; (2) have been accident- and violation-free for at least 12 months; (3) have not had their license suspended or revoked; (4) have permission from a parent or guardian; and (5) present an affidavit by a parent/guardian attesting to the applicant’s driving experience.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 18.



Driver’s License Renewal

Except as otherwise provided, a driver’s license will have a random expiration date of 5, 6, 7 or 8 years from the issue year and expires on the licensee’s birthdate, and not to exceed the licensee’s 74th birthday. If the licensee is under the age of 17 years 11 months, the license expires 2 years from the licensee’s birthday in the year of issuance. If the licensee is 72 years of age or older, the license expires 2 years from the licensee’s birthday in the year of issuance. Licensees age 70 or older must appear in person for each renewal.

A person has 60 days to renew his or her license after the expiration date.  Electronic renewal is permitted every other renewal.

Applicants with vision or other physical restrictions may be required to renew their license every 2 years.

A vision test or vision report signed by a licensed vision specialist is required.

The expiration date for persons who enter military service while holding a valid Iowa driver’s license is 6 months after separation from active duty.

The licenses of active duty military personnel may be extended until 6 months after separation from the military. Active duty military personnel must obtain a military service extension. A 5-year extension is available for military personnel and their families.


Types of Driver's Licenses

Persons between 16 and 18 years of age who are not in attendance at school and have completed an Iowa-approved course in driver education may be issued a restricted license for travel to and from work if necessary for the person to maintain the person’s present employment.

Special Instruction Permit: A person with a physical disability, who is not suffering from a convulsive disorder and who can provide a favorable medical report, may obtain a special instruction permit if the person’s license renewal was denied for failure to pass a required examination or because the MVD believed that the person would not be able to operate a motor vehicle safely by reason of physical or mental disability.

The MVD may issue a temporary permit to an applicant while the MVD is completing an investigation to determine all facts relative to applicant’s privilege to receive a driver’s license. The permit will be invalid and must be returned to the MVD when the applicant’s license is either issued or denied.

Classification of licenses:

Classes A and B: Commercial driver’s licenses for vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more.

Class C: Commercial and non-commercial; valid for the operation of some CMVs placarded for hazardous materials or vehicles with a passenger design exceeding 15 passengers; any combination of vehicles with a GCWR of 16,000 lbs. or less excluding motorcycles, farm vehicles, fire vehicles, and motor homes solely for personal or family use.

Class D: Chauffeur license excluding motorcycles. Vehicles with a GCWR of 16,001 lbs. through 26,000 lbs.; vehicles less than 15-passenger design transporting passengers for wages, compensation, or hire; farm-controlled tractor trailer.

Class M: Motorcycle license.

Distracted Driving

Text messaging while driving is prohibited for all drivers. A secondary offense. Drivers issued a restricted license (age 16-18), instruction permit, or intermediate drivers license may not use an electronic communication device or an electronic entertainment device while driving.


Emergency Radio/Cellular

Citizen band radio channel 9 is also monitored for emergency calls. Emergency cell number is 1-800-525-5555, 911 or *55.


Headsets

No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.


Impaired Driving

All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

Iowa requires the use of ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders with a BAC of .10 or greater, though they may be required for offenders with a BAC of .08-.09 at judicial discretion.


Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, including towing and recovery vehicles, traveling in the same direction, to vacate the lane closest if safe and possible to do so, or slow to a reasonable speed for road and traffic conditions. Also included in the law are municipal vehicles, utility vehicles, and road maintenance vehicles.


Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and front seat passengers age 18 and older.

Violation of the seat belt is a standard offense.

Riding in the beds of pickup trucks is permitted, except when prohibited by local ordinance.


Child Passenger Safety

Children ages 6 until 18 must be restrained in either a seat belt or child restraint system.

Children under age 6 must be restrained in a child restraint.

Infants under age 1 and under 20 lbs. must be restrained in a rear-facing safety seat.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.


Railroad Crossing

All vehicles must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet of a railroad crossing when warning of the immediate approach of a train or railroad equipment is given by automatic signal, crossing gates, a flag person, or otherwise. The vehicle must stop, remain standing, and not traverse the crossing when a crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a train or railroad equipment.


School Buses

The driver of a vehicle, including the driver of a vehicle operating on a private road or driveway, when meeting a school bus with flashing amber warning lamps must slow to not more than 20 mph and not pass the bus, and must bring the vehicle to a complete stop when the school bus stops and the stop signal arm is extended. The vehicle must remain stopped until the stop signal arm is retracted after which time the driver may proceed with due caution.

The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with 2 or more lanes in each direction need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is traveling in the opposite direction even though the school bus is stopped.

Bumper Height

Modification of bumper height is permitted.


Headlight Use

Headlights must be on from sunset to sunrise, when visibility is less than 500 feet, or in conditions of insufficient light/adverse weather.


Hazard Light Use

The use of hazard lights are not permitted while driving except to indicate a traffic hazard.


Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.


Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted November 1 to April 1.


Glass/Window Tinting

No person may operate a motor vehicle with a windshield, a side window to the immediate right or left of the driver, or a sidewing forward of the driver that has less than 70% transparency unless the person suffers from a severe light-sensitive condition documented by a licensed physician.


Telematics

No statewide telematics restriction.


Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.


Windshield Stickers

Permitted if Driver’s view is not obstructed.


