Iowa License Plate Lookup

License Plate Lookup in Iowa

An Iowa license plate lookup is a process of getting information on a vehicle by initiating a query on a search tool using the license plate number. License plate lookups are carried out for a variety of reasons. The most common situations where license plate lookups occur include when individuals need to get Iowa traffic records or more information on used vehicles when a crime or accident has been witnessed, and when reporting driving by the owner of a license plate.

You may conduct a license plate lookup online using free or paid services from third-party providers or visit the Motor Vehicle Division of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and request a search. Third-party internet sites that offer license plate lookups typically provide you with basic vehicle information, such as the vehicle's make and model as well as the engine's type and year as well as mileage and registration status. This is particularly true if the services are provided for free. It is recommended that you visit the Iowa DOT if you want to obtain a detailed report from a license plate lookup. The Iowa DOT vehicle records are generally accurate and up to date. A comprehensive result from a license plate lookup will generally contain the following information:

  • Driver criminal history
  • Vehicle registration
  • Mileage and odometer readings
  • Title Information
  • Recent vehicle inspection information
  • Vehicle's registration details
  • Vehicle information and description
  • Accident history
  • Repossession history
  • Weather/natural damage
  • Maintenance history

What is an Iowa License Plate?

An Iowa license plate is a number plate issued to a vehicle registered in the state to identify it from other vehicles. Each license plate has a unique number and is an important tool used by law enforcement and others to help identify a vehicle. The identification has various practical purposes and can be lifesaving in situations such as when a crime has been committed. Hence, the Iowa Department of Transportation prohibits motorists from using license plate frames that obscure the number plates' numbers and letters.

Per Section 321.37 of the Iowa Motor Vehicles and Law of the Road, number plates issued for motor vehicles other than autocycles, motorcycles, motorized bicycles, or truck tractors must be attached to the rear and front of the vehicles. For an autocycle or motorcycle, the number plate is only required to be attached to the rear of the vehicle. For a truck tractor, only a front-affixed license plate is required. Special plates issued to dealers must be attached to the rear of vehicles when operated on Iowa highways.

Iowa issues standard license plates and special license plates to motorists in the state. Special license plates have a design depicting an image related to a concept, interest, or organization. Special license plates are an alternative to standard license plants, which have no graphics, and are available with personalized configurations.

In July 2019, Iowa introduced a new specialty license plate with an all-black design with white lettering. The specialty license plate also called the “blackout” design is offered as a standard alpha-numeric plate or a personalized plate. Iowa's standard license plates have a screened black serial on a reflective graphic plate with blue sky, white city skyline, farm and wind turbine, and green gas field. The plat has "IOWA" screened in white at the top center and the name of the county where the plate is issued screened in black at the bottom center.

Passenger License Plates vs. Commercial License Plates

Iowa passenger vehicles are privately registered vehicles and are typically issued standard passenger license plates. Commercial vehicles as defined in Iowa are self-propelled or towed motor vehicles used on the highway to transport passengers or properties and must be registered as such. The process for obtaining passenger license plates is the same as obtaining standard license plates.

Iowa has no special requirements for obtaining commercial license plates. You may visit the motor carrier page on the Iowa DOT website for more information on interstate registration of commercial vehicles. Note that vehicle registration fees for commercial vehicles vary per weight. You may visit the registration fees page on the Iowa DOT website to estimate the registration fee for commercial vehicles.

How Do I Get a License Plate in Iowa?

The Iowa Department of Transportation issues number plates to motorists in the state. To obtain a standard license plate, you must complete your vehicle title and registration process in Iowa with the county treasurer's office. You will be required to provide your current ownership document (Certificate of Title) or a completed application for an Iowa certificate of title and registration. The Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) requires that all owners sign the application. Also, if a lien exists against the vehicle, it must be noted on the application. You must also pay the applicable fee for vehicle registration. Iowa Statutes establish registration fees based on the type of vehicle, the manufacturer's list price, age, and vehicle's weight. You may refer to the registration fees by vehicle type section on the Iowa DOT website for an estimate of your registration fee.

To complete a title for a vehicle purchased (new) from a dealer in Iowa, the following are required:

  • The purchase agreement or bill of sale
  • Legally assigned Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO)
  • Form 411077 - Odometer Statement
  • Form 411108 - Damage Disclosure form
  • Form 411007 - Application for Iowa Certificate of Title

To complete a title for a vehicle purchased (used) from a dealer in Iowa, the following are required:

  • The purchase agreement or bill of sale.
  • Signed title from the previous dealer or owner.
  • Completed Form 411007 - Application for Iowa Certificate of Title.
  • Completed Form 41168 - Cancellation of security interest. This form is required if an uncancelled lien is on the front of the title.
  • Odometer statement completed on the back of the title. If the vehicle's mileage is not stated on the back of the Title for vehicles model year 2011 or newer, Form 411077 must be used.
  • Completed Form 411108 - Damage disclosure form. This form is required for vehicles 8 years old or newer.

For more information on completing vehicle title and registrations, visit the vehicle registration page of the Iowa DOT.

