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Guide to the Iowa DMV

iowa dmv guide

If you’re planning to move to Iowa or purchase a vehicle in the state, you will need some basic information on registering and licensing for your car.

New Registration

When bringing a car into Iowa from another state, you have thirty days to transfer your previous registration at the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). Your registration fee will either be standardized, or based on a percentage of your vehicle’s price and weight, depending on where you live.

To register, visit the DOT in your county with the following documents:

Vehicle Inspections

No formal inspection guidelines are in place for emission checks in Iowa. However, the Iowa DOT encourages smog reduction efforts for all individuals in the state.

Registration Renewal

The Iowa DOT will send you a notice to renew your registration before your current registration expires. You can renew your registration up to one month before or after this expiry date. After that, you will be charged a monthly late fee of 5% of the fee. Some counties will give you the option to renew online.


You have up to 30 days to title your vehicle in Iowa, which you must legally complete before registering your car. If you have purchased your car  from a dealership, the dealer will generally submit the titling and vehicle registration paperwork for you. The following steps must be completed:

Driver’s License

You may obtain an Iowa driver’s license in person at the local DOT office. There you will:

  • Submit proof of your identity, birth date, and lawful U.S. presence (passport, citizenship certificate, etc.
  • Submit proof of your name change, if applicable
  • Provide proof of your Social Security Number
  • Provide proof of you Iowa address (utility bill, bank statement, etc.)
  • Pass the vision test
  • Pay the fee of $4 per validity year (valid up to eight years)

If your out-of-state license from a previous state is more than one year expired, you will also have to pass a driving and written knowledge test.

Auto Insurance Requirements

Iowa requires liability insurance for your vehicle. You must meet the following minimum coverage limits:

  • $20,000 per person per accident bodily injury
  • $40,000 per accident for bodily injury, if multiple people were injured
  • $20,000/$40,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

Iowa does not require you to carry additional coverage, like personal liability or collision and comprehensive insurance. You also have the right to opt out of uninsured/underinsured coverage by signing a letter and sending it to your insurance company.