Register Car in South Carolina
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If your car’s been registered in this state already, go to our Registration Renewals page.
If you have:
- Recently become a resident
- Bought a car
- Inherited or been given a car
Then you’ll need to register it for the first time.
You have 45 days after you get the car or move into the state to register it. You can apply for a 45-Day Temporary Tag when you purchase a vehicle in South Carolina, or move into the state.
Registrations are good for two years.
Liability insurance is required at registration. If you don’t want to be insured and have a spot-free driving record, you may pay $550 annually and apply to be an Uninsured Motorist, but this fee won’t cover you for any accidents.
Usually, when you buy a car from a dealer, the dealer will send in all your registration and titling paperwork for you.
But when you buy a car through private sale or some other means, you must go in and register it yourself.
To register, you’ll need:
- Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (for a new car), or title. Replace your title if you lost it.
- A Bill of Sale, if the title was issued before June 19, 1989.
- Proper identification.
- The name and address of lienholder, if applicable.
- Your insurance company name and policy number. It will be verified in a database.
- Completed registration application Form 400.
- Payment receipt for the vehicle property taxes required by your County Treasurer’s Office. Do this before you go to the DMV.
If you are still in the process of picking out your car, it’s very important to order a Vehicle History Report. In this region, there are many flood-damaged cars rebuilt and sold, to the dismay of their new owners. A report will tell your car’s past, including if it’s been flooded, salvaged, or in a major accident.
There’s a $15 titling fee. The registration fee depends on your vehicle and age.
If you bought a new car, you’ll have to pay the 5% sales tax ($300 maximum), too.
Gather all your paperwork, estimate your fees, and head to your local DMV office.
You can either transfer the plates from your old car or get new ones. Regular plates and stickers will be issued on the spot.
If you want something a little special, you can pick a customized plate. Whether you want to advertise that you’re a Clemson University alum, a golf fan, or a big-time arts supporter, you can get a license plate for that. These and many other interests are available for a fee ranging from nothing to $100.
You can also choose a vanity plate, which lets you put whatever you like on your plate (within reason).
To round out your all-custom license plate theme, pick out a frame that matches your interests. Dozens are available, from your favorite sports team to universities.
Specialized plates are mailed in about eight weeks. In the meantime, you’ll be given regular plates and stickers to use.
Stickers come with the plates when they’re issued. Follow the directions for applying your expiration stickers to your plates.
The IRS allows you to deduct the portion of the fees that are based on the value of the vehicle only. However, the state does not charge this kind of fee. If you have any questions, please consult a tax attorney.
Now that you’re all set to drive, it’s time to do a quick safety assessment. If you have small children, double check their car seats―they may not fit as well into your new vehicle. If you don’t already have a handsfree headset to use with your cell phone, get one.
Next, consider what you’ll do if you ever have a breakdown. An auto emergency kit is a good start, containing first aid items and tools like flares. A roadside assistance program that will come help you out if you’re stuck someplace is also a necessity. An after-market auto warranty is also smart, to cover major, expensive systems. And having a reliable auto mechanic to turn to before your transmission breaks is stress-relieving.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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