The Iowa DOT permits residents to order the special "blackout" plate online or complete the special number plate form and mail it to the Iowa DOT's vehicle and Motor Carrier Services Bureau. The plates will be made by the Iowa Prison Industries and shipped to the county treasurer's office of the requester, who will inform the requesters of the schedule to pick up the plates. Requesters are advised to take the current plates being replaced to the county treasurer's office to surrender them when they pick the new plates. You may also complete applications for personalized license plates by visiting:

Department of Transportation
Office of Vehicle Services
Records and Titles Section
6301 SE Convenience Boulevard
Ankeny IA 50021-9278
Phone: (515) 237-3110
Fax: (515) 237-3056

The blackout plate costs $35 for a standard alpha-numeric plate and $25 more for a customized plate (for a total of $60). The blackout plate proceeds go to the Road Use Tax Fund, which provides funding for state, county, and local road and bridge improvements across Iowa.

How Can I Find the Owner of a License Plate in Iowa?

With the use of a reverse Iowa license plate search, you can quickly find the owner of a license plate. When a license plate number is assigned to an individual or corporate entity, the Iowa DOT registers it, documenting the owner's information, such as the owner's address, the date of registration, and the insurance policy information. Although a part of this information is considered private and not available to the public, you can still obtain the identity of the license plate owner. The ownership information is associated with the Iowa license plate number rather than the vehicle.

Using a reverse license plate search, you may find out the address and mobile phone number of the vehicle's owner by cross-referencing public records in databases and other sources. An additional piece of information provided is a criminal background check on the owner, email address and social media profiles, as well as the vehicle's VIN number and the registration number associated with that license plate.

Third-party aggregate sites are a reliable alternative for obtaining license plate information. These sites are maintained by independent establishments which collate the information from government-run repositories. Obtaining records from these sites often proves substantially easier than government alternatives. However, requestors may be required to provide any information required to facilitate the record search and pay any required fees to access the record of interest.

Iowa License Plate Renewal

You can renew your license plate by renewing your vehicle registration in Iowa. You can renew vehicle registrations without penalties within a 3-month window in Iowa; the month before the renewal month, the renewal month, and the month after the renewal month. Renewals may be completed on the first business day of the following month without a penalty if the final day of the three-month period falls on a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday. Typically, vehicle owners receive notices sent from the County Treasurer. The Iowa DOT will not consider failure to receive a notice as a defense to non-payment of the renewal amount and any penalty arising from it.

You may complete your vehicle registration renewal in Iowa online if you receive a renewal notice with a PIN. Otherwise, renewals may be completed by mail or in person at your local County Treasurer's Office. Residents of Buchanan, Iowa, Floyd, Dickinson, Polk, Linn, Johnson, Poweshiek, and Montgomery counties must follow the links provided to complete renewals. Payments required on the Iowa DOT vehicle registration renewal portal may be completed using MasterCard, Visa Card, Discover Card, or Electronic Check.

The Iowa DOT provides the locations of county treasurer offices in the state for persons looking to complete vehicle registration renewals online. For mail renewals, send completed applications to:

Department of Transportation
Office of Vehicle Services
Records and Titles Section
Park Fair Mall
6310 SE Convenience Boulevard
P.O. Box 9278
Ankeny, IA 50021-9278

Can You Look Up License Plates with VIN?

Yes. In the Iowa public vehicle records, a vehicle's license plate is linked with the vehicle identification number. Hence, if you know the VIN of an automobile, you can obtain the license plate associated with the VIN.

VIN Number Lookup

A VIN, otherwise called Vehicle Identification Number, is a distinct code assigned to every vehicle manufactured. The number is a 17-character string comprising numbers and letters. However, if your vehicle was manufactured before 1981, the VIN will most likely contain 11 characters. The VIN can be separated into multiple sections. Each section offers unique information about the vehicle, such as year of manufacture, factory of manufacture, country of manufacture, make and model of the vehicle, and the serial number. This information is provided by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) from data submitted by the vehicle manufacturers. VINs are typically printed in a single line.

The VIN is usually in the front of the dashboard on the driver’s side and may be seen by peering through the windshield from outside the vehicle. Additionally, the VIN number may be located on the driver's side door pillar. Open the door and inspect the area around the latch where the door connects to the automobile. The VIN of a motorbike is often located on the steering neck under the handlebars, although it may also be located on the motor or the frame near the engine. The VIN of a semitrailer is positioned on the left side of the front portion of the semitrailer. If you cannot identify the VIN number on the car, you may be able to access it in the vehicle's title or liability insurance documentation.

A VIN lookup involves entering your automobile's 17-character vehicle identification number in a search tool to look up and obtain a report on the manufacturer, brand, body style, engine size, assembly plant, make and model, model year, and other vehicle information. A VIN lookup can also provide information on past ownerships, maintenance, accident history, and liens held on the vehicle. A VIN lookup is often conducted when individuals are interested in purchasing used vehicles to obtain comprehensive information about the vehicle and its history.