Learn about the DNR's COVID-19 response and how the current health emergency is impacting DNR facilities, services and events.

REGISTERING YOUR VEHICLE OR VESSEL IN IOWA WITHOUT A REGISTRATION AND/OR TITLE

Iowa law requires documentation in order to transfer the registration and/or title of a boat, snowmobile or OHV into your name as the new owner. If you do not have all of the documentation required, you will need to go through what is called the bonding process. Documentation required for transferring ownership includes a proof of purchase document, registration and/or title.

What is the bonding process?

If your vehicle or vessel cannot be titled or registered by your county recorder because you do not have the proper registration and/or title documents, you must first fill out Form 542-0855, Request Form for Bonded Title or Registration.Upon receipt of a completed form, the IA DNR will review and investigate the information you provide to determine if you can register your vehicle/vessel and what process you will need to go through to legally transfer ownership into your name. The initial investigation will take 4-6 weeks to complete.

NOTE: Iowa law requires the seller give the buyer, at the time of purchase, written documentation of ownership such as a bill of sale AND registration and/or title signed over to the buyer. If you have not already contacted the seller, please contact the seller of the vehicle and ask them to comply with this requirement before submitting the request form.

Getting started

If you do not have the last registration and/or title, the first step in moving forward with transferring your vehicle or vessel into your name is to submit the bond request form and supporting documents to the IA DNR. You can submit this form by email, mail or fax as instructed on the request form.

To avoid processing delays, please submit the following, required supporting documents along with your request form:

  • A copy of any written document received at the time the vehicle was acquired, such as a bill of sale or cancelled check.
  • Photos of the Front, Back, One Side, Registration Number, and the manufacturer’s ID number (Serial Number, VIN or HIN)

Please refer to the sections below should you have questions about the required supporting documents.

After your request form is submitted:

Once the request form has been submitted, the Iowa DNR will investigate the vehicle or vessel registration history and review supporting documents to determine the current registration status of the vehicle or vessel you are trying to register. As part of the investigation, the Iowa DNR may also notify the last registered owner of the request for a bonded title and/registration.

Once the investigation is complete:

The IA DNR will determine the steps you need to complete to get the vehicle or vessel registered and/or titled in your name. After six weeks, you will be notified that one or more of the following action steps may be required as result of the investigation, in order for you to be approved to transfer ownership of your vehicle/vessel.

  • You may be required to get an inspection done by a conservation officer or another certified peace officer
  • You may need to complete an affidavit form
  • You may be required to purchase a surety bond to cover one and one half times the determined, current value of the vehicle or vessel. If this is needed, a bond form will be sent to you showing the current value of the vehicle or vessel and the amount of the bond needed. The bond form will include instructions for completion and return to the Iowa DNR. Fees to obtain a surety bond through a bonding company are set by the surety company. Please refer to the bonding company for the fee to obtain your surety bond. If a bond is needed, the IA DNR will hold the bond for three years, after which time the bond will expire and there is no requirement for a bond.

Upon review of the completed paperwork and any additional steps requested above, you will be notified in writing of your approval to obtain a title and registration through your county recorder’s office. You will use your approval letter in lieu of a signed title and/or registration by the seller to transfer your vehicle and vessel into your name.

Note: There may some instances that the DNR cannot approve the transfer of ownership of your vehicle/vessel. If we cannot approve transfer, you will be notified in writing after the investigation. I.e. There is an active lien of the vehicle/vessel. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Call the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, your local County Recorder or your local DNR Officer to check the registration history of the vehicle/vessel that you are trying to purchase for active liens and to verify that the vehicle/vessel has not been reported stolen. This is done by providing the registration number and/or the HIN/VIN to the one of the parties listed above.            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.

Bonding is only available for Iowa residents, unless you are going to use your vessel / vehicle on Iowa waters / Iowa land.


If the vessel/vehicle was last registered in Iowa, you will need to complete the bonding process.

 

You always need a bill of sale or proof of ownership to even do the bonding process.


Q: The last registered owner will not work with me and/or did not provide me with a title and or registration. They said they would mail it but did not.

Most likely, they did not have it and are not able to get it since it was not in their name and they are not the last registered owner as they portrayed. You will have to complete the bonding process.


The DNR will attempt to contact the next of kin/executor of the estate who may be able to sign for the last registered owner. You most likely will still have to complete the bonding process.


The one and only person that can obtain a lien release is the last registered owner. And, with banks being bought and sold, it is sometimes impossible to obtain a lien release even if you are the last registered owner. The vehicle cannot be bonded or registered if the lien cannot be released.


It may have been stolen from them at some point and could legally be returned leaving you out the money you spent on it.


It does not legally belong to you. If it has been abandoned, you must relinquish it to the local Sheriff. See abandonment - Iowa Code 556B


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.


It is a written document received at the time the vehicle/vessel was acquired, such as a bill of sale, statement of gift or cancelled check. This document must include the following information: Year, Make, Model, Registration Number, HIN of vessel or VIN of vehicle, buyer’s printed name and address, seller's printed name and address, date of purchase, purchase price.

Questions?

Please contact us:

bonding@dnr.iowa.gov

or 515-725-8273

Iowa's Bonding Process