How to Transfer a Car Title in Iowa

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In Iowa, as in the rest of the US, a car must be registered to its owner, and the owner must have a title. When a car is bought or sold, or gifted or inherited, ownership changes. That means the title also needs to change – it must be transferred from the previous owner to the new owner. There are quite a few requirements that must be met during the process, as well.

What Iowa buyers should know

Anyone buying a car in Iowa from a private seller needs to ensure that they are following the state’s mandated process. The steps are as follows:

  • Make sure that the seller completes the fields on the back of the title, including the odometer reading. If there is not a space for the odometer reading on the title, the seller needs to complete an Odometer Disclosure Statement.
  • Make sure that the seller accurately lists any damage to the vehicle. If there is no space for damage to be listed on the title, the seller needs to complete a Damage Disclosure Statement and give it to you.
  • If there is a lienholder, they will also need to sign the title.
  • Make sure you get a bill of sale from the seller. It is wise to have this notarized, although that is not required.
  • Complete the Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration.
  • You’ll need to pay the title transfer fee, which varies by county. Your local county treasurer can tell you how much the fee is for your county.
  • You’ll need to pay the registration fee, which can range from $10 to $60 depending on the vehicle.

What Iowa sellers should know

Sellers in Iowa have several specific steps that must be completed in order to transfer a title to a new owner. They are as follows:

  • Complete the back of the title, including signing and dating it.
  • Provide the buyer with a Damage Disclosure Statement if there is no place for this information on the title.
  • Provide the buyer with an Odometer Disclosure Statement if there is no place on the title for the odometer reading.
  • Provide the buyer with a bill of sale.
  • Complete a Notice of Sale of Vehicle and Delivery of Title and turn it in to the county treasurer’s office.
  • Remove the license plates from the car. These stay with you; they do not go to the buyer.
  • If you buy another vehicle within 20 days of the sale, you can reuse your plates. Otherwise, they need to be turned in to the county treasurer’s office.

Gifting and inheriting a car

Gifting a car to family members is possible. If the car is gifted and not sold, then the recipient will probably not have to pay the registration fee. However, there are circumstances where this is not true. Contact the DOT to learn more about this. Inheriting a car is very similar to the buying/selling process, except that you will need a death certificate and a copy of the will.

For more information about how to transfer a car title in Iowa, visit the state’s DOT website.


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