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Iowa License Plate Search: How to Search Iowa License Plate

Iowa License Plate Search: How to Search Iowa License Plate
October 30, 2022

There are numerous reasons you may want to conduct an Iowa license plate lookup. It could be a due diligence effort concerning a vehicle you are interested in buying. You could also be curious and want to know about the previous owners. 

However, regardless of your reason, performing a plate lookup is an excellent way to retrieve valuable and insightful information about a vehicle and its owner or driver. 


License plate information is considered a public record and accessible to members of the public in Iowa. 

However, not every piece of information is disclosed to the public. For example, Iowa protects certain data arising from a license plate lookup from public access. Common examples include the name of the vehicle owner and other personal details. 

The state’s Driver’s Privacy Protection Act protects this sort of data, and such information can only be disclosed to authorized companies, persons, and organizations. 

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Iowa License Plate Lookup: How Do Iowa License Plates Work?

Iowa license plates comprise six characters, including letters and numbers. Iowa is a two-plate state requiring every automobile on its highways and roads to have two license plates displayed on the front and back. 

However, if the car is 1948 or older, it can display only one plate at the rear. The County Treasurer is responsible for conducting vehicle registration and licensing on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Revenue

Whenever a vehicle’s license or registration is due for renewal, the state provides you with a three-month window to complete the renewal. 


You won’t incur any liability during the three-month window; liability only arises following the expiration of the deadline. 
The County Treasurer also provides yearly annual notice to vehicle owners regarding renewal. 

Additionally, Iowa permits owners of new vehicles to operate on the road without license plates for up to 45 days. 


However, there must be a written notice at the back of the vehicle bearing a “Registration Applied for” notice. The temporary tag costs $10 and must be attached to the vehicle at all times. 

Details Contained in an Iowa License Plate Lookup

An Iowa license plate search provides parties with all the necessary details concerning a vehicle’s license plate registration, including details that would aid them in identifying the car. 


In other words, if you wish to report a driver for negligent driving, you can simply do so using the details provided by a license plate lookup. 

a road sign that reads DMV with an illustration of a car under it

Some of the popular details that show up in an Iowa license plate lookup include the following:

* Accident history: This informs you about the various accidents the vehicle has been involved in
* Recalls and defects
* Reported odometer readings: This part of the license plate report informs about the correct mileage of the car. If there is a discrepancy between the number in the report and the car’s odometer, it means there is a problem with the car, and it is advisable to look elsewhere.
* Flood, fire damage, and hail
* Lien and repossession history
* Images and videos submitted by members of the community about the vehicle
* Service and repair history of the car
* Title information

How to Conduct a License Plate Lookup in Iowa 

An Iowa license plate lookup involves getting information about a particular vehicle by initiating an inquiry using the vehicle’s license plate number. You can carry out a license plate lookup online or in person. 

Iowa DMV License Plate Search: The Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the Iowa Department of Transportation maintains an online database that allows parties to conduct license plate lookups. 


Below are the steps on how to perform an Iowa license plate lookup online:

1. Visit the Iowa Department of Transport 
2. Fill out the Privacy Act Agreement for Request of Motor Vehicle Records form
3. State the type of record you are applying for, and only complete sections A and D if the request is for yourself
4. After filling out the form, print and sign the request form
5. If you are applying on behalf of another person, you must obtain their written consent and insert it in your request form. This is in line with the provisions of the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. 
6. Submit a photocopy of your driver’s license or non-driver I.D. card
7. Pay the required cost of $5.50 per record using a money order, credit, or debit card
8. Mail the completed form, together with every necessary document, to: 

Systems and Administration Bureau
Iowa Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 9204
Des Moines, Iowa 50306

Furthermore, interested applicants can also visit the Department of Transportation for a license plate lookup. 


You will be required to provide all necessary documents, alongside payment for services. You can contact the department using the details below: 

Department of Transportation,
Office of Vehicle Services,
Records and Titles Section,
6301 SE Convenience Boulevard,
Ankeny IA 50021-9278
Phone: (515) 237-3110
Fax: (515) 237-3056

Finally, you can also conduct an Iowa license plate search using third-party platforms. 

a finger pressing a 3D illustration of a search bar


These platforms offer free or paid services to users and usually provide basic information like the vehicle’s model, engine type, mileage, registration status, and year of manufacturing. 


You can use public records search websites, such as, to perform a license plate search in Iowa. 

Their information is, in some cases, less comprehensive than those provided by the Motor Vehicle Division. Some of the popular sources of their license plate data include:

* Local dealerships
* Police departments 
* Insurance companies
* Other public agencies that collate data on vehicles in Iowa

Avoid sites that promise information about the vehicle’s owner or driver; such sites are likely to be involved in phishing activities. 


Conducting a license plate search in Iowa has never been easier. Parties searching for license plate information can do so in seconds using any of the methods discussed above.

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