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Registering a motor vehicle in Iowa

Abandoned vehicle questions and answers

Abandoned vehicle means:
  1. A vehicle left unattended on public property for more than 24 hours and lacks:
    • current registration plates or
    • two or more wheels or other parts which renders the vehicle totally inoperable.
  2. A vehicle that has remained illegally on public property for more than 24 hours.
  3. A vehicle that has been unlawfully parked on private property, or has been placed on private property without the consent of the owner or person in control of the property for more than 24 hours.
  4. A vehicle that has been legally impounded by order of a police authority and has not been reclaimed for a period of 10 days. (However, a police authority may declare the vehicle abandoned within the 10-day period by commencing the notification process).
  5. Any vehicle parked on the highway determined by a police authority to create a hazard to other vehicle traffic.
  6. A vehicle that has been impounded pursuant to section 321J.4B (OWI sections) by order of the court and whose owner has not paid the impoundment fees after notification by the person or agency responsible for carrying out the impoundment order.

Demolisher: A person licensed under chapter 321H whose business it is to convert a vehicle to junk, processed scrap, or scrap metal or otherwise to wreck or dismantle vehicles.

Police authority: The Iowa State Patrol or any law enforcement agency of a county, city or special security officer employed by the state board of regents under Iowa Code Section 262.13.

(State agencies not included in this definition are: Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa State Fire Marshal.)

  • Notify, within 20 days, the last known registered owner and all lien holders of record of their right to reclaim the vehicle or personal property within 10 days.
  • Make a determination as to whether the vehicle should be sold for use on the highway, sold for junk or demolished.
  • A police authority may dispose of the vehicle to a demolisher for junk without public auction after the notification process.
  • Within 90 days after sale or disposal, report to the Iowa DOT on the Abandoned Vehicle Report, each abandoned vehicle and whether a profit or loss was sustained. Submit with the Abandoned Vehicle Report the following:
    • An impound report showing the date the vehicle was taken into custody and a complete description of the vehicle.
    • A copy of the notice sent to the owner and lien holder or proof of publication that was sent or published within the required 20 days.
    • A receipt showing payment for each expense incurred.
    • Proof of an evidentiary hearing, if the vehicle is held for more than 45 days.
  • Send sale proceeds to the Iowa DOT within 10 days after the claiming period expires if the proceeds are not claimed by the owner or lien holder during the 90-day period.
  • Provide to the private entity a Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) listing the name(s) and address(es) of the registered owner(s), all lien holders and any other claimants to the vehicle(s). These forms are only made available to a police authority and may be obtained by calling the Iowa DOT's Office of Vehicle Services at 515-237-3110 or e-mail vehser@dot.iowa.gov. The forms are available electronically in a fillable format at the election of the requesting police authority.
  • If claiming reimbursement for towing expenses, report the abandoned vehicle to the Iowa DOT on the Abandoned Vehicle Report.
  • If claiming reimbursement for expenses and costs for a private entity, report to the Iowa DOT on the Abandoned Vehicle Report. Both police authority and private entity must sign this form.
  • Attach receipts for payment of expenses to the Abandoned Vehicle Report.
  • The garage keeper shall notify, by certified mail, last known registered owner of the vehicle to reclaim vehicle within 10 days of notice.
  • On or after the eleventh day, garage keeper shall report vehicle as abandoned to the police authority.
  • If the abandoned vehicle lacks an engine or two or more wheels or structural parts, which renders the vehicle totally inoperable, the police authority is not required to send notice and shall give the applicant the Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed). These forms are only made available to a police authority and may be obtained by calling the Office of Vehicle Services at 515-237-3110 or e-mail vehser@dot.iowa.gov. The forms are available electronically in a fillable format at the election of the requesting police authority.
  • Police authority may take vehicle into custody and sell as an abandoned vehicle at public auction.
  • The proceeds of the sale shall first be applied to the garage keepers charges for towing and storage, and any profit shall be reported to the department on Abandoned Vehicle Report within 90 days after the sale.
  • If the garage keeper does not request the police authority to take vehicle into custody as an abandoned vehicle, the garage keeper may, under the laws of this state, file an affidavit of artisan lien or storage lien to satisfy the garage keeper’s charges for service, repair, maintenance or towing of the motor vehicle.
NOTE: A private property owner may employ a "private entity" without a police authority's involvement. This does not affect the private entity's garage keeper's lien.

NOTE: A private property owner may employee a "private entity" without a police authority's involvement. This does not affect the private entity's garage keeper's lien.
  • Any person, firm, corporation or government upon whose property or in whose possession is found any abandoned vehicle, may make application to the police authority to dispose of the vehicle to a demolisher.
  • Application for Authority to Transfer a Vehicle to a Demolisher shall be completed by the applicant and submitted to the police authority.
  • The police authority shall review the application.
  • Police authority shall send notice to last known registered owner and all lien holders of record of their right to reclaim the vehicle or personal property within 10 days, except when the abandoned vehicle lacks an engine or two or more wheels or structural parts which renders the vehicle totally inoperable, then the police authority is not required to send notice and shall give the applicant the Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed).
  • If vehicle is not reclaimed, the police authority shall give the applicant Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed). These forms are only made available to a police authority and may be obtained by calling the Office of Vehicle Services at 515-237-3110 or e-mail vehser@dot.iowa.gov. The forms are available electronically in a fillable format at the election of the requesting police authority.
  • Applicant shall make application for junking certificate.
  • Demolisher shall accept the junking certificate in lieu of certificate of title.
  • Any person being the owner of a motor vehicle whose title certificate is faulty, lost or destroyed, may make application to the police authority to dispose of the vehicle to a demolisher.
  • Application for Authority to Transfer a Vehicle to a Demolisher shall be completed by the applicant and submitted to the police authority.
  • The police authority shall review the application.
  • Police authority shall send notice to last known registered owner and all lien holders of record of their right to reclaim the vehicle or personal property within 10 days, except when the abandoned vehicle lacks an engine or two or more wheels or structural parts which renders the vehicle totally inoperable, then the police authority is not required to send notice and shall give the applicant the Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed).
  • If vehicle is not reclaimed, the police authority shall give the applicant Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed).
  • Applicant shall make application for junking certificate.
  • Demolisher shall accept the junking certificate in lieu of certificate of title.
  • Certificate of Disposal of an Abandoned Vehicle (Iowa DOT form number 411163) (backside of form properly completed) is a three-part form to be used by the police authority for the disposal of abandoned vehicles. These forms are only made available to a police authority and may be obtained by calling the Office of Vehicle Services at 515-237-3110 or e-mail vehser@dot.iowa.gov. The forms are available electronically in a fillable format at the election of the requesting police authority.

  • Abandoned Vehicle Report includes claims for reimbursement of the towing expense when a police authority employs a private entity. The form can be printed, completed by hand and mailed to the Office of Vehicle Services or completed online, printed and mailed to the Office of Vehicle Services.

  • Application for Authority to Transfer a Vehicle to a Demolisher
    • Front side of the form is completed by an individual to apply for authority to transfer a vehicle to a demolisher.
    • Back side of the form is completed by a demolisher to apply for a certificate of authority to demolish a vehicle.
  • Odometer Disclosure Statement and Damage Disclosure Statement. These forms are required when a vehicle nine model years or newer is sold at public auction by police authority or private entity.
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