Aerial view of Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina Car Registration Tips

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June 19, 2021

The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, headquartered in the city of Blythewood, handles vehicle registrations for new and existing residents of the state. 

Car registration requirements in South Carolina 

Anyone who moves to South Carolina and owns a vehicle must register their car within 45 days of moving to the state. Registration will include transferring the car's title to South Carolina as well as registering it.

According to the official DMV website in South Carolina, temporary residents do not need to transfer their vehicle's title, but they do need to have a valid driver's license from whatever state they call home.

New residents who want to register their vehicle in South Carolina will need to obtain a driver's license in the state and bring a variety of documents with them when they visit a DMV office. Those documents include:

  • Completed title application (South Carolina DMV Form 400)
  • Original vehicle title and registration from the resident's previous state
  • Valid identification such as a driver's license
  • Proof of liability insurance in South Carolina
  • An original property tax receipt

Some applicants may need to provide a Power of Attorney if they're leasing a vehicle and the title application is signed by a different person than the one who is actively registering the vehicle in South Carolina. 

New registrations and titles also require a one-time $250.00 infrastructure maintenance fee, as well as the standard title and registration fees associated with vehicles titled in South Carolina.

How much does it cost to register a vehicle in South Carolina?

There are a variety of fees associated with registering a vehicle in South Carolina, and most fees are based on what type of vehicle is being registered. 

For most drivers of passenger cars, the registration fee is $40. Getting a new title in South Carolina is an additional $15. Other rates are based on the age of the vehicle owner, as well as the type of vehicle being registered.

  • Individuals who are 64 years old pay a slightly reduced rate of $38.00 for their vehicle registration. Anyone who is 65 years old or older pays a registration fee of $36.00.
  • Motorcycles and moped owners pay $10. 
  • Permanent trailer plates are $87. 
  • RVs are $40 to register
  • Camper trailers are $10 to register. 
  • Trailers that weigh more than 2,500 pounds when empty cost $20 to register

How to renew your car registration in South Carolina

Completing registration renewals in South Carolina require that residents have paid their vehicle property taxes on time and that they have maintained active car insurance on their vehicle. The state accepts VISA, Discover, and MasterCard as payment for registration renewals. Residents are advised that they should update their address if necessary with the DMV at the time of registration.

Does South Carolina charge late fees for car registration?

The cost of a late vehicle registration for new residents of South Carolina varies from $10 to $75. The monetary penalties for late registration renewal are similar.

Specialty license plates in South Carolina

South Carolina introduces new standard plates on occasion, and those plates usually feature special colors, a design that is reminiscent of the state, or a popular historical phrase. The state also offers personalized license plates to residents as long as the vehicle being registered has a GVWR of 11,000 pounds or less and all other fees and registration taxes have been paid.

The state has a limit of seven characters for personalized license plates on cars and trucks. The character limit for motorcycles and some specialty personalized plates is six. Personalized plates may contain numbers and letters, and blank spaces are counted as characters.

Residents may use the ampersand as one of their characters when they personalize a plate for a car or truck, but motorcycle plates cannot feature an ampersand. All personalized plates must be approved by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

Electric vehicle registration in South Carolina

Own an electric vehicle? You’ll still have to register your car, but the cost will be different than if you had a gas-powered vehicle. 

Like many states, South Carolina taxