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Miscellaneous dealer information, permits and plates

In order to maintain a license dealers are required to notify the Iowa DOT prior to any change in name, style, location or business hours. A motor vehicle or travel trailer dealer has 10 days to notify the department of any change in the method of doing business. Specific changes that might occur are outlined below. 

1. Change of the firm name.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • Endorsement to the motor vehicle or travel trailer dealer bond reflecting the name change.
  • The dealer license previously issued.
  • Evidence of written notice to the franchiser, if a franchised dealer.
  • Evidence that articles of incorporation have been filed if the firm is operating as a corporation. After the name change has been processed, all manufacturer certificates of origin will need to be reassigned from the old name to the new name, and new titles on any used vehicles will need to be obtained.
  • Travel trailer dealers must submit a $35 fee for the name change.
2. Change in the business location.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • Contact Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Investigation section to set up an appointment for an on-site inspection. The investigator will inspect the facilities at the new location and submit a report to the Office of Vehicle Services. (Applies only to motor vehicle dealers.  Travel trailer dealers do not need an on-site inspection.)
  • Endorsement to the motor vehicle and travel trailer dealer bond reflecting the change in address only if the address listed on the bond will be incorrect.
  • Evidence of written notice to the franchisor if currently a franchised dealer.
  • The dealer's license and any extension lot license previously issued.
  • Statement of zoning approval from city/county zoning authority for the principal place of business and any extensions.
  • Travel trailer dealers must submit a $35 fee. (No fee is due for motor vehicle dealers)
  • Travel trailer dealers must submit the travel trailer dealer certification form.
3. Adding a new line-make.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • A copy of the franchise must be forwarded to the Office of Vehicle Services. The franchise must be signed and dated by both parties.
  • The applicant must complete the Manufacturer's Certification of Compliance with Iowa Code Chapter 322A form.
  • Dealer license must be surrendered before a new license can be issued.
  • A corrected license will be issued. The department will notify the county treasurer's office in the dealer’s area and the motor vehicle enforcement investigator of the change.
  • If currently licensed as a used motor vehicle dealer, Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement investigation section will need to be contacted to perform a new on-site inspection of the facilities.
  • If licensed as a new or used motorcycle dealer exclusively and have applied for selling new or used cars/trucks or motor homes, Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Investigation section will need to be contacted to perform a new on-site Inspection of the facilities.
  • Travel trailer dealers must pay a $35 fee.  (No fee is due for motor vehicle dealers.)
4. Deleting a new line-make.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • Dealer license previously issued.
  • Statement indicating the make is being voluntarily deleted off of the dealer or retailer license.
  • Travel trailer dealers must pay a $35 fee to correct the dealer's license. The department will issue a corrected dealer license to a motor vehicle dealer at no charge.
  • Once the new line-make has been deleted from the license, the dealership will no longer be able to sell that line-make as a new motor vehicle or travel trailer.
5. Officers of the corporation or partners of the partnership change.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • Notify the department in writing of the change.
  • An individual ownership or a partnership going to a corporation or vice versa will require an endorsement on the bond. A motor vehicle dealer bond must reflect:
    • The individual's name doing business (DBA) the name that the dealership will be conducting business under.
    • Both or all partner's names DBA the name that the dealership will be conducting business under.
    • The corporate name DBA the name that the dealership will be conducting business under.
  • Evidence that articles of incorporation have been filed if the change represents a new corporation being formed; or
  • A new bond must be secured if, at any time, the bond principal is no longer an owner of the business.
6. Change in ownership.
Submit to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • A new Application for Motor Vehicle or Travel Trailer Dealer License form and Fees for Dealer License Application completed by new owner.
  • A license fee of $35 (only applies to travel trailer dealers). No charge for motor vehicle dealers.
  • A copy of each franchise or buy-sell agreement. If a buy-sell agreement is submitted in lieu of a franchise, the actual franchise must be forwarded to the department when received.
  • An original, signed motor vehicle or travel trailer dealer surety bond for the new owner.
  • Authorization of the seller for the purchaser to use seller's dealer plates and dealer number, which also identifies the number of plates being transferred.
  • The dealer's license issued to the seller and:
  • Contact Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement Investigation section to inspect the facilities at the new location. The investigator will submit a report to the Office of Vehicle Services. Only applies to motor vehicle dealers.
  • Evidence that the location is properly zoned (from the city or county office responsible). 
  • Travel trailer dealers must submit travel trailer dealer certification form.

An extension lot license is required on any car lot that is not adjacent to the principal place of business. The car lot must be located in the same city or township as the principal place of business. The extension license must be displayed, and the license expires with the dealer license. The following information needs to accompany the application. 

