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TIME 21 (2009): Motor Vehicle, Trailer, Title and Registration Fee Changes

January 2009 brought changes to the fees some Iowans pay to register and title their motor vehicles and trailers, as a new Iowa law took effect.

Generally speaking, if your car, pickup truck or sport utility vehicle was titled and registered to you in Iowa prior to Jan. 1, 2009, your vehicle registration fees did not increase. However, the new law extended the number of years before vehicle registrations declined. Changes in the law are complex and vary according to:

  • When a vehicle was titled and registered.
  • A vehicle’s age.
  • The vehicle’s registration fee due date.
  • Vehicle type (i.e., car, pickup truck or sport utility vehicle).
  • Any changes that occured after Jan. 1, 2009, in the vehicle’s tonnage or usage. 

Following is a list of motor vehicle and trailer types affected by the change in the law.
  • Antique vehicle – An antique vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle 25 years old or older. The annual vehicle registration fee varies.
  • Automobile – The annual vehicle registration fee is based on the vehicle’s weight, list price and age. The minimum registration fee is $50, if titled and registered after Jan. 1, 2009.
  • Business trade truck – The annual vehicle registration fee is based on the loaded weight of the truck and any towed vehicle. The fee is based on a tonnage range of 3 to 40 tons, and varies from a minimum of $150 up to $1,695.
  • Bus – The annual vehicle registration fee is determined by the number of passengers to be carried. The fee is based on tonnage, and varies from a minimum of $35 up to $1,695.
  • Low-speed vehicle – The annual vehicle registration fee is based on the vehicle’s weight, list price and age. The minimum fee is $50, if titled and registered after Jan.1, 2009.
  • Multipurpose vehicle – The annual vehicle registration fee is based on the vehicle’s weight, list price and age. The minimum fee is $50, if titled and registered after Jan. 1, 2009.
  • Semitrailer – The annual registration fee is $30 for trailers with an empty weight over 2,000 pounds, and $20 for trailers with an empty weight of less than 2,000 pounds.
  • Special truck and truck tractor – The annual vehicle registration fee is based on the loaded weight of the truck and any towed vehicle. The fee is based on a tonnage range of 6 to 32 tons, and varies from a minimum of $80 up to $675.
  • Trailer – The annual registration fee is $30 for trailers with an empty weight over 2,000 pounds, and $20 for trailers with an empty weight less than 2,000 pounds.
  • Travel trailer – The annual registration fee is based on $.30 per square foot of floor space and the travel trailer’s age.
  • Truck and truck tractor – The annual registration fee is based on the loaded weight of the truck and any towed vehicle. The fee is based on a tonnage range of 3 to 40 tons, and varies from a minimum of $35 up to $1,695.

Answers to the most commonly asked questions about the law are categorized by vehicle type or subject. Just click on one of the titles below to learn more about the changes and how they may affect you.

Antique vehicles

Q: Did the fees for antique vehicles change after Jan. 1, 2009?

A: Yes. If an antique vehicle, which is a motor vehicle 25 years old or older, was titled and registered after Jan. 1, 2009, the fee will be the same as that charged for other vehicles of the same type.

The fee for a vehicle titled and registered in Iowa as an antique vehicle prior to Jan. 1, 2009, increased only slightly from $5 to $23 for model years 1970 through1983, and to $16 for model years 1969 and older.

A motor vehicle registered as an antique is no longer limited to driving to or from fairs, shows and exhibitions, and may continue to display a model year plate provided by the antique owner.


Q: If I own an antique truck, will I have to pay a registration fee based on tonnage?

A: Yes. However, an owner of an antique truck, truck tractor or motor home has the option of obtaining "limited-use" plates from the Iowa Department of Transportation's Office of Vehicle Services. These plates allow the operation of the vehicle exclusively to or from fairs, shows and exhibitions.


Q: If I choose to register my antique truck using the "limited-use" plates, what is the fee?

A: Two fees apply. The fee for a "limited-use" certificate is $70. There is also a $40 fee for each "limited-use" plate issued. The certificate gives the owner the option of purchasing as many "limited-use" plates as they need. For example, a person who owns three antique trucks would pay $70 for the "limited-use" certificate and $120 for three plates ($40 each), or a total of $190.

