How to Get Temporary License Plates in Iowa

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If you buy a car in Iowa and aren’t able to register it right away, state law permits you to drive it normally without plates or registration for 30 days after the date of purchase—but you must carry proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale, with you. 
Buying a car can feel like an intricate dance routine: you’ve got to get all the right paperwork lined up in the correct order and file it on time—or else! Sometimes, though, you miss a step and end up without license plates when you’re ready to
buy a new car
. In a situation like this, you might need temporary license plates, but the procedure for getting them differs from state to state. 
That’s why we've created a guide to Iowa’s temporary license plate laws. Read on to find out how these temporary tags work in the Hawkeye State. 
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Does Iowa issue temporary license plates?

You won’t be able to get a temporary license plate through the Iowa Department of Transportation’s
Motor Vehicles Division (MVD)
. However, dealers can issue temporary plates for cars that they sell, allowing buyers to drive without registration for 45 days. 

How to get temporary license plates in Iowa

If you buy your car from a dealership, you may be able to get a temporary license plate card to display on the vehicle. You’ll get that card from your dealer, and it allows you to operate the car without a registration card for 45 days from the date of purchase, according to the
Iowa Code
On the other hand, if you have no plates and no registration, you’ll still be able to drive the car—but only for 30 days.
Whether you’re driving with temporary plates or nothing at all, you’ll need to carry proof of ownership in the vehicle with you. That could be a
certificate of title
if you’ve got it, or the
bill of sale
from the transaction. 

Getting your registration card

Before the 30 or 45 days are up, you’ll need to
register your new vehicle
. To do that, head to your local county treasurer’s office with the certificate of title and a completed
Application for Certificate of Title And/Or Registration
Registration fees in Iowa follow a complicated schedule, depending on the weight and age of your car. For passenger cars, registration fees start at $0.40 per hundred pounds, plus: 
  • 1% of list price for cars 1-7 model years old 
  • 0.75% of list price for cars 8-9 model years old 
  • 0.50% of list price for cars 10-11 model years old 
  • $50 for cars 12+ model years old 
For example, let’s say you drive a 2021
Honda Accord
weighing about 3,200 pounds. That’s 32 x $0.40, plus $249.7 (i.e. 1% of the $24,970 list price) for a total registration fee of $262.50

How to find affordable car insurance in Iowa

Finding temporary license plates in Iowa isn’t always easy—but finding affordable
car insurance
is! In fact, with Jerry's
trustworthy super app
, it’s as easy as sending a text (and just as quick!). 
saved me $80 a month! I have a Tesla Model Y and really wanted to lower my rates. And they did! I really recommend you give this a shot!” —Nick M.
How does it work? As a licensed broker,
partners with over 50 of the nation’s top insurance providers to locate the best quotes for your vehicle, budget, and situation—whether you’re driving a brand-new SUV, a beat-up truck, or a sturdy used sedan. We’ll help you meet the
minimum amounts of coverage required by Iowa law
without breaking the bank. 
On average, Jerry users save over $800 a year on car insurance! With that flexibility, temporary license plates are just one more way to drive without worries.
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By R.E. Fulton
Updated on Feb 20, 2023
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett, Senior Editor.
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