How to Get Temporary License Plates in Iowa

You can drive a new car without plates and registration for 30 days, or 45 days with a temporary license plate card and no registration card.
Written by R.E. Fulton
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 license plates or registration for 30 days after the date of purchase—but you must carry proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale or vehicle title, with you. A dealership may issue you temporary license plates to use in the meantime.
  • A temporary license plate will allow you to legally drive your newly purchased vehicle until it’s registered.
  • Iowa law requires you to register your vehicle within 30 days of the purchase.
  • Dealerships in the state of Iowa can issue temporary license plates that can be valid for up to 45 days

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 vehicle registration for 45 days—which should give you plenty of time to obtain your long-term registration plates.
Remember: Temporary license plates carry an expiration date—you can’t use them indefinitely.
Make safe driving pay
Get rewarded for safe driving. Earn points and unlock benefits. Totally free.
Start earning now

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. 
If you have no plates and no registration: You’ll still be able to drive the car—but only for 30 days. 
Keep in mind: Whether you’re driving with temporary plates or nothing at all, you’ll need to carry proof of ownership in the vehicle with you in case you’re pulled over by law enforcement. That could be a certificate of title or the bill of sale from the transaction. 
For additional information, you can visit the Iowa DOT’s website.
rating reverse-full
"I’m earning
awesome rewards
every week, just for driving safe!”

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 complete an 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 $249.70 (i.e. 1% of the $24,970 list price) for a total registration fee of $262.50. 
Compare quotes from 50+ insurers with Jerry in under 45 seconds?
icon4.7/5 rating on the App Store | Trusted by 5+ million customers and 7 million cars
icon4.7/5 app rating | Trusted by 5M+ drivers
Are you overpaying for car insurance?
Compare quotes and find out in 45 seconds.
Try Jerry

Easiest way to compare and buy car insurance

No long forms
No spam or unwanted phone calls
Quotes from top insurance companies
Find insurance savings