License must be renewed upon expiration. Dealer privileges will expire unless the renewal has been received by the last day of the month the license expires.

Failure to renew the dealer license will result in registration of all vehicles in the dealership inventory

Failure to meet the continuing education requirements will result in failure to renew the dealer license. The dealer license cannot be renewed if the education requirements passed during the 2007 Iowa General Assembly have not been completed.

In order to view the requirements and class schedules visit www.iowaiada.com.

“Display” means having new motor vehicles or new travel trailers available for public viewing at fairs, vehicle shows or vehicle exhibitions.  The dealer may also post, display or provide product information through literature or other descriptive media. However, the product information shall not include prices, except for the manufacturer’s sticker price. “Display” does not mean offering new vehicles for sale or negotiating sales of new vehicles.

“Fair” means a county fair or a scheduled gathering for a predetermined period of time at a specific location for the exhibition, display or sale of various wares, products, equipment, produce or livestock, but not solely new vehicles, and sponsored by a person other than a single dealer.

“Offer” new vehicles “for sale,” “negotiate sales” of new vehicles or similar wording means doing any of the following at a fair, show or exhibition:  posting prices in addition to the manufacturer’s sticker price, discussing prices or trade-ins, arranging for payments or financing, and initiating contracts.

“Vehicle exhibition” means a scheduled event conducted at a specific location where various types, makes or models of new vehicles are displayed either at the same time or consecutively in time, and sponsored by a person other than a single dealer.

“Vehicle show” means a scheduled event conducted for a predetermined period of time at a specific location for the purpose of displaying at the same time various types, makes or models of new vehicles, which may be in conjunction with other events or displays, and sponsored by a person other than a single dealer.

Permits for motor vehicle dealers.
  • A “display only” fair, show or exhibition permit allows a motor vehicle dealer to display new motor vehicles at a specified fair, vehicle show or vehicle exhibition in any Iowa county. The permit is valid on Sundays.
  • A “full” fair, show or exhibition permit allows a motor vehicle dealer to display and offer new motor vehicles for sale and negotiate sales of new motor vehicles at a specified county or district fair, vehicle show or vehicle exhibition that is held in the same county as the motor vehicle dealer’s principal place of business. EXCEPTION: A motor vehicle dealer who is licensed to sell motor homes may be issued a permit to offer for sale Class “A” and Class “C” motor homes at a specified fair, show or exhibition in any Iowa county. A “full” fair, show or exhibition permit is not valid on Sundays.
  • The following restrictions are applicable to both types of permits.
    • Permits will be issued to motor vehicle dealers only for fairs, vehicle shows or vehicle exhibitions where more than one motor vehicle dealer may participate.
    • The permit period is the duration of the event, not to exceed 14 days.
    • A permit is limited to the line-makes for which the motor vehicle dealer is licensed in Iowa. 
Permits for travel trailer dealers. A fair, show or exhibition permit allows a travel trailer dealer to display and offer new travel trailers for sale and negotiate sales of new travel trailers at a specified fair, vehicle show or vehicle exhibition in any Iowa county.
  • The permit period is the duration of the event, not to exceed 14 days. The permit is valid on Sundays.
  • The permit is limited to the line-makes for which the travel trailer dealer is licensed in Iowa.
  • A travel trailer dealer who does not have a permit may display vehicles at fairs, vehicle shows and vehicle exhibitions.
Permit application. A motor vehicle or travel trailer dealer shall apply for a fair, show or exhibition permit on Application for Temporary Permit to Display or Offer for Sale New Vehicle. The application shall include the dealer’s name, address and license number and the following information about the fair, show or exhibition:  name, location, sponsor(s) and duration, including the opening and closing dates.

Display of permit.  The motor vehicle or travel trailer dealer shall display the permit at the fair, show or exhibition in close proximity to the vehicles being exhibited.
A manufacturer, distributor or dealer may, upon receipt of a temporary permit approved by the Iowa DOT, display new ambulances, new fire vehicles and new rescue vehicles for educational purposes only at vehicle shows and vehicle exhibitions conducted for the express purpose of educating fire and rescue personnel in new technology and techniques for fire and rescue efforts.

The following restrictions are applicable to this permit.
  • Permits will only be issued to manufacturers, distributors or dealers displaying new ambulances, new fire vehicles, and/or new rescue vehicles for educational purposes only.
  • The permits shall be issued for a single show or exhibition, not to exceed five consecutive days.
  • A temporary permit shall not be issued to a nonresident manufacturer, distributor or dealer unless the state in which the nonresident manufacturer, distributor or dealer is licensed extends by reciprocity similar privileges to a manufacturer, distributor or dealer licensed in Iowa.
  • The fee for the permit is $10.
Permit application. A manufacturer, distributor or dealer shall apply for the permit on the Application for Temporary Permit form. The application shall include the manufacturer, distributor or dealer's name, address, name and location of the show or exhibit, type of vehicles being displayed, starting and ending date, and name of sponsor.
A motor vehicle dealer may upon receipt of a temporary permit approved by the Iowa DOT, display and sell classic cars only at county fairs, vehicle shows and vehicle exhibitions that have been approved by the department for purposes of classic car display and sale and the Sunday restriction will not apply.

The following restrictions are applicable to this permit.
  • Permits will be issued to Iowa-licensed motor vehicle dealers.
  • The permits shall be issued for a single period not to exceed five days.
  • Not more than three permits may be issued to a motor vehicle dealer in any one calendar year.
  • The permit allows Sunday sales for the classic cars only.
  • The fee for the permit is $10.
"Classic car" for the purposes of this permit means a motor vehicle 15 years old or older, but less than 20 years old which is primarily of value as a collector's item and not as transportation.

Permit application. A motor vehicle dealer shall apply for the permit on application for Application for Temporary Permit of Classic Cars form. The application shall include the dealer number, name, address, location of fair, show or exhibit, starting and ending date, and name of sponsor.
In transit permits may be purchased in advance from the Office of Vehicle Services for a fee of $2 each. The permits are used for:

  • Vehicles not currently registered in Iowa that are purchased by a dealer for moving to their place of business.
  • Vehicles purchased from a dealer by a nonresident.  This allows the nonresident to drive the vehicle to the buyer's home state for any required titling and registration.
  • Motor vehicles brought into the state on a temporary transit permit issued by  another state for the purpose of installation of special equipment. The issuance of an in transit permit in this situation would ordinarily be necessary only when the transit permit issued by another state had expired prior to installation of the special equipment.
The permit must be displayed in the rear window of the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle must have a sales invoice verifying the sale, and the invoice shall be signed by the dealership.

All information required on the in-transit permit must be entered by the dealer. The permits are void 15 days after the date they are issued by the selling dealer.
Demonstration permits are available to dealers to permit the use of dealer plates for demonstrating load capabilities of motor trucks and truck tractors. The permit must be carried in the vehicle to which it refers and must be shown to any peace officer upon request. No more than one permit may be issued to the same prospective buyer of the same vehicle. After a permit is issued it cannot be voided under any circumstance.

All information listed as required on the permit must be completed by the issuing dealership.

Because dealer plates can only be used on vehicles in a dealer's inventory and dealers are licensed for a specific location, a permit must indicate the vehicle left from and returned to the issuing dealership. The route should be designated by listing the town or cities that will indicate the route being taken. The specific highways or roads taken do not need to be included. A permit cannot be used for more than one run. 

Demonstration permits are only valid in Iowa, and if the truck being demonstrated will be entering another state, only the specific border of Iowa should be listed on the permit. The dealer or driver should check with the other state(s), because a trip permit from that state(s) may be required.

Demonstration permits are issued free of charge.

A permit cannot be reissued for the same truck and same driver for any reason. Demonstration permits may be ordered in advance for future issuance.

A permit is not valid in other states on oversize loads, or rented or leased trucks displaying a dealer plate.

All information must be completely filled out by the dealer who was issued the permit.

No matter what dates are listed, the permit is void five days from the issue date.

The demonstration permit may be valid for more than one driver if the prospective buyer is a company.

A permit cannot be voided for any reason. Demonstration permits are nontransferable.

Banks and credit unions are exempt from the requirements to have a dealer's license when offering motor vehicles for sale. If plates are needed to allow demonstration and delivery of repossessed vehicles, limited use dealer plates may be obtained.

If new vehicles are repossessed by a bank or credit union, they can be resold as new. The certificate of origins cannot be reassigned; foreclosure sale affidavits must be used. 

There are five types issued.
  • Regular dealer plates for display on cars, motor homes, multipurpose vehicles, trailers, travel trailers and trucks.
  • Motorcycle dealer plates for display on motorcycles and motorized bicycles.
  • Limited use plates Application for Special Plates form for display on vehicles solely for the purpose of disposing of vehicles acquired as a result of a damage settlement or recovered stolen vehicles acquired as a result of a loss settlement. Additionally, these plates are used for the purpose of disposing of vehicles acquired or repossessed and for the purpose of delivering, testing and demonstrating special body equipment and new ambulances, rescue and fire vehicles manufactured and owned by the manufacturer.
  • Transporter plates Application for Special Plates form for use by persons engaged in the business of delivering vehicles owned by the person or delivering vehicles owned by other persons for compensation.
  • Dealer plates can be used only by licensed and registered dealers. Dealer plates are issued by the department for purposes of demonstration, delivery and testing vehicles a dealer may have in inventory. A new car dealer or a used car dealer may operate or move upon the highways a new or used car or trailer owned by the dealer for either private or business purposes without registering it if the new or used car or trailer is in the dealer's inventory and is continuously offered for sale at retail and there is displayed on it a dealer plate issued to the dealer. In addition, while a service customer is having his or her own vehicle serviced or repaired by the dealer, a vehicle —- other than a truck or truck tractor — that is in the dealer's inventory can be loaned to the customer, and that vehicle may display dealer plates.
Dealer plates cannot be displayed on:
  • Rental vehicles.
  • Leased vehicles.
  • Loaded trucks, unless provisions of demonstration permits are followed.
  • Trucks or truck tractors loaned to service customers.
Dealer plates expire on the last day of December, every two years, starting with December 2008.

Section 321.62 of the Code of Iowa requires that every dealer keep a written record of the vehicles displaying dealer plates. The Iowa DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement will periodically inspect the dealership and records, and at that time the records of dealer plates will be checked.
If at any time during the year additional plates are needed, the following must be submitted to the Office of Vehicle Services:
  • Completed Dealer Plate Order Form
  • A $40 fee for each plate ordered. The new plates expire the same date as the dealer license.
To replace lost, damaged or stolen dealer plates throughout the year a duplicate Dealer Plate Order Form will need to be obtained from the Office of Vehicle Services.

There is a $40 fee for each duplicate plate ordered.

The local law enforcement authority will need to be notified of any lost or stolen dealer plates and provide a case number on duplicate plate requests.

Limited use dealer plates may be obtained by the following entities with Application for Special Plates:
  • Insurers selling vehicles acquired as a result of a damage settlement or recovered stolen vehicles acquired as a result of a total loss settlement.
  • Persons selling vehicles acquired because of their repossession.
  • Persons selling special body equipment units installed on new truck chassis not owned by them.
  • Manufacturers of new ambulances, new rescue and new fire vehicles manufactured and owned by the manufacturer solely for the purpose of transporting, demonstrating, showing or exhibiting the vehicle.
  • Owner of a motor truck, truck tractor, road tractor or motor home that is 25 years old or older who desires to use the vehicle exclusively for exhibition or education purposes at state or county fairs, or at other places where the vehicle may be exhibited for entertainment or educational purposes.  The limited use plate under this paragraph permits driving of the vehicle upon the public roads to and from state and county fairs or other places of entertainment or education for exhibition or educational purposes and to and from service stations for the purpose of receiving necessary maintenance, or for the purposes of transporting, testing, demonstrating or selling the vehicle.

Limited use plates may be used for the same purposes as regular dealer plates: testing, demonstration and delivery of vehicles acquired.

Neither the certificate purchased or plate is a license that allows the applicant to engage in the business of selling vehicles. It is not a basis for tax exemption status.

A wrecker owned by a dealership is subject to registration when towing a vehicle.

A truck owned by a dealer that is pulling an unladen trailer owned by the same dealer can display dealer plates on both the truck and trailer if they are being demonstrated or being delivered to a purchaser.  Under no circumstances is it legal for a trailer to carry a load if the truck is not registered.        

A vehicle may be operated upon the highways of this state without registration plates for a period of 45 days after the date of delivery of the vehicle to the purchaser from a dealer if a card bearing the words "registration applied for" is attached on the rear of the vehicle. The card shall have plainly stamped or stenciled the registration number of the dealer from whom the vehicle was purchased and the date of delivery of the vehicle. In addition, a dealer licensed to sell new motor vehicles may attach the card to a new motor vehicle delivered by the dealer to the purchaser even if the vehicle was purchased from an out-of-state dealer and the card shall bear the registration number of the dealer that delivered the vehicle. A dealer shall not issue a card to a person known to the dealer to be in possession of registration plates that may be attached to the vehicle. A dealer shall not issue a card unless an application for registration and certificate of title has been made by the purchaser and a receipt issued to the purchaser of the vehicle showing the fee paid by the person making the application. Dealers' records shall indicate the agency to which the fee is sent and the date the fee is sent. The dealer shall forward the application by the purchaser to the county treasurer or state office within 30 calendar days from the date of delivery of the vehicle. However, if the vehicle is subject to a security interest and has been offered for sale pursuant to section 321.48, subsection 1, the dealer shall forward the application by the purchaser to the county treasurer or state office within 30 calendar days from the date of the delivery of the vehicle to the purchaser.

Only cards furnished by the Iowa Department of Transportation shall be used. Only one card shall be issued for each vehicle purchased.

Registration applied for cards can be obtained free of charge to currently licensed dealers from the county treasurer’s offices.