Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller in Iowa

Iowa is a great state to buy a private-party used car. Here's what you need to know to complete the entire transaction by the book.
When you purchase a car from a private seller, there are important details to manage along the way. PrivateAuto streamlines the private used vehicle buying experience with our smooth transactional process, including instant payments of up to $1 million with no fees. Learn how to buy a used car in the state of Iowa—and how PrivateAuto can help.

Find a Car For Your Budget

You’re probably looking for private-party used cars online, which means you’ll be using one of the many sites that list used vehicles for sale. You probably know what type of car you’re looking for and which car brands fit your budget. It’s time to start your search.
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Look For Cars Online

Most people choose to search online when they’re looking for used cars for sale near them. Here are the types of car-buying websites available.

Online classifieds
National classifieds such as Craigslist and OfferUp.
Local classifieds such as KSL Cars.
Vehicle listing sites such as Autotrader.
Social media listings.
Auction websites such as Cars and Bids and Hemmings.

While these platforms serve as excellent resources for finding vehicles, each of them lacks transactional capabilities. We call them "meetingplaces" because they leave you high and dry when it comes down to closing the deal.

PrivateAuto is the world’s first and only fully transactional marketplace, offering self-service technological solutions for every stage of the deal. To experience the hassle-free simplicity of buying from a private seller, browse used cars for sale by owner and begin your car-buying journey today.

Don't get us wrong, we don’t hate the other listing sites. Most of them have a lot more private-party car inventory than we do— we’re still new. But we want you to have the transactional security and convenience that our users enjoy.

That’s why we created DealNow. DealNow allows you to create your dealroom on PrivateAuto, invite the owner of the car you want to buy, and fast-track the transaction.

Get your deal started now!

Negotiate the Price

You want to get the very best car for your budget. PrivateAuto allows you to make offers on cars you like. You never know if the vehicle’s owner will accept less than their asking price until you try.

On other sites, you’d have to message the seller and have an awkward conversation. PrivateAuto lets you make an offer with the click of a button. The seller can then accept, reject, or counteroffer.

Research the Vehicle

Savvy car shoppers do their homework to uncover the car's background. The two best ways to learn about a vehicle’s background are a vehicle history report and research on the car’s title.

Research the Title

Before meeting up for the test drive, it’s smart to do preliminary research on the car title. You can use the National Insurance Crime Bureau website to research the title to protect yourself from car-buying fraud.

Sometimes sellers will attempt to mislead or outright deceive—they may try to pass off a salvage title as clean.

Title research will help you check for:

1. Reports of the car having been stolen.
2. An outstanding lien.
3. The car has been declared a total loss in an insurance claim.

Ask the seller for their full name and the vehicle identification number (VIN) in advance. Run the title check, and proceed with peace of mind.

Get a Vehicle History Report

A vehicle history report is always a smart idea when buying a used car. It covers ownership history and maintenance records and gives you insight into how well the seller cared for their car.

PrivateAuto provides a vehicle history report for all premium listings.

Here are some reasons a vehicle history report gives you peace of mind.

1. You have visibility into any accidents or insurance claims.
2. You know how well the car has been cared for.
3. You can see service records, major repairs, and other work.

A vehicle history report can help you steer clear of buying a faulty used car.

Take the Car for a Test Drive

We let you arrange the test drive in a safe, easy, and convenient manner that never reveals your personal information to the seller. If you are purchasing a car long-distance, you can arrange for a qualified vehicle inspector in the seller’s area to act as your proxy for the test drive.

1. Our in-app scheduler allows you to pick from the time slots the seller has chosen—no back-and-forth conversations. You'll also see the seller's preferred meetup location.
2. You can opt to transact with verified sellers only, which tends to weed out those who prefer to operate in the shadows.

You’ll schedule the test drive in seconds. It’s just one of the many ways we streamline private car purchases.

Complete Iowa Paperwork

Paperwork is a critical part of the transaction process. Here is the paperwork involved in an Iowa pre-owned vehicle transaction:

1. Title
2. Bill of sale

Iowa Certificate of Title

You and the seller need to fill out the official Iowa certificate of title. An Iowa title will require you and the seller to fill out the following information in the appropriate sections of the title:

Odometer disclosure
Seller’s hand-printed name, signature, and address (if there is more than one seller listed on the title, both sellers will need to sign)
Date of sale
Vehicle purchase price
Your hand-printed name and signature

Iowa Bill of Sale

While Iowa doesn't require a bill of sale, we recommend you always complete one with the seller. A bill of sale protects you by memorializing the terms of the sale, the vehicle identification number (VIN), the selling price, mileage, and the names and signatures of both parties. If the seller ever wants to contest the transaction or any part of it, you have their signature on a legal document with all of the terms and details to back you up.

PrivateAuto makes it easy with an official Iowa bill of sale. You and the seller review the details, and then digitally sign the bill of sale after inspecting the car. No printing or scanning—sign it electronically in our mobile app. It’s stored in your PrivateAuto account as a reference, should you ever need it.

Make the Payment

When it comes time to pay the seller for their vehicle, there aren’t a lot of great options—or haven’t been until now. Cash is inconvenient and risky, PayPal has fees, Venmo and Zelle have low transfer limits, and checks and wire transfers are slow and unwieldy.

We got tired of the limitations associated with existing payment methods, so we created a solution. We call it PrivateAuto Pay. Our users call it magic, and here’s how it works:

1. No transfer fees.
2. Instantaneous transfers. Close the deal when you meet for the test drive.
3. No exchange of contact or banking info.
4. Works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No coordinating around banker’s hours.
5. Advanced encryption protects your data from hackers.
6. Skip inconvenient and costly third-party escrow services with our escrow-like safeguards.

You’ll never want to buy a car any other way. And if you’re buying a car on a different website, don’t worry, invite the seller to our DealNow fast-track solution to get the transaction done quickly, safely, and securely.
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Iowa Title Transfer and Registration

After the previous owner signs the title over, you’ll go to the county treasurer's office in your county of residence, or an Iowa county contiguous to your county to complete the title transfer process. At the same time, you’ll register the vehicle in your name, get new license plates, and pay your Iowa sales tax owed.

Here’s what you’ll need to provide when you transfer your car’s title to the county treasurer's office:

The Certificate of Title, signed over to you by the previous vehicle owner
A completed Application for Certificate of Title and/or Registration (Iowa DOT Form 411007)
Lien information (if there is a lien holder on the title)
Payment for the Iowa vehicle sales tax: 5% of the vehicle price
Payment for Iowa’s vehicle title transfer fee: $25
Payment for Iowa vehicle registration fee: based on your vehicle weight
Payment for Iowa license plate fee: $45
Valid ID, driver's license, or other proof of identity
Proof of insurance

Read our complete guide to an Iowa title transfer for more info on the subject.

Iowa FAQ

Is there a lemon law on used cars in Iowa?

Iowa’s lemon law applies to retail (dealership) vehicle purchases. Private-party purchases of used cars in Iowa are “as-is”, meaning the lemon law will not apply and you assume all the risk as the buyer. That’s why you need to do a title check, vehicle history report, and inspection on the vehicle. The proper due diligence will help you avoid car-buying scams and get a quality vehicle.

When I buy a car from a private seller can I drive it home in Iowa?

Do you pay sales tax on a private car sale in Iowa?

How do you calculate registration fees in Iowa?