"Limited-use" plates are valid for a two-year calendar cycle, ending Dec. 31 on even-numbered years.


Q: How do I obtain a title for my antique truck if I choose to register it using "limited-use" plates?

A: Apply only for a vehicle title from the county treasurer where you reside. Once the title has been issued, apply for the "limited-use" plates from the Iowa Department of Transportation's Office of Vehicle Services.

Automobiles

Q: How are registration fees for cars determined?

A: Effective Jan. 1, 2009, annual registration fees for cars were determined on a revised formula based on a vehicle’s weight, list price and model year. The formula is calculated as follows.  

                        $.40 per hundred pounds of vehicle weight, plus…

                        Model year                             Percent of list price
                        1-7                                           1.00
                        8-9                                           0.75
                        10-11                                       0.50
           
For example, in 2009, a 2008 model car is considered two model years old. If the vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds empty and lists at $20,000, the fees are calculated as follows.

  3,000 pounds/100 x $.40                 =          $  12
$20,000 list price x 1 percent          =          $200
Annual fee                                           =          $212

This formula applies to a car titled and registered on or after Jan. 1, 2009, which is 11 model years old and newer. Once a car is 12 model years old or older, its annual registration fee is no longer based on the weight and list formula. Instead, it is a flat fee of $50.


Q: I own a car that was titled and registered to me in Iowa before Jan. 1, 2009. When I renew the registration will my fee increase?

A: No. Your car’s registration fee will not be increased as long as you are an owner of the car.


Q: I own a 2004 or older car that I titled and registered in Iowa before the change in the law. My birth month is January and I was expecting my 2009 renewal fee to be lower than last year. Did my registration fee drop as expected?

A: Since your renewal month was January 2009, you had the option of renewing early in December 2008. If you chose to renew in December, you would have seen a reduction in your vehicle’s registration fee from the previous year. However, if you waited until January 2009 to renew, the new law went into effect and you paid the same fee as last year.


Q: I own a 1994 Geo and pay an annual fee of only $35. I got married in 2009 and wanted to add my new husband’s name to the title. Will my registration fee increase if I do this?

A: No. If you owned your vehicle prior to Jan. 1, 2009, your registration fee will not increase as long as you are an owner. If your name is dropped from the title after Jan. 1, 2009, the fee that your husband will pay increases to the new minimum annual fee of $50


Q: I own a car that I titled and registered in my name before Jan. 1, 2009. It is in storage. When I take it out of storage will my registration fees increase?

A: No. Since you titled and registered the vehicle prior to Jan. 1, 2009, law change, your vehicle’s registration fees will not be higher than they were prior to putting it in storage.

Buses

Q: Did the registration fees for buses change under the new law?

A: Buses are registered according to tonnage, like a truck; so the fees could change depending on when the bus was acquired.

If a bus was titled and registered prior to Jan. 1, 2009, then its registration fee did not increase, unless the owner changed its tonnage or usage.

If the bus was titled and registered after Jan. 1, 2009, its registration fees did increase to the higher rates that took effect Jan. 1, 2009.

The annual registration fees for church buses, private school buses and transit buses do not change.

Multipurpose vehicles (SUVs)

Q: When were registration fees for multipurpose vehicles last changed?

A: Registration fees for multipurpose vehicles were changed in 1992 from a flat fee to the same weight and list formula used for registering cars.


Q: How are registration fees for multipurpose vehicles determined?

A: Effective Jan. 1, 2009, annual registration fees for multipurpose vehicles were determined according to a revised formula based on a vehicle’s weight, list price and model year. The formula is calculated as follows.

            $.40 per hundred pounds of vehicle weight plus…

            Model year                             Percent of list price
            1-7                                           1.00
            8-9                                           0.75
            10-11                                       0.50
           
For example, in 2009, a 2008 model SUV is considered two model years old. If the vehicle weighs 3,000 pounds empty and lists for $30,000, the fees are calculated as follows.