Other Equipment Rules

N/A.

Motorcycle Equipment

A person must not operate or ride a motorcycle on the highways with another person on the motorcycle unless the motorcycle is designed to carry more than 1 person. The additional passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat if designed for 2 persons, or upon another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle at the rear of the operator. The motorcycle must be equipped with footrests for the passenger unless the passenger is riding in a sidecar or enclosed cab. The motorcycle operator must not carry any person nor may any other person ride in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.


Motorcycle Licenses

Class M driver’s or Endorsement L licenses are issued for the operation of a motorcycle.

Applicants under the age of 18 for a motorcycle driver’s license must successfully complete a motorcycle education course.


Motorcycle Noise Limits

Not statewide noise limit restriction.


Mopeds & Other

Motorized bicycles are required to be registered as motorized bicycles (mopeds) as long as they are certified as having a top speed of 30 mph or less. Registration plates issued for motorcycles are to be issued also for motorized bicycles.

The MVD may issue a license valid only for the operation of a motorized bicycle to a person 14 years of age or older who has passed a vision test and written knowledge test. Fourteen and fifteen year olds are also required to successfully complete a motorized bicycle education course. The license is valid only for a period not to exceed 2 years from the licensee’s birthday in the year of issuance.

A person operating a motorized bicycle on the highways must not carry any other person on the vehicle.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 65 feet; trailer length: 53 feet (45 feet for travel trailers); motor home length: 45 feet; width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding safety equipment up to 6 inches); height: 13 feet (excluding safety equipment up to 6 inches).


Trailer Brakes

Every trailer of a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 3,000 lbs. must be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movement of and to stop and hold the vehicle, and so designed as to be applied by the driver of the towing motor vehicle from its cab, or with self-actuating brakes, and a weight-equalizing hitch with a sway control. Every trailer of a GVW of 3,000 lbs. or more must be equipped with a separate, auxiliary means of applying the brakes on the trailer from the cab of the towing vehicle.


Trailer Hitch/Signals

Weight-equalizing hitches that apply leverage by means of spring bars, coil springs, or torsional bars are approved for use with trailers.

5th-wheel types of connections and sway control devices that employ friction, hydraulics, torsional bars, mechanical cams, or electronics are approved to limit side sway.


Trailer Lighting

Every trailer having a GVW in excess of 3,000 lbs. must have the following: (1) on the front, 2 clearance lamps, 1 at each side, if the trailer is wider in its widest part than the cab of the vehicle towing it; (2) on each side, 1 side-marker lamp at or near the rear; 2 reflectors, 1 at or near the front and 1 at or near the rear; and (3) on the rear, 2 clearance lamps, 1 at each side; 1 stop light; 1 tail lamp; and 2 reflectors, 1 at each side.

A lighting device or reflector, when mounted on or near the front of a trailer, must not display any other color than white, yellow, or amber.

No lighting device or reflector, when mounted on or near the rear of any trailer, may display any other color than red, except that the stop light may be red, yellow, or amber.

Clearance lamps must be mounted on the permanent structure of the vehicle in such manner as to indicate the extreme width of the vehicle or its load.


Trailer Mirrors

Any motor vehicle towing another vehicle in such manner as to obstruct the view in a rearview mirror located in the Driver’s compartment must be equipped with a side mirror located so that the view to the rear will not be obstructed. When the vehicle is not towing another vehicle, the side mirrors must be retracted or removed.


Trailer Speed Limits

Interstate 70 mph or as posted.


Trailer Towing

When a vehicle is towing another, the drawbar or other connection must not exceed 21 feet.

The drawbar must be of sufficient strength to pull all weight towed and must be fastened to the frame of the towing vehicle in such manner as to prevent side sway. In addition to the principal connection there must be a safety chain which must be fastened as to be capable of holding the towed vehicle should the principal connection fail for any reason.


Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailers is permitted.

Accident Reporting

Drivers are not required to fill out a DOT report for an accident resulting in personal injury, death, or damage of $1,500 or more if the accident is investigated by a law enforcement agency.

If required to submit an accident report, the deadline is 3 days.


Bail Bonds

Mandatory recognition of AAA arrest bond certificate up to $1,000 with specifications.


Liability Laws

Has security-type law applicable in event of accident causing property damage in excess of $1,000 or personal injury or death. A person may not drive a motor vehicle on the highways of the state unless the driver has proof of financial liability coverage for the vehicle.

Liability coverage must be a minimum of $20,000 for bodily injury or death of 1 person in any 1 accident, $40,000 for bodily injury or death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident, and $15,000 for damage to or destruction of property in 1 accident.

State has non-resident service of process law.


Weigh Stations

Any peace officer having reason to believe that the weight of a vehicle and load is unlawful is authorized to require the driver to stop and submit to a weighing of the same by means of either portable or stationary scales and may require the vehicle to be driven to the nearest public scales. If the officer determines that the weight is unlawful, the officer may require the driver to stop the vehicle in a suitable place until such portion of the load is removed as may be necessary to reduce the GVW to the permitted limit.

All vehicles weighing over 10,000 lbs. must stop.


Bicycles

Bicycle helmets are not required.

There is no law for the safe passage of bicycles by motor vehicles.


Other

Iowa is party to the Non-Resident Violator Compact.