Salvage Vehicles

When is a vehicle considered wrecked or salvaged?

A vehicle is considered wrecked or salvaged when it has repair costs exceeding 70 percent of its fair market value before it became damaged and had a fair market value of $500 or more before it became damaged. You cannot legally operate a wrecked or salvage vehicle on a public road in Iowa, except when a permit is issued to allow the operation of the vehicle to and from your salvage inspection appointment.

What is a Salvage Title?

A salvage title indicates that a vehicle has sustained significant damage caused by a serious collision, or weather-related damage such as a flood, fire, vandalism, or theft and is considered a total loss by an insurance company that paid a settlement to the vehicle owner on a damaged vehicle claim. The vehicle shall not be registered to be driven or moved upon a highway until it is no longer designated as salvage.

How do I convert my salvage title to a rebuilt title?

After repairing your salvage-titled vehicle, you can get that title converted to a rebuilt title with registration plates issued by having the vehicle inspected. Iowa law requires the vehicle to be physically examined by a peace officer who has been certified by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy before a rebuilt title can be issued. You must have the salvage title in your name or have the title assigned to you to have the vehicle inspected. The cost of the inspection is $53.

When you have the vehicle inspected, the officer will verify that no stolen parts were used to rebuild a vehicle and will authenticate the vehicle as being rebuilt. A typical salvage theft examination takes approximately 45 minutes but may take several hours if the vehicle identification numbers are not easily accessible or there are problems with the ownership documents. It’s important to maintain all receipts, invoices, and documentation for parts used to rebuild the vehicle and to bring these to the inspection as the officer will need to verify this information.

Please note, if during the repair of the salvage vehicle the cab or frame was changed, or if the public VIN was damaged or removed, you will need to contact us at or you can contact the investigator in your local area.

How do I get a salvage vehicle inspection?

Once the vehicle has been repaired and is ready for inspection, you will need go to the website to complete the Affidavit of Salvage Vehicle Repairs form. This online process will also include the need to  pay for the inspection. The $53 exam fee must be paid online by credit card to complete the approval process prior to inspection.

Other requirements at the time of the inspection

If you are the one applying to have the salvage title changed to a rebuilt title, you’ll need to have the salvage title in your name along with all receipts, invoices, and documentation for parts used to rebuild the vehicle. You may be asked to provide confirmation of your payment for the inspection, so please bring a copy of the order ID that was sent to the email address you provided in the affidavit.

If the vehicle passes the inspection, you can take the information the officer will give you to your county treasurer’s office to transfer from a Salvage title to a Rebuilt title and obtain registration plates for your vehicle.

Checklist of documents required to take to inspection location:
  • Salvage title or a certified copy of the salvage title
  • Affidavit of salvage vehicle repairs
  • Bill of sale for all component parts replaced
  • Permit to drive to/from inspection location only



Q: Can an individual buy or sell a salvage titled vehicle from/to another private individual?

A: No, a salvage title may only be assigned or reassigned to an individual buying the vehicle by an authorized recycler licensed under Chapter 321H or a new motor vehicle dealer licensed under Chapter 322. Also, an individual can only sell a salvage titled vehicle to an educational institution, a new motor vehicle dealer, a person engaged in the business of purchasing bodies, parts of bodies, frames, or component parts of vehicles for sale as scrap metal, a salvage pool (means the business of selling at auction wrecked or salvage vehicles as defined in Chapter 321.52), or an authorized recycler, licensed under Chapter 321H.

Q: What happens if I start the process online, but don’t have all the documentation?

A: The affidavit of repairs web page will lock after 3-5 minutes of no activity, so it is critical before starting the exam to have all relevant information readily available, such as vehicle title, bill of sale, part receipts, and credit card for payment. If the affidavit page locks prior to completion, you will need to open the program again and start over.

Q: Can I complete the affidavit of salvage vehicle repairs on my cell phone?

