Before You Buy

If you are purchasing a used boat, snowmobile or ATV, it’s important to understand the process for transferring title and registration.

Iowa law requires seller(s) to provide the following to the buyer(s) at the time of purchase

  • bill of sale or proof of ownership
  • current registration signed over to the buyer
  • Title if the vehicle or vessel has one.

Does my vessel/vehicle have a title?

  • Vessels 17 feet or longer purchased after January 1, 1988 must have a title. A title can be purchased for any vessel. Once it has been titled, it must stay titled.
  • ATVs or OHVs registered as an ATV purchased after January 1, 2000 must be titled.
  • Snowmobiles purchased after January 1, 1988 must have a title.

You can call the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, your local County Recorder or your local DNR Officer to check to make sure that the vehicle/vessel that you are trying to purchase has no open liens and that the vehicle/vessel has not been reported stolen. You might also check to make sure the person selling it to you is the owner and has authority to sell it. If the vehicle/vessel is being sold at auction, a web-site or even a garage sale, the proper paperwork is still required before it can be registered.

Other things to watch for or ask for:

  • Records/Maintenance
  • Repairs made /Aftermarket parts
  • Registration numbers, VIN numbers/hull ID – are they authentic? Do not purchase if they have scraped or altered in any way.

Your insurance company is also a good source of reference. They should be able to inform you if the vehicle/vessel has ever had a claim or been reported stolen. You can also check to see if there are any insurance requirements.

Iowa law requires transfer of ownership within 30 days. There is NO grace period. A penalty, as well as a citation could be issued if this is not done.

Buying a used vessel/vehicle from one of the many dealers which are licensed through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources can help alleviate many potential problems, because they know legal requirements.

Iowa Boat Dealers
Iowa OHV Dealers
Iowa Snowmobile Dealers

By taking some simple precautions and doing a bit of research, buyers can prevent problems, meet their legal responsibilities, and ride those waves or hit that trail sooner.

Remember, it isn’t fun till the paperwork is done!

After You Buy
Frequently Asked Questions
+ Can I bond in Iowa if I live in another state?
+ Only have a bill of sale?
+ Only have the title or registration?
+ Having trouble obtaining title or registration?
+ Last registered owner is deceased?
+ Vehicle/vessel still has an open lien on it.
+ Last registered owner claims ownership?
+ Found a vehicle/vessel and I want to keep it.
+ How much does the bonding process cost?

At this time, there is no cost from the DNR to complete the bonding process unless you end up purchasing a bond during the long process. The cost of the bond will be initiated by and paid to the insurance company where you purchase the bond. You will still have to pay the normal registration fees for the vessel or vehicle at the County Recorder's office in your county.

Iowa's Bonding Process

Please contact us:

or 515-725-8273

Bonding - Contact Us
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  • We are unable to complete the bonding process without having one either a registration number or Manufacturer Identification Number. If you are unable to locate either of these numbers, please contact your local conservation officer prior to submitting this contact form.