buying & selling a vehicle

Vehicle disposal

When automobiles have outlived their usefulness, the majority (over 94 percent) are taken to scrap yards for reclamation of useable parts. What is left is shredded or compacted. This remaining material, consisting primarily of metals, is then recycled back into appliances, automobiles and other products. Over 75 percent of each automobile is recovered this way.

As the recycling industry benefits from higher metal prices, so does the criminal elements involved. Unlicensed and dishonest metal recyclers are currently operating in Iowa buying vehicles without titles, stealing cars from streets, and advertising that they want to buy your car. Their actions exploit honest Iowans and licensed recyclers. End of life vehicles need to be reported to NMVTIS (The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System). NMVTIS is designed to protect consumers from fraud and unsafe vehicles and to keep stolen vehicles from being resold. NMVTIS is also a tool that assists states and law enforcement in deterring and preventing title fraud and other crimes.

The Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection works to protect the citizens of Iowa and the integrity of Iowa’s laws. If you suspect someone may be scrapping cars we encourage you to call the Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection at 515-237-3050.

How to properly dispose of an "end-of-life" vehicle

If you are the owner of a motor vehicle in the State of Iowa and want to dispose of your vehicle to an individual, dealer or recycler, or to donate it to a nonprofit organization, follow these recommended steps and one of the two options listed. 

Option 1:

  1. Deal with a reputable buyer. Steer clear of advertisers and persons making false claims that they can dispose of your vehicle without a title. View a list of licensed recyclers. View a list of licensed dealers.
  2. Determine who will be “de-polluting” your vehicle in preparation for recycling, including removal of potentially hazardous components such as the battery, tires, air bag cartridges, mercury-containing switches, lead parts, and catalytic converters.
  3. Remove all personal belongings.
  4. Agree on a purchase price.
  5. Accept payment from the buyer.
  6. Give the title to the buyer.
  7. Legally assign the title to the buyer by completing the top section of the back side the title.
  8. Obtain a bill of sale or written receipt from the buyer that states the buyer has accepted delivery of the vehicle and title. Download a seller’s checklist and receipt form.
  9. Remove the vehicle’s registration certificate and plates, and return them to your county treasurer.

Option 2:

  1. Deal with a reputable buyer. Steer clear of advertisers and persons making false claims that they can dispose of your vehicle without a title. View a list of licensed recyclers. View a list of licensed dealers.
  2. Determine who will be “de-polluting” your vehicle in preparation for recycling, including removal of potentially hazardous components such as the battery, tires, air bag cartridges, mercury-containing switches, lead parts, and catalytic converters.
  3. Remove all personal belongings.
  4. Take the title and registration receipt to the county treasurer.
  5. Obtain a junking certificate.
  6. Agree on a purchase price.
  7. Accept payment from the buyer.
  8. Give (assign) the junking certificate to the buyer.
  9. Obtain a bill of sale or written receipt from the buyer that states the buyer has accepted delivery of the vehicle and the junking certificate. Download a seller’s checklist and receipt form.
  10. Remove the vehicle’s registration certificate and plates, and return them to your county treasurer.

Junking certifcate

A vehicle owner(s) may turn in their "end-of-life" vehicle’s current title and registration plates to their county treasurer and receive, free of charge, a junking certificate. 

A junking certificate will allow the vehicle’s owner(s) to transfer ownership of the vehicle to another entity/individual by virtue of an assignment on the certificate. A junking certificate is the “death certificate” for the vehicle. 

The vehicle can never be titled again, unless: 
  1. The vehicle owner(s) requests that the title be reinstated within 14 days of the junking certificate’s date of issue. To reinstate the title, an application must be filed with the county treasurer and appropriate fees paid.
  2. Following the 14-day period, the title can only be reinstated if the owner makes an application for certificate of title to the Iowa DOT, and the department determines that the junking certificate was obtained by mistake or inadvertence.
  3. If a vehicle owner’s application for certificate of title to the Iowa DOT is denied and the vehicle is 25 years or older, the owner may apply for a certificate of title under the bonding procedure, as provided in Iowa Code Section 321.24; or the owner may seek administrative hearing.

What is a wrecked or salvage (junk) vehicle?

A wrecked or salvage (junk) vehicle is defined as one that: 
  • Was acquired by an insurance company as a result of damage or theft.
  • Was acquired by a licensed recycler or a person engaged in the business of buying and selling or exchanging vehicles of a type required to be registered in Iowa, and has repair costs exceeding 50 percent of its fair market value before it was damaged

What can someone do with a junk vehicle abandoned on their property?

Iowa law allows any person, firm, corporation or unit of government upon whose property or in whose possession is found any abandoned motor vehicle, or any person being the owner of a motor vehicle whose title certificate is faulty, lost or destroyed and is thereby unable to transfer title to the motor vehicle, may apply to the police authority of the jurisdiction in which the motor vehicle is situated for authority to sell, give away or otherwise dispose of the motor vehicle to a demolisher.

What can I do if I own an "end-of-life" vehicle, but have lost the title?

Apply for a replacement certificate of title by completing the Application for Replacement of Iowa Certificate of Title, Form #411033, and sending or presenting the application to your county treasurer.

What about donating my junk vehicle to a nonprofit organization?

Several nonprofit charities operating in Iowa accept junk vehicles as charity donations or accept the proceeds from the sale of donated junk vehicles. While some organizations work directly with the donor, most use third-party agents or brokers, which may be located out of state, to complete the transaction.

