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Salvage theft examinations

Iowa law requires that all vehicles that are designated "salvage" or have a "salvage" title to be physically examined by a "peace officer" who has been certified by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to conduct examinations.

The purpose of the salvage theft examination is to physically verify that no stolen parts were used to rebuild a vehicle. The exam is also used to authenticate the ownership of the vehicle that is being presented for examination. A typical salvage theft examination takes approximately 45 minutes, but may take several hours if the vehicle identification numbers are not easily accessible or there are problems with the ownership documents.

The physical examination of the vehicle will be performed by a peace officer with a local or county law enforcement agency who has been certified to perform these examinations. If you are requesting a salvage theft examination, you must call one of the agencies listed on the Agencies Conducting Salvage Theft Examinations document to schedule an appointment. 

An Affidavit of Salvage Vehicle Repairs must be completed and presented to the examining officer prior to the examination commencing. These forms can be obtained from the examining officer, from this website, the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement headquarters, or possibly your county treasurer's office. It will also be necessary to bring with you to the examination site all bills of sale, receipts and invoices showing ownership to all parts used to rebuild the vehicle. A permit to drive the vehicle to the examination site is included on the affidavit and must be carried in the vehicle and presented to any peace officer if stopped.

The applicant must also present to the examining officer an Iowa salvage title in the name of the applicant or if the examination is performed within 30 days of the assignment of ownership, a properly assigned title is acceptable.

The fee for the salvage theft examination is $30.

Salvage vehicle information

What is an Iowa salvage vehicle?

A salvage vehicle is a motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 30,000 pounds, and:
  • Was acquired by an insurance company as a result of damage or theft; or
  • Was acquired by a licensed recycler or a person engaged in the business of buying and selling or exchanging vehicles of a type required to be registered in Iowa, and has repair costs exceeding 50 percent of its fair market value before it was damaged and that value was $500 or more; or
  • Is from another state, and that state’s title indicates the vehicle is damaged and cannot be registered to be driven or moved on the highway until repaired.

Do I need to be a licensed recycler to repair salvage vehicles?

Yes, if engaged in the business, or in a calendar year you:
  • Sell used bodies, parts of bodies, frames or component parts of more than six used vehicles; or
  • Deal in the wrecking or dismantling of more than six vehicles or parts of more than six used vehicles; or
  • Rebuild or restore for sale six or more wrecked or salvage vehicles; or
  • Store vehicles not currently registered or damaged unless the storage is incidental to your primary purpose of repairing motor vehicles for others, scrapping, disposing, salvaging or recycling of more than six vehicles or parts of more than six vehicles.
You are exempt from obtaining the recycler's license if you are:
  • An educational institution;
  • Licensed as a new motor vehicle dealer;
  • Engaged in the business of purchasing bodies, parts of bodies, frames, or component parts of vehicles only for sale as scrap metal; or
  • Engaged in rebuilding or restoring vehicles as a hobby, not for profit.

Who can an Iowa salvage title be assigned to?

Educational institution:
  • New motor vehicle dealer licensed under Iowa Code § 322.
  • A person engaged in the business of purchasing bodies, parts of bodies, frames or component parts of vehicles for sale as scrap metal.
  • A salvage pool (means the business of selling at auction wrecked or salvage vehicles as defined in Iowa Code § 321.52); or
  • An authorized vehicle recycler licensed under Iowa Code § 321H.
However, an authorized vehicle recycler licensed under Iowa Code § 321H or a new motor vehicle dealer licensed under Iowa Code § 322 may assign an Iowa salvage certificate of title to any person. A salvage title must be obtained by the new owner within 30 days of purchase. An Iowa salvage title will be stamped "salvage" on the face of the title.

How do I get a regular title and registration for an Iowa salvage titled vehicle that has been repaired?

Submit the following to your county treasurer, along with an application for title:
  • Salvage title;
  • Salvage theft examination certificate; and
  • Appropriate fees.

The regular title will be designated as prior salvage, which will be carried forward to all subsequent Iowa titles and registrations for the vehicle.

The following designations may appear on the upper right-hand corner of the Iowa title and bottom right-hand corner of the Iowa registration receipt:

  • Salvage;
  • Prior salvage;
  • Rebuilt;
  • Two-letter abbreviation of the out-of-state jurisdiction;
  • Food, fire, vandalism, or theft; or
  • Lemon buy back.

What does flood, fire, vandalism and theft stand for?

If the prior title for a vehicle is a foreign title indicating that the vehicle was damaged by fire, flood or vandalism, or is a recovered stolen vehicle and another designation is not required, the Iowa title issued shall contain, as applicable, the designation of flood, fire, vandalism or theft.

What is an Iowa junking certificate?

The vehicle has been designated as junk and can no longer be issued a title in Iowa unless it is 25 model years old and a title is issued through the title bonding process.

What does the two-letter state abbreviation stand for?

This means the vehicle came into Iowa on an out-of-state salvage title and:
  • An Iowa salvage title was issued and the salvage vehicle was rebuilt in Iowa prior to July 1, 1992; and
  • The vehicle was more than five model years old; or
  • The vehicle passed a component part review.

What does "lemon buy-back" stand for?

If an out-of-state title is surrendered and indicates that the vehicle was returned to the manufacturer pursuant to the other state's law similar to Code section 321G, the Iowa title, registration and all subsequent titles and registrations shall contain the designation "lemon buy-back," except if the vehicle is issued a salvage title, rebuilt or prior savage. The salvage or rebuilt designation shall supercede the buy back designation. A manufacturer who accepts the return of a motor vehicle pursuant to 321G is required to obtain an Iowa title in the manufacturer's name. The title shall also contain the same designation, "lemon buy-back," and would have the same exceptions.

Will the Iowa title carry all the designations?

No, it will carry the latest designation or most severe.

Will other states title designations be carried forward?

Yes. The state designation will be converted to Iowa designations and if the designation is rebuilt, the state's name will be listed also.

What is a vehicle theft examination?

A peace officer's review of the repaired motor vehicle to check component parts and required documents for compliance with Iowa theft laws.

The salvage motor vehicle must be repaired before the examination except for minor body parts such as trim, body marking and paint.

What happens during a theft examination?

You or your authorized representative must present to the peace officer:
  • The motor vehicle;
  • An Iowa salvage title in your name or properly assigned within 30 days of sale;
  • An affidavit of salvage vehicle repairs;
  • Bills of sale for all component parts replaced; and
  • A $30 check or money order made payable to the department conducting the examination.

How do I get my motor vehicle to and from the theft examination?

You may obtain a permit to drive the salvage motor vehicle to and from the examination site by contacting the department conducting the examinations, your local county treasurer or by downloading the Affidavit of Salvage Vehicle Repairs form. A licensed motor vehicle dealer may drive a salvage motor vehicle to and from the examination with dealer or transporter plates.

What is an affidavit of salvage vehicle repairs?

This form lists parts that are repaired on the vehicle. You will need to complete this form as instructed and certify the vehicle is properly equipped and in reasonably safe mechanical condition. This form may be obtained from the department conducting the examination, your local county treasurer or by downloading the Affidavit of Salvage Vehicle Repairs form.

What is a bill of sale?

It is a document from the seller to the buyer containing the name, address and telephone number of the seller; a description and identification number of the component part; and, if applicable, the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle from which it was removed.

What should I do if I lose the theft examination certificate?

You may send a written request indicating the year, make and VIN of the salvage motor vehicle, and a $10 fee to:

Office of Vehicle Services
Audit Section
P.O. Box 9278
Des Moines, Iowa 50306-9278