Car Registration in South CarolinaPage Overview
New residents and new car owners must register your vehicle(s) with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) in a timely fashion.
To assist you, below you’ll find all the information needed to obtain a South Carolina registration certificate and license plate.
NOTE: For information about special vehicle types, such as motorhomes, trailers, and custom-built cars, visit our guide to Other Vehicle Registrations.
You have 45 days to apply for a South Carolina vehicle registration certificate after moving to the state. Your registration will be good for 2 years.
Before registering, you must first pay your county’s vehicle property tax with your county auditor. Be sure to secure an original paid vehicle property tax receipt after paying. You’ll need this to register.
Once you have the receipt, you’re ready to register and title your vehicle, which can be accomplished simultaneously. For more on titling, jump over to our Title Transfer page.
The SCDMV gives you two ways to register:
- In person.
- By mail.
Register in Person
To register in person, visit your local SCDMV office with:
- A completed Application for Certificate of Title and Registration (Form 400).
- The name of your auto insurance company. The SCDMV will verify coverage electronically. Be sure to update your new address with your car insurance provider before registering.
- Paid vehicle property tax receipt.
- Payment for SC vehicle registration fees (See “South Carolina Vehicle Registration Fees” below).
Register by Mail
To register by mail, send the documents listed above, along with a check or money order, to the address posted on the Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
After buying a vehicle – new or used – you have 45 days from the purchase date to register it. Your South Carolina car registration certificate is valid for 2 years, starting with the month you initially registered it with the SCDMV.
Vehicles Purchased from a SC Dealership
When buying from a dealer, the dealership will forward your South Carolina vehicle registration documents to the SCDMV for you.
Vehicles Gifted or Purchased from a Private Party
Before registering, pay your county’s vehicle property tax with your county auditor. You will need an original paid vehicle property tax receipt when registering your vehicle.
You can apply by mail or in person. The requirements are the same for both. If you opt for mail, send required documents and check to the address listed on the Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
Otherwise, visit your local South Carolina DMV office with:
- A completed Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
- Proof of car insurance. Provide the name of your auto insurance provider, not the agent. The SCDMV will verify your information electronically.
- Paid property tax receipt.
- Payment for SC vehicle registration fees (see “South Carolina Vehicle Registration Fees” below).
If the vehicle has been gifted, you are exempt from paying sales tax on it. To qualify for this exemption, be sure to complete Section G on the Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
If you opt to register by mail, adhere to the same steps and send all required documents, along with a check or money order, to the address listed on Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400). If you’re in a hurry to obtain SC license plates, consider registering in person.
Registering a Leased Vehicle
If the vehicle you’re registering has been leased, the lessor will need to fill out Section 4 on your Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
Registering a Foreign Vehicle
If you’re a non-resident temporarily visiting South Carolina driving a foreign vehicle, you do not have to apply for South Carolina vehicle registration, provided:
- The vehicle is currently registered with your home country.
- You do not own or lease property in South Carolina.
- You do not drive the vehicle within the state for more than 150 days.
Should SC vehicle registration be required, follow the steps described in “ New to South Carolina?” above.
Depending on your situation, you may apply for a temporary registration permit, valid for 45 days.
While driving with the temporary plate, keep in the car:
- Bill of Sale or the car’s title.
- Rental contract, if applicable.
If stopped by the police, you’ll need one of these documents for date-of-purchase verification.
To transfer an existing set of license plates to your new vehicle, visit any SCDMV office with:
- The name of your car insurance company (not your insurance agent’s name). The SCDMV will use this information to electronically verify your car insurance coverage.
- The signed-over title, if it’s a used vehicle.
- A Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) if the vehicle is new.
- A completed Application for Certificate of Title/Registration (Form 400).
- Payment to cover Casual Sales Tax and SC car registration fees. (see “South Carolina Vehicle Registration Fees” below).
The state will allow you to transfer the license plate to your new vehicle on the day of purchase. Until you register this plate with your new vehicle (you have days from the purchase date), you must carry when driving:
- The bill of sale.
- The plate’s corresponding registration certificate.
Should you be stopped by law enforcement, both documents will be needed.
South Carolina Military Residents
If you’re a South Carolina resident who was disabled due to military combat, your vehicle registration fees will be waived by the SCDMV. To claim this waiver, follow the exact steps described in “ Registering a Vehicle Gifted or Purchased from a Private Party” above. In addition, you’ll also need to provide supporting documents from the Veterans Administration or your county’s Veterans Affairs officer .
Should you also qualify for a handicapped license plate, your special disabled war veteran plate will reflect your handicapped status.
Free vehicle registration also applies to SC residents who were prisoners of war (POW). This covers:
- World War I.
- World War II.
- Korean War.
- Vietnam War.
In addition to the regular vehicle registration requirements as described above, you’ll also need to provide a specific document supplied by the SCDMV. For more information, contact your local SCDMV office.
Military Residents Stationed Out of State
If you’re stationed outside of South Carolina, you may register a vehicle with the SCDMV via mail. Follow the steps described in “ Registering a Vehicle Gifted or Purchased from a Private Party” above.
Non-Resident Military Stationed in South Carolina
If you’re an out-of-state military member stationed in South Carolina, you do not have to register your vehicle with the South Carolina DMV. You may drive with your out-of-state plates provided your registration is current and you carry car insurance.
South Carolina vehicle registration fees are as follows:
- Passenger vehicles: $24.
- Vehicle owners 64 years old: $22.
- Vehicle owners 65 years old and older or disabled: $20.
- Motorcycles: $10.
- RVs: $24.
- License plate transfer: $10.
- Casual Excise Tax: 5% of the vehicle’s sales price, with a maximum amount of $300. This is a one-time fee, paid when registering your vehicle for the first time.
- NOTE: This tax is NOT REQUIRED for gifted vehicles. Make sure you fill out Section G on your registration application.
Late Vehicle Registration Fees
- 46 to 60 days: $10.
- 61 to 75 days: $25.
- 76 to 135 days: $50.
- More than 135 days: $75.
Accepted Payment Methods
South Carolina DMV offices accept:
- Credit and debit cards.
South Carolina does not mandate safety inspections or emission checks. To learn more about what you can do to help reduce car emissions, visit our Smog & Emission Checks page.
To replace your registration online through the DMV's Public Services portal, it must be in good standing with the South Carolina DMV, and you must have a valid MasterCard, VISA, or Discover credit card to pay the duplicate fee.
You’ll need to enter your license plate number, and follow the rest of the prompts within the online service.
When it comes time to register your vehicle, you’ll be given the option to choose from a variety of license plates under the following categories:
- Colleges and universities.
Want more information on South Carolina’s license plate options? Check out our License Plates & Placards page.
Replace a Lost SC License Plate
If your SC license plate is lost, stolen, or damaged to the extent that it’s unreadable, the responsibility falls on you to replace it immediately.
You can submit a replacement request online, provided it’s for the same license plate type and your current address is on file with the SCDMV. If you’ve recently moved and have not notified the SCDMV, learn what to do on our Changing Your Address page.
To use the online form, you’ll need:
- Your SC car registration certificate.
- Visa, Discover or MasterCard to cover $6 per plate replacement fee.
If you want to replace it with a different license plate type, call the SCDMV at (803) 896-5000 for assistance.Other Topics in This Section