Buying a Car in Iowa

With the state choosing not to mandate emissions testing for cars, but at the same time requiring it for buses, Iowa has some interesting regulations regarding vehicle purchasing. The good news is that we’ve gathered the basic information here for you with links if you need more details.

1. Title Information

Iowa requires all vehicles to have a title. If you are buying a new vehicle from a dealer, they will take care of the paperwork for you. If you are purchasing a used vehicle from a dealer or an individual, you need to do the following:

  • Make sure the title is completely filled out.
  • Get the vehicle’s odometer reading and write the information in the appropriate space that should be on the back of the title. If that space is not there, you can instead use a disclosure statement.
  • Unless the car is one year old or less, fill out a damage disclosure form. This form lists any damage done to the vehicle that is 50 percent or more of the vehicle’s market value before the damage was done.

Once you have this information, you must submit an application for title within 30 days of purchasing the vehicle. If there is a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle, that must be noted on the application.

2. Insurance Information

Iowa has no mandatory insurance requirements for vehicle owners or drivers. But don’t think that makes things easier. Iowa instead has a Safety and Financial Responsibility Act that requires you to prove you have the capability to pay for any car accident you might have. So while this is not connected directly to purchasing a vehicle, as you don’t need to prove you have any sort of insurance to do so, you may want to read up on the aforementioned law and see what you’re getting into if you have an accident in Iowa.

3. Emission Information

Iowa has no emissions testing for vehicles, so if you buy a new or previously owned vehicle there you won’t need to worry about making sure that it has been tested recently.

4. Lemon Law Information

Iowa’s Lemon Law stands as a strong example of this type of law. It covers new and leased vehicles for the length of the manufacturer’s warranty, 24 months or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

In order for the law to apply, your vehicle must have one of the following issues:

  • It has been sent in for repairs for the same problem at least three times without being fixed.
  • It has been out of service in the repair shop for at least 20 days, which do not have to be consecutive.
  • It has been sent in at least once for repairs for a problem that could cause death or serious injury.

If any of these exist, you must then contact the manufacturer by registered mail and give them one last chance to fix the car within 10 days of receipt. If they do not respond or do not fix the vehicle, you can then demand a replacement or refund. If the manufacturer has a mandatory arbitration, you must attend that before filing a lawsuit (if the manufacturer does not replace/repair the vehicle).

5. Special Information

Iowa has a special regulation for purchasing and registering vehicles that do not have the appropriate title or information. It’s called a “Bonded Title,” because you have to submit a form to the Department of Transportation, which then determines what the current market value price is for the vehicle. You can then post a bond to the state for one and a half times that value and get a title for the vehicle.