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Iowa License Plate Search

If you’re a new resident of Iowa, or a current resident who has purchased a new vehicle, you must go to a Motor Vehicle Department office.

When you register your vehicle, you can choose a standard license plate or upgrade to a customized plate with personalization.

Sample Iowa License Plate

Sample Iowa License Plate

Types of License Plates in Iowa

The Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) of Iowa issues various types of license plates.

You can register your vehicle and receive the standard license plate, which has a farm scene and dark blue lettering.

Or you can apply for custom plates, such as:

  • Military License Plates
  • Organizational License Plates
  • Charities and Other Causes License Plates

These custom plates include fees in addition to the standard registration fees.

Finally, for people with disabilities, you can register for license plates and placards, depending on your eligibility:

  • Window placard applicable for:
    • People with short-term or permanent disabilities
    • Organizations providing transportation to people with disabilities
  • License plates applicable for:
    • People with a permanent disability
    • Parent or guardian of a disabled child

Contact your local MVD office for more information about plates and placards for people with disabilities.

Personalized License Plates

If you’d like to add some personalization to your license plate, you can choose the characters to be printed on it.

You must follow the guidelines provided by the DOT in Iowa:

  • Up to 7 characters (min. 2 characters)
  • No special characters
  • Cannot be a number already in existence
  • No profanity or offensive suggestions
  • Cannot suggest you are affiliated with police or government

If your application for personalized plates is approved, it will cost $25 to order these plates and an additional $5 each year at renewal. You can check to see available plate numbers by searching online.

Customized License Plates in Iowa

Are you interested in supporting a charity, or do you want to show off your association with a club or organization? Iowa has a huge selection of customized license plates that you can add to your car. Here are a few popular styles available:

  • Duck Unlimited License Plate
  • Organ & Tissue Donor Awareness License Plate
  • Support Our Troops License Plate
  • Iowa State University License Plate
  • University of Iowa License Plate
  • Private Universities License Plate
  • Silver Star License Plate
  • Purple Heart License Plate
  • Ex-POW License Plate
  • Military Veterans License Plate
  • Classic Car License Plate
  • Antique License Plate

You can apply for custom plates online or by visiting an MVD office and filing an application. Be sure to make your payment, which varies by plate style.

Note: Some custom styles include a donation to local charities or organizations printed on the plate.

Applying for License Plates in Iowa

You must go to an MVD office to register your vehicle and receive both license plates and registration stickers.

You must register your vehicle within:

  • 30 days of moving to Iowa
  • 30 days of a new purchase

When you register your vehicle, you’ll be required to bring the following:

  • Bill of sales
  • Proof of insurance
  • Valid ID (i.e., Iowa driver’s license)
  • Application forms
  • Payment for fees

After you have submitted your application, you may have to wait to receive your plates. It takes time to process custom or personalized plates.

Lost or Damaged License Plates in Iowa

If your license plates have been damaged, lost, or stolen, you can apply for replacements at the MVD offices.

For damaged plates, you must return them to the office upon applying for new ones. You’ll be required to submit the following, either in person or by mail:

  • Application forms
  • Copy of registration
  • Payment for replacement fees: $5

Notes: Fees may be different depending on the county you live in.

Transferring License Plates in Iowa

In Iowa, your license plates remain with you, not with the vehicle. You’ll have to go to the office to register your new vehicle and transfer your plates.

If you do not transfer your plates, you can surrender them to the MVD and, if applicable, apply for a refund.

Note: You cannot transfer your license plates to another person. However, classic car owners using antique license plates may have to transfer their plates if the vehicle changes ownership. Contact the MVD for more details.

Surrender License Plates in Iowa

You are expected to surrender your license plates if:

  1. You move out of state
  2. You cancel your vehicle’s insurance
  3. You do not transfer them to another vehicle

To surrender your Iowa license plates, you can send them in by mail or drop them off in person.

Renewing License Plates in Iowa

Check your decal stickers to renew your vehicle’s registration before the expiration date. You can renew your vehicle simply by sending the payment to the MVD. You can do this:

  • In person
  • Online
  • By mail

Please do not send cash in the mail. Send a check or money order, and direct it to the MVD office.

Overview of Costs for License Plates in Iowa

There are standard fees to be paid when registering your vehicle in Iowa. These are some of the fees you may be obliged to pay:

  • Standard Vehicle Fees:
    • Trucks & Jeeps: $55
    • Motorcycles: $20
    • Specialty Vehicles: $60
    • Passenger Vehicles: $50
      • For every 100 lbs, an additional $0.40 will be added
  • Taxes Based on % of List Price: 
    • Vehicles 1 to 7 years old: 1%
    • Vehicles 8 to 9 years old: 0.75%
    • Vehicles 10 to 11 years old: 0.50%
  • Replacement Plate Fee: $5
  • Temporary Plates: $25
  • Personalized License Plate: $25
    • Renewal: $5
  • Renewal Late Fee: $5 / month

Contact the MVD to get the full list of prices for vehicle registration and renewal.

How to look up Iowa license plates

A great way to see if a license plate is available for personalization is by looking it up online. Here you’ll find a quick and easy tool to search license plates in Iowa. Simply type in the plate number you want, and hit enter.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to look up Iowa License Plates and report bad drivers:

  1. Open a web browser
  2. Go to
  3. Enter the plate number, and select state
  4. View the report
  5. View images submitted by the community
  6. View videos submitted by the community
  7. Add comments
  8. Add pictures of the vehicle
  9. Add videos related to the vehicle