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Old 09-02-2020, 12:09 PM   #1
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Iowa: Registering a bus as a Motor Home

When I bought my bus it was registered as a bus. I want to register it as a Motor Home. I would appreciate hearing about the experiences of other Iowa bus owners that managed to convert to a Motor Home. This is my experience so far:

It does have a chemical toilet (Thetford) and a bathroom to put it in.
It has the ability to plug an extension cord in and that will energize two outlets, one at the front and one at the rear of the bus. A 1500 watt inverter can also be used to energize these two outlets. The wiring for these is run in conduit.
There is a small chest freezer and a window air conditioner that has brackets that allow it to be installed in one of the emergency exit windows.
There is also a set of bunk beds, but these are of no benefit when determining if the bus can be classed as a Motor Home in Iowa.

Through research on this site, and the internet in general, I found that Iowa requires 4 of 6 items to be permanently installed in the bus to be considered a Motor Home. Two of the four required items must come from the first three items on the list. The other two items can be any of the six listed items.

1) Cooking facilities.
2) Self-contained toilet or a toilet connected to a plumbing system with connection for external water disposal, or both.
3) Heating or air conditioning system or both, separate from the vehicle engine or the vehicle engine electrical system.
4) Ice box or mechanical refrigerator
5) Potable water supply including plumbing and a sink with faucet either self-contained or with connections for an external source or both.
6) A 110/115 volt alternating current electrical system separate from the vehicle engine electrical system either with its own power supply or with a connection for an external source, or both, or a liquefied petroleum system and supply.

There is a form that can be filled out to attest that the items that have been installed.
This form is called Owner’s Certification (Motor Home) (Iowa DOT Form 411057)
Description: This form is used to determine motor home classification for registration purposes
There is a link to this form on this page: https://www.iowataxandtags.org/vehic...vehicle-forms/
Link to the fillable form: https://iowadot.seamlessdocs.com/f/OwnersCertification

Since I had 2, 3, 4, and 6, I filled out the form and went to my county treasurer’s office at the courthouse (Iowa residents must register their vehicles at the treasurer’s office in the county in which they live).
I gave the clerk my paperwork and told them what I wanted, they went to talk to their supervisor and came back and told me that to register as a Motor Home I must get it inspected and they gave me a phone number to call, the Help line at the Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection. I made the call and the recording I got asked me to leave a message or communicate through email as the phones were not being staffed due to Covid.

I sent an email:
Quote:
Hello,

I bought a bus that has been partially converted into a Camper / RV / Motorhome. I took the form described below, to The Jefferson county courthouse. They gave me the number for the Investigative Help Line (515-237-3050) and told me I would need to have it inspected before I can have it registered / titled as a motor home.

____________
Owner's Certification (Motor Home) (Iowa DOT Form 411057)
Description: This form is used to determine motor home classification for registration purposes.

I appreciate any guidance you can provide in completing this process.
I received a reply:
Quote:
Paul, can you provide me the following, so I can determine the best route for you:

1. picture/copy of the front and back of the title
2. picture/copy of your purchase agreement
3. picture of your vehicle
4. picture of the VIN plate on the vehicle
5. In what county in Iowa do you reside?
I provided the requested information and received another reply:
Quote:
Paul, the conversion of a bus to a motor home is complex in Iowa, so I have quoted the county treasurer’s manual and Iowa code below. In summary, the Iowa code requires the bus to be converted and registered five times as a motor truck, prior to being allowed to be registered as a motor home. If you want to convert the bus to a motor truck, you do not need the DOT to inspect the vehicle. You can simply go to the Jefferson County Treasurer’s office and self-certify that it is a truck now and no longer a passenger bus. After five registration periods, it could be converted to a motor home at the County Treasurer’s office. Again, no inspection by the DOT is required. Another thing I noticed from the photos is that it still has the “school bus yellow” paint on half the vehicle, which technically is reserved for school buses. I have included Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Myers in this email as well, as he can assist you with any of the transfer discussed above.


IOWA CODE 321.124 Motor homes, multipurpose vehicles, and motorsports recreational vehicles — fees.
1. Motor homes are classified as follows:
a. Class A motor home means a truck chassis or special chassis upon which is built a driver’s compartment and an entire body which provides temporary living quarters. A class
A motor home shall also mean a passenger carrying bus which has been registered at least five times as a motor truck and which has been converted, modified, or altered to provide
temporary living quarters.


County Treasurer’s Manual: Truck or Bus Converted to Motor Home
When a truck or bus has been converted to a motor home, the owner must complete a "Motor Home Owner's Certification" form so it can be determined if the vehicle is a motor home, and whether it is a class A, B or C. Assuming the vehicle is a motor home, the title and registration card will be processed as follows:
1. Vehicle type is "Motor Home A, B, or C depending on the certification.”
2. Vehicle make is "original make" (Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, etc.).
3. Vehicle year is the original year model, as shown on previous ownership document.
4. Vehicle style is "MHA,” "MHB" or MHC" for class A, B or C, respectively.
If a truck or bus has been converted so it may be used as a temporary or recreational dwelling, but does not have four of the six specified systems permanently installed, it is not a motor home. Vehicles of this type must be registered as a truck or bus, see Section 7, Definitions and Registration of Vehicles.
**If a bus is being converted to a motor home, it cannot be yellow, cannot have a school name on it, must have the stop bar and stop sign removed. Also per 321.124(1a), it must be registered five times as a motor truck before it can be registered as a motor home.


