Iowa License Plate Search

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How To Lookup Iowa License Plates

How To Lookup Iowa License Plates

Although you can enter a license plate in an online search portal, you won't see much more than basic vehicle information like color, make, model, and year. Due to The Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act, Pub. No. 106-69, 350(b) or 18 U.S.C. 2721, and Iowa Code 321.11, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) cannot release personal vehicle owner details without written consent. The strict laws surrounding driver privacy carry steep fines, criminal charges, and possibly even jail time. Be very careful how you use information attained from an Iowa license plate lookup.

If you do qualify, you will need to provide the DOT with your ID, your name, address, driver's license number, email address, phone number, fax, and company information, along with a bunch of information about the vehicle and driver. You must also get a signed consent form. Then you will have access to their entire driving record, including personal details like social security number, driver's license number, and more.

Iowa License Plate Laws

Iowa License Plate Laws

When you move to Iowa, you must register your vehicle at the county treasurer's office within 30 days. If you move from one county in Iowa to another, you have ten days to re-register your vehicle in your new place of residence. Iowa bases registration fees on the age of the vehicle and also the weight.

You have a grace period of one month after your registration renewal expires to renew your vehicle, or you will be slapped with penalties of at least 5%. You can renew at your county treasurer's office.

Iowa Code Section 321.37(3) prohibits any resident from fastening a license plate frame to their car that in any way restricts visibility of any letters or numbers or even slogans and state names. 

If you sell a vehicle and don't replace it, you can apply for a refund on your license plates. Military personnel stationed outside of Iowa may put their vehicle in storage and apply for a refund on their registration.

Iowa License Plates

Iowa License Plates

When someone registers a vehicle in Iowa and pays the fees, they will be issued the standard license plate. However, Iowa does offer specialty plates that you can order for more money. Many of the plates carry the same design but list a foundation, organization, or group that the plate fees help to sponsor. Some of the examples of specialty plates you can get in Iowa include:

  • Regular County design.
  • Black Out design.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness.
  • Education.
  • Ducks Unlimited.
  • Cattlemen Care.
  • Fallen Peace Officer.
  • God Bless America.
  • DNR - Deer, Goldfinch, Eagle, Pheasant, Trout.
  • Organ and Tissue Donor.
  • Share the Road.
  • Shriners.
  • Motorcycle Rider Education.
  • Amateur Radio Call Letter.
  • EMS.
  • Firefighter.

They also have various plates for universities, military plates, and also plates for disabled Americans.

What is Contained in the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Iowa?

What is Contained in the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) in Iowa?

Iowa's Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division is the agency in charge of motor vehicle records. Therefore, it is up to them to enforce the Federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act and their own Iowa Code 321.11, which protects driver's personal information. These laws control who has access and how the information contained in records can be used.

Iowa has a special Privacy Act Agreement for Request of Motor Vehicle Records form that anyone who wants that data has to fill out and submit. They allow only certain people to request records for very finite purposes. Some of them include legal, law enforcement, insurance, and you can always get a copy of your own records. Violation of these laws is a serious business and could lead to very steep fines (of $2,500 per incident) and jail time.

Iowa License Plate Search Frequently Asked Questions

May I Lookup License Plate Numbers in Iowa?

Yes, it is legal, and you can look up basic information online for free with various public records databases. Iowa also has a formal procedure to use for official purposes and a special form to submit. However, any use of these records is subject to the strict DPPA laws at the federal and state level.

What Information Do I Need When Asking for Records?

To request records, you first need to quality with a "permissible use." Then you need to supply a copy of your ID, your name, address, driver's license number, email address, phone number, fax, and company information. Then you need as much information on the driver as possible, including their name, driver's license, ID, year, make and model of the car, license plate number, VIN, date of birth, and social security number.

How to Look Up an Iowa License Plate Using the VIN?

Using the form listed above, anyone with a legal purpose can look up a license plate in Iowa using the VIN. There is also a national title registry where the public can look up vehicle history reports, crash records, and open recalls. That website is great for checking out a used car before you buy it.

Is it Possible to Locate the Owner of a License Plate in Iowa?

The best way to locate someone using their license plate number, depending on the situation, is to contact the police. For example, if you ding a car at the mall and want to make repairs, you could ask the police to contact the owner and inform them and give them your information. They should be able to help you, although due to strict DPPA laws, the police may or may not furnish you with any personal details.

What Can I Legally Do With License Plate Information?

Iowa is very rigid about the use of license plate information. Some of the allowable uses listed on their Privacy Act Agreement are:

  • Federal or state government agencies can request records of employees.
  • The courts or an attorney regarding a civil or criminal court case.
  • Insurance companies can request records.
  • A company wanting to certify someone with a CDL license.
  • Any purpose related to motor vehicle safety, emissions, recalls, and manufacturing.
  • Anyone can get a copy of their own records at any time.
  • Towing companies can get them to inform lien holders or owners about a towed vehicle.
  • Employers with a consent form.
  • Businesses in conjunction with normal verification of information.
  • Research and statistics.
  • Private toll companies.
  • Any licensed private investigator can get access.

How to Lookup Iowa License Plates for Free?

You can easily look up an Iowa license plate online for free at one of the many search portals. However, you will only see basic information like color, make, model, and year of the vehicle. Sometimes you might see trim level, engine type, brake and transmission information, and even the manufacturer.