Generally, donated vehicles are towed to the nearest auction facility by a local towing company and net proceeds from the sale of the vehicle distributed to the nonprofit organization, after towing and processing fees are paid to the agent/broker. Some nonprofit entities have obtained an Iowa dealer license and will refurbish and sell their vehicles at retail.

Tax information is available from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Notice 2005-44: Charitable Contributions of Certain Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes and Publication 526 ”Charitable Contributions” are available at the IRS Web site at: www.irs.gov or contact your local IRS office. You can also do an IRS Charity Search on their Web site to find an official IRS-registered charity. You must have written acknowledgement of your donation and attach it with your return to receive an income tax benefit. The acknowledgement must contain specific information, so be sure to check the IRS information prior to donating your vehicle.

What do I need to do to become a registered vehicle recycler in Iowa?

Entities and individuals in the business of buying vehicles for scrap must be licensed by the Iowa DOT as an "authorized vehicle recycler." The only exception is for individuals and businesses that purchase motor vehicle bodies, parts of bodies, frames or component parts exclusively for sale as scrap metal. If you purchase complete vehicles to scrap (more than six in a calendar year) you are required to obtain an authorized vehicle recycler license. Buyers must have a title or junking certificate properly assigned to them for each junk vehicle purchased. How do I become a vehicle recycler?

What must vehicle demolishers do before and after scraping a vehicle?

If a vehicle is sold or disposed of to a demolisher for junk, by a police authority via a certificate to demolish, the demolisher shall make application for a junking certificate to the county treasurer within 30 days of purchase and surrender the sales receipt in lieu of the certificate of title.

If a demolisher receives a title, properly assigned to them and it is their intention to scrap the vehicle, a junking certificate must be acquired in the demolisher’s name within 30 days of assignment of the title. Demolishers are required to maintain records of these transactions in their business files for a period of one year.

How do we assist in the crack-down on illegal motor vehicle scrapping?

There are several tell-tale signs of illegal scrapping operations. Officers who witness these signs or suspect illegal activity should document their accounts and contact the Iowa DOT’s Investigative Bureau at 866-908-4636 or invbureau@iowadot.us to report the situation for further investigation.

In addition, law enforcement agencies can help reduce illegal scraping activities by alerting licensed recyclers in their area to suspicious scrapping activities. Establishing a cooperative relationship between licensed recyclers and law enforcement can lead to the prosecution of criminals.

How to junk out or dismantle my own vehicle?

The vehicle owner shall:

  1. Detach the vehicle’s registration plates and surrender them to the county treasurer, unless the plates are properly assigned to another vehicle.
  2. Surrender the certificate of title to the county treasurer.
  3. Apply for a junking certificate with the county treasurer.

The county treasurer will issue the junking certificate free of charge. The certificate authorizes the holder to possess, transport or transfer ownership of the junked vehicle by endorsement of the junking certificate.

The county treasurer will hold the surrendered certificate of title, registration receipt, application for junking certificate, and, if applicable, the registration plates for a period of 14 days following the issuance of a junking certificate. Within the 14-day period, the vehicle owner may surrender to the county treasurer the junking certificate, and upon the owner's payment of appropriate fees, taxes and vehicle registration fees, the county treasurer will reissue a certificate of title for the vehicle.

After the expiration of the 14-day period, the county treasurer is no longer allowed under Iowa law to issue a certificate of title for the junked vehicle for which a junking certificate was issued. The county treasurer will cancel the record of the vehicle and forward the certificate of title to the Iowa DOT.

However, upon application the Iowa DOT, upon a showing of good cause, may issue a certificate of title after the 14-day period for the vehicle. "Good cause" means that the junking certificate was obtained by mistake or inadvertence.

If a vehicle owner’s application for certificate of title to the Iowa DOT is denied, the owner may make application under a bonding procedure, if the vehicle qualifies as an antique, or the owner may seek judicial review.

What is my responsibility as a purchaser of a motor vehicle sold for scrap or junk?

The purchaser shall:

  1. Surrender the certificate of title, properly endorsed and signed by the previous owner, to the county treasurer in the purchaser’s county of residence.
  2. Apply for a junking certificate from the county treasurer, within 30 days after assignment of the certificate of title.

The county treasurer will issue the purchaser, without fee, a junking certificate. A junking certificate authorizes the holder to possess, transport or transfer by endorsement the ownership of the junked vehicle.

A certificate of title cannot be issued again for the vehicle after issuance of a junking certificate, unless:

  • The vehicle owner(s) requests that the title be reinstated within 14 days of the junking certificate’s date of issue. To reinstate the title, an application must be filed with the county treasurer and appropriate fees paid.
  • Following the 14-day period, the title can only be reinstated if the owner makes an application for certificate of title to the Iowa DOT and the department determines that the junking certificate was obtained by mistake or inadvertence.
  • If a vehicle owner’s application for certificate of title to the Iowa DOT is denied and the vehicle is 25 years or older, the owner may apply for a certificate of title under the bonding procedure, as provided in Iowa Code Section 321.24; or the owner may seek administrative hearing.

The county treasurer will cancel the record of the vehicle. The junking certificate will be printed on the registration receipt form and imprinted with the words "junking certificate." A space for transfer by endorsement will be on the junking certificate. A separate form for the notation of the transfer of component parts shall be attached to the junking certificate when the certificate is issued.