By law, if you are buying, selling, brokering, or dealing 5 or more vehicles in a 12-month period, you are considered a car dealer and you must obtain and Iowa Dealer’s License.
Not sure if you need a dealer license? Check out this post on selling cars without a license.
Short on time? Read our Motor Vehicle Dealer License FAQ
How to get an Iowa Car Dealer License
To get an Iowa Dealer License, you'll need to complete an application, purchase a surety bond, and establish a place of business that meets state/local requirements. The exact steps are listed below:
Step #1: Establish a Place of Business & Pass Zoning
Your business location must include a working landline telephone, a display facility, and a repair facility.
For a complete list of requirements, view the dealership location requirements.
You will need to provide written evidence from your local zoning authority that your dealership complies with all zoning ordinances for your area.
Step #2: Pass an On-site Inspection
Set up an appointment with Iowa DOT’s Office of Motor vehicle Enforcement Investigation section.
They will do an on-site inspection of your dealership location.
You must pass this inspection before you can get your Iowa Dealer’s License.
Step #3: Purchase an Iowa Motor Vehicle Dealer Bond
An Iowa Motor Vehicle Dealer Bond is not insurance for you. It is insurance for your customers. Find out what happens if someone makes a claim on your bond.
Iowa has set the bond amount at $75,000. Depending on your credit, you might pay anywhere from $750 - $11,250 for your bond. This is a one-time payment.
Step #4: Complete Iowa Car Dealer License Application
You can get your Application for Motor vehicle or Travel Trailer Dealer License online.
Step #5: Meet Final Requirements
Used Car Dealers:
- Take an 8-hour pre-licensing training course. You can find information on courses and times online.
New Car Dealers:
- Establish a display facility measuring no less than 18 by 30 feet.
- Provide a copy of the franchise agreement by the manufacturer or distributor you will be using.
Step #6: Submit Application
Send all of your paperwork and your original bond to the address below:
Office of Vehicle Services
Iowa Department of Transportation
P.O. Box 9278
Des Moines, IA 50306-9278
Iowa Car Dealer License Renewal
An Iowa Dealer’s License lasts up to 2 years. They expire on December 31st of even-numbered years.
This means that if you got your license at the beginning of an even-numbered year, your license expires on December 31st of that year and is not valid for the entire 2 year time period.
Other Iowa Dealer Licenses You Might Need
- Leasing License: If you plan on leasing vehicles for longer than 60 days, you will need to apply for a separate leasing license (Leasing License Application – Form 417034).
- Vehicle Recycler: If you plan on selling used parts, rebuilding vehicles, or engaging in the business of vehicle salvage, you will need a separate vehicle recycler’s license (Vehicle Recycler Application – Form 411117)
- Travel trailer dealer’s License: If you plan on selling travel trailers, you will need to apply for a travel trailer dealer’s license (Travel Trailer Dealer Application – Form 417008)