Iowa License Plate Information Summary
You'll get your new license plates when you initially register your vehicle. This must be done in person at the Iowa Motor Vehicle Department (MVD). After that, you can keep your license plates up to date whenever you reregister your vehicle. In many cases, you can transfer your Iowa license plates to a new vehicle you have purchased.
Iowa License Plates Offered
The Iowa MVD offers standard plates, disability plates, vanity plates, and plates for organizations.
If you own a passenger vehicle that is not a motorcycle, you need to display your plates on the front and back of your vehicle. Iowa license plates only need to be put on the back of motorcycles.
You will also get a sticker to put on your rear license plate to let law enforcement know whether your registration and plates are expired.
When you buy from a dealership, you will get temporary Iowa license plates that are good for 45 days.
If you buy your vehicle in a private sale – and the vehicle's registration is up to date – you can drive it for 30 days without temporary tags, but you must keep the bill of sale in the vehicle at all times.
After a private sale, you can also get a temporary license plate from your Iowa County Treasurer, which is good for 30 days.
When You Need To Get Iowa License Plates
In general, you need to get Iowa license plates within 30 days of moving to the state or buying a vehicle in the state.
If you buy from a dealership, they will organize getting your Iowa license plates for you – which should be in under the 45 days your temporary tags are valid.
Keeping Your License Plates Up To Date
You'll renew your license plates when you renew your registration. The state will try to contact you and give you fair warning before you need to do so. You'll then get new stickers to put on your plate.
You can renew your registration and plates in person, online, or through the mail.
If Your Iowa License Plates Are Stolen
Should your plates be stolen or damaged, you need to go to the Iowa Treasurer's Office. They will charge you $5 for new plates.
If you also need new stickers, you'll have to pay for those as well. Their prices vary county by county.
Transferring Or Surrendering Your License Plates
You need to surrender your plates to the state if you move to another state, or if you do not buy a new car within 30 days of selling your old one. You can do so in person or through the mail.
If you are owed money because you did not use your plates for a full year, you can also apply for a pro-rated refund based on the amount of time left on your registration.
In general, you can always transfer your current license plates to a new car you buy – as long as you don't wait more than 30 days.
Iowa License Plate Costs
Iowa license plate costs vary quite a bit depending on the type of vehicle you are driving. You need to contact the Iowa Motor Vehicle Department to find out how much you can expect to spend.