County Treasurer’s Manual: Conversion Distinguished from Reconstructed
When a vehicle is converted, it is not classed as a reconstructed vehicle and must be registered as outlined in the following paragraphs. Conversions include:
• truck converted to or from a bus or motor home;
• permanent conversion of a truck to a truck tractor or truck tractor to a truck;
• trailer-type vehicle converted to or from a regular trailer, semi trailer, towable recreational vehicle or mobile home.
So essentially, according to this I cannot register the bus as a Motor Home until I have registered it as a truck for 5 years. I was able to locate the County Treasurer’s Manual online and found this fee schedule which adds the words “or bus” to the 5 registration periods required before registering as a Motor Home is allowed.
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Old 09-02-2020, 02:45 PM   #2
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Wow, friggin useless red tape. Protecting the RV industry?

If this doesn't work for you just go the VT route
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Old 09-02-2020, 05:02 PM   #3
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Sounds like the county rules don't state the 5 year truck regs. The only issue you'll run into there is the yellow paint. Registering it in Vt. does not require you to notify your state at all. I'm registered in Vt., insured in Ga. No problems.
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Old 09-02-2020, 05:02 PM   #4
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I'm a little hesitant to go the Vermont route since I've started the conversation with the people at the county courthouse. I live in a small county and if I suddenly show up with a Vermont Motor home title (or transferrable registration in my case) to transfer to Iowa, they will remember me and I'm concerned that they may find another way to cause problems for me as retaliation for going around their rules.

The previous owner gave me the registration with the title and it says school bus and the yearly fee was $50 and the weight listed is 3 tons. If I register it as a truck my registration cost should be based on its empty weight plus the weight of any cargo I plan to haul in it. I stopped at a CAT scales on my way home from buying it and the weight was 23,200 lbs. Registration based on that is $305/yr. I can't figure out why his registration says what it does.
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Old 09-02-2020, 05:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o1marc View Post
Sounds like the county rules don't state the 5 year truck regs. The only issue you'll run into there is the yellow paint. Registering it in Vt. does not require you to notify your state at all. I'm registered in Vt., insured in Ga. No problems.
Sorry, the county manual cites the Iowa code section where you can find the basis for their manual. There is another place in the manual that mentions the 5 registration periods as a truck, and that section does not mention the "or bus" part. I searched the relevant Iowa motor vehicle code, using word search for the words "or bus" and did not find it. I find it hard to believe that it's there by accident, I'd like to know the reason. If they follow it that way, the only bus you couldn't register as a Motorhome is one that is 5 years old, or newer.

When the investigator emailed me and included the part where the manual (and Iowa code) says it must be registered as a truck 5 times prior to registration as a Motorhome, they showed the reference that did not mention "or bus".
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Old 09-02-2020, 05:48 PM   #6
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Register it in Vt. then "move" to Iowa and transfer your RV registration there.
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Old 09-02-2020, 05:57 PM   #7
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Yes I really think the "fearful of revenge bit" is overthinking things.

And who's to say you ever need to register it locally?

Just leave it registered in VT. If they later "force" you to register locally, they don't have any cause to then refuse you. . .
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Old 01-10-2022, 01:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkhoff View Post
The previous owner gave me the registration with the title and it says school bus and the yearly fee was $50 and the weight listed is 3 tons. If I register it as a truck my registration cost should be based on its empty weight plus the weight of any cargo I plan to haul in it. I stopped at a CAT scales on my way home from buying it and the weight was 23,200 lbs. Registration based on that is $305/yr. I can't figure out why his registration says what it does.

Did you ever get this resolved? I operate a commerical fleet in Iowa and looking into doing a skoolie for myself.

When you register a truck or bus in Iowa it's based on tonnage. They don't really check the actual weight at registration time (they may check that you're registering under the GVWR if they know it), so if the previous owner listed it as 3 tons then his fee was probably the $50. However, if he got stopped by a trooper while driving it (particularly Motor Vehicle Enforcement) and they weighed it roadside, he'd get a nasty citation for being way over his registered weight. As a commercial entity we have to register our passenger buses at their empty weight (with a full fuel tank) plus 150 lbs per 16 inches of seating space (how they define a person's weight).

So from the looks of it you have to register as a full bus for 5 years before converting to an RV or register out of state? That's pretty crappy but Iowa's registration rules overall suck... my favorites being the ridiculously high EV registration fee and the continuous registration requirement that they use to charge back fees for tags on vehicles not in use.
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Old 01-10-2022, 06:45 AM   #9
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One state cannot prevent your removing a vehicle and registering in another state.

Of course if it returns there for more than X days then you are back in their clutches.
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