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Iowa Selling a Vehicle

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) has specific requirements for selling a new or used vehicle and transferring the title. IDOT even provides a Seller’s Checklist to help ensure the transaction goes as smoothly as possible.

What are the Basics?

The first thing a seller must do when selling a vehicle is to remove the license plate. If he or she has another vehicle, the plate can be transferred to it. Otherwise, the seller must return the license plate and affixed registration tag to IDOT at a local service center or drop box.

The seller also must sign and date the title and provide the odometer reading at the time of the sale. If the odometer is rolled over or the vehicle is more than eight model years old, then an odometer reading is not needed. A damage disclosure form also should be completed and filed.

A proof of sale form should be complete and include the selling price and buyer information. If the registration has more than six months remaining, the seller can file a claim for a refund of the unused registration fee.

How do I Sign the Title?

The title has locations clearly indicated where the seller and buyer must print and sign their respective names and provide the date of the transaction. The seller also must include the mileage statement in the appropriate box when needed.

What if I’ve Lost the Title?

A local IDOT services center can help you to replace a lost title, or you can file for a duplication title by completing and mailing in an Application for Replacement of Iowa Certificate of Title to a Motor Vehicle. The mailing process clearly takes longer than a visit to the local services center but is successful if you file it well in advance of an anticipated sale.

What Information is Included in the Bill of Sale?

IDOT provides a Proof of Sale form that includes locations for the seller and buyer to provide her or his respective name or names. The Proof of Sale identifies the vehicle’s make, model, year and VIN number. It also indicates the selling price and helps to affirm the buyer has accepted ownership of the vehicle.

Why do I need to Include an Odometer Reading?

The odometer reading helps to determine the exact mileage at the time of sale. That information makes it possible to prevent fraud by a subsequent owner and more accurately identifies the wear and tear on a vehicle.

Why do I need a Bill of Sale?

The bill of sale, which Iowa refers to as the Proof of Sale, helps to protect the seller against potential liability if the buyer does not immediately transfer the title.

May I Transfer Plates?

If you buy a new vehicle or otherwise own one that is not registered but want to put it on the road, you can transfer the plates from the vehicle that you sold.

What if I Don’t Transfer Plates to a New Vehicle?

You cannot transfer the plates to the new owner and must remove the license plates and return them if you are not transferring them to another vehicle.

What if I am Giving the Car to Someone Rather than Selling It?

You can gift a vehicle to an individual by simply signing over the title and indicating the selling price as “gift” on the proof of sale.

How do I, as Executor, Transfer the Car to an Heir?

An executor has the same legal authority to sign over a title as the owner would. So an executor just completes the title transfer in the same manner as the owner would have.

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Last Verified:
Jun 15, 2022