A: No. You will need to use a desktop, laptop, or tablet to complete the form. If necessary, there are resources available that provide internet services such as a local library or a community center. The speed is dependent upon the user's operating system and browser. For maximum speed, we recommend using Google Chrome and making sure no other computer programs are running.

Q: Why does a dealer/recycler have to enter their full federal employee identification number or an individual their social security number into this system?

A: You are required to provide documentation like a Federal Employee Identification or Social Security Number to allow the system to find the correct dealer/recycler or individual connected to the title record. For businesses, if the Federal Employee Identification Number you are entering is causing an error it may be due to the DOT having an incorrect FEIN on file. To correct the FEIN, send an email to the Iowa DOT’s Dealer Programs Bureau team

Q: Does an individual, dealer, or recycler need to transfer an out-of-state title to an Iowa salvage title in their name prior to inspection?

A: No, A foreign title is acceptable if the Iowa owner has the repairs completed and the inspection done within 30 days of their purchase date. If the owner fails to complete the repairs and inspection within 30 days of the purchase date, an Iowa salvage title issued in their name is required.

Q: Am I required to have receipts for all parts and repairs listed on the affidavit of salvage vehicle repairs?

A: You are required to have a receipt for all parts purchased by you to repair the vehicle. If a prior owner purchased the parts and completed the repairs, try to get copies from them, and instruct the officer at the time of inspection. If you forget to list a repair or part on the Affidavit of Salvage Vehicle Repairs, notify the officer at the time of the inspection.

Q: Can I drive a salvage title vehicle in Iowa?

A: No, a salvage vehicle cannot be driven on public roadways because it cannot be registered or insured. However, a permit can be printed to allow you to drive the vehicle to and from the inspection location and can be found on the last page of the online Affidavit. The Affidavit to Operate a Vehicle for Inspection allows you to drive directly to the inspection and return home. Stops are not permitted along the route.

Q: I accidentally entered the out-of-state salvage title information into the affidavit and now have an Iowa salvage title. Can I still get my vehicle inspected?

A: Yes, the information can be changed by the officer who inspects your vehicle. When you arrive at the inspection location, be sure to provide the officer with the out-of-state title number you typed into the Affidavit, not the Iowa title number. Once you pay and complete the Affidavit, you cannot make changes.

Q: Why is the fee for new registrations based on the fair market vehicle value and not what I actually paid for the vehicle?

A: To determine the fair market value for a salvage vehicle that has been repaired, use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) consumer site. Locate the correct year, make, and model for the vehicle and include all applicable options and mileage. The proper fair market value is LOW RETAIL or ROUGH TRADE. The fair market value calculation may be reduced for parts, frames, chassis, auto bodies, and supplies used to rebuild the vehicle for which sales tax was already paid. No deduction for labor is allowed per Iowa law. If you would like to dispute the fair market vehicle value and subsequent amount of fee for the new registration you paid, you may file a claim for refund with the Iowa Department of Revenue, citing the reasons for your disputed claim of vehicle value.

Q: Why does a hail-damaged vehicle or a vehicle with minimal damage have to be repaired before it can be inspected?

A: The purpose of the inspection is to properly identify the vehicle and replaced parts to deter and detect vehicle and vehicle part theft. To properly identify the replaced parts, the vehicle needs to be completely repaired prior to inspection. Iowa Administrative Code 761-405.15 states: A salvage title vehicle shall not be examined until it has been completely repaired except for minor body parts such as trim, body markings, and paint.

Q: Do airbags need to be replaced prior to the vehicle theft inspection?

A: No, Iowa law allows a vehicle to be sold without the airbags replaced as long as the seller discloses this information to the buyer Iowa Code section 321.69.

Q: How do I pay for a salvage vehicle theft exam if i don’t have a credit card?

A: If you don’t have a credit card you will need to purchase a prepaid credit card at a local retailer. The $53 fee for the inspection is nonrefundable.

Q: Will I have a clean title once it passes the inspection?

A: No, it will never have a clean title again, and it will always have a brand of “Rebuilt”. The rebuilt brand will allow the vehicle to be registered for the roadways.


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