  3,000 pounds/100 x $.40                  =         $  12
$30,000 list price x 1 percent           =         $ 300
Annual Fee                                          =         $ 312

This formula applies to SUVs titled and registered on or after Jan. 1, 2009, which are 11 model years old and newer.

1992 model year or older SUVs are assessed a flat fee of $55.

Once an SUV, that is a 1993 or newer, is 12 model years old and older, its annual fee is a flat fee of $50.


Q: I own an older model SUV. In 2008, my vehicle’s registration fee dropped for the first time. Will my vehicle’s fee go back up as a result of the law change?

A: No. However, your vehicle’s registration fee will remain at the current rate for a longer period of time.


Q: I own an SUV that was placed in storage prior to Jan. 1, 2009, when the new law took effect. When I take it out of storage will my registration fees go up?

A: No.  

Trucks

Q: When were registration fees for trucks last changed?

A: Fees for trucks were last changed in the late 1980s.


Q: How are registration fees for trucks determined?

A: There are two different ways registration fees for trucks are determined.

  1. By the truck’s weight, list price and model year
  2. By tonnage, based on the loaded weight of the truck and any towed vehicle (tonnage fees vary based on the truck’s usage and there are three types of usage)
    1. Regular/commercial
    2. Special farm use
    3. Business trade

Q: How do I know whether my truck is registered by tonnage or weight, list price and year?

A: Only 2010 and newer trucks that weigh 10,000 pounds or less empty are registered based on weight, list price and model year. All other trucks are registered by tonnage.

The formula for determining annual fees for 2010 and newer trucks that weigh 10,000 pounds or less is as follows.

            $.40 per hundred pounds of vehicle weight plus:

            Model year                            Percent of list price
            1-7                                           1.00
            8-9                                           0.75
            10-11                                       0.50

For example, in 2009, a 2010 model year pickup is considered one model year old. If it weighs 5,000 pounds empty and has a list price of $25,000, the fees are calculated as follows.

 

5,000lbs/100 x $.40                   =          $  20
$25,000 list price x 1 percent  =          $250
Annual Fee                                 =          $270

This formula applies to a truck titled and registered on or after Jan. 1, 2009, that is 11 model years old and newer. Once a truck is 12 model years old and older, its annual fee is no longer based on the weight and list formula. Instead, it is a flat fee of $50.


Q: I presently pay $65 in annual registration fees for my truck. Will my registration fees increase under the new law?

A: No, your truck’s registration fees will remain the same as long as you continue to register it at the same tonnage. If you choose to raise your tonnage or change the type of registration (usage), your truck’s registration fees will increase to the higher rates that take effect Jan. 1, 2009.


Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 model truck that weighs 10,000 pounds or less for personal use. What will my registration fee be and will it ever drop?

A: Since your truck will be a 2010 model year, its fee will be based on the new weight, list price and year formula. The annual registration fee will remain the same for the first seven years. In the eighth and ninth years, it will drop. Then in the 10th and 11th years it will drop more. When it is 12 years old it will drop to the minimum fee of $50.


Q: What is a business trade truck?

A: A business trade truck that weighs 10,000 pounds or less empty which is:

    1. Owned by a corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or partnership, or by a person who files a schedule C or F form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which is eligible for depreciation under the IRS Code.
    2. Leased by a corporation, LLC or partnership and the truck is used primarily for purposes of the business, or the lessee is a person who files a schedule C or F form with the IRS and the truck is used primarily for purposes of the person's own business or farming operation.

Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 model truck for my business that weighs 10,000 pounds or less empty. What will my registration fee be and will it ever drop?

A: Normally, the registration fee for a 2010 model truck weighing 10,000 pounds or less empty would be based on the new weight, list price and year formula. However, if qualified, you may claim a “business trade” exemption. To claim the exemption, you must certify that you are qualified to receive it on your application for title and each time upon renewal. The annual registration fee for a business trade truck is based on tonnage and starts at $150 for a 3-ton plate.


Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 truck for my farm that weighs 10,000 pounds or less empty. What will my vehicle’s registration fee be and will it ever drop?

A: Normally, the registration fee for a 2010 model truck weighing less than 10,000 pounds would be based onthe new weight, list price and year formula. However, if qualified, you may claim a “business trade” exemption. To claim the exemption, you must certify that you are qualified to receive it on your application for title and each time upon renewal. The annual registration fee for a business trade truck is based on tonnage and starts at $150 for a 3-ton plate.


Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 truck for my farm. Can I register it as a special farm truck?

A: All 2010 and newer trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or less empty must be registered based on the new weight, list price and year formula, unless registered as a business trade truck.


Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 truck that weighs approximately 11,000 pounds empty. How will my truck’s registration fee be determined?

A: The registration fee would be based on tonnage. The tonnage at which the truck must be registered is based on the loaded weight of the truck and any towed vehicle. The minimum tonnage that must be carried for a truck weighing 11,000 pounds is 6 tons. Fees start at $195 for a 6-ton registration and go up to $1,695 for a 40-ton registration.


Q: I plan on purchasing a 2010 truck that weighs approximately 11,000 pounds empty. Can I register it as a special truck for farm use? If so, how are the registration fees determined?

A:  A truck weighing more than 10,000 pounds may be registered as a special truck for farm use, as long as it is used by a person engaged in farming to transport commodities produced or purchased by the owner for use in the owner's farming operation, or to assist another person engaged in farming. The minimum tonnage that must be carried for a truck weighing 11,000 pounds is 6 tons. Fees start at $100 for a 6-ton registration and go up to $675 for a 32-ton registration.


Q. I have a truck used on my farm that was registered and titled to me prior to Jan. 1, 2009,           as a “special truck for farm use.” Will my registration fees increase on or after Jan. 1, 2009?

A: Your truck’s registration fees will remain the same as long as the truck is registered as a truck for farm use and for the same tonnage as it was registered before the law’s effective date of Jan. 1, 2009.


Q: May I display personalized plates or other special plates, such as cattleman’s plates, on my business trade truck?

A: Yes, a new law was passed in the 2011 legislative session that now allows special plates to be displayed on business trade trucks and special trucks.


Q: My 2008 truck was titled and registered to me in Missouri in October 2008. I plan to move to Iowa in 2009. Will my truck’s registration fee be based on the current 2008 Iowa rate or will it be a higher rate?

A: The registration fees for your truck will be assessed at the higher rate taking effect Jan. 1, 2009. Although the new law “grandfathers” in vehicles registered in Iowa prior to Jan. 1, 2009, its does not apply to vehicles registered in other states. The annual registration fee for trucks starts at $150 for a 3-ton plate.


Q: I own a pickup that was placed in storage prior to Jan. 1, 2009. When I take it out of storage will my registration fees go up?

A: Your truck’s registration fees will remain the same as long as you register it at the same tonnage and for the same usage (farm truck/reg truck) that it was registered prior to putting it in storage.

Titles

Q: Did title fees increase after January 1, 2009?

A: Yes. Title fees increased from $15 to $25. Salvage and lemon buy-back title fees increased from $7 to $15. The fee increases took effect Jan. 1, 2009, and apply to all title transfers received or postmarked on or after Jan. 1, 2009.

Trailers and semitrailers

Q: I own a semitrailer that I use in my business. Its current annual registration fee prior to January 2009 was$10. Did this go up?

A: Yes. New and renewal registration fees for trailers and semitrailers increased effective Jan. 1, 2009.  The new law applies to all trailers, regardless of ownership prior to the effective date. The annual registration fees beginning Jan. 1, 2009, was increased to $30 for a trailer or semi-trailer that weighs more than 2,000 pounds, and $20 for a trailer or semi-trailer that weighs 2,000 pounds or less.

Travel trailers

Q: I own a travel trailer registered and titled prior to Jan. 1, 2009. Did my travel trailer’s annual registration fee increase? 

A: Yes. The new law applies to all travel trailers, regardless of ownership prior to the Jan. 1, 2009, effective date.

On Jan. 1, 2009, the registration fee for a travel trailer increased from $.20 per square foot to $.30 per square foot.

Travel trailer registration fees decrease to 75 percent of the full annual fee once the travel trailer is seven model years old and older. The new law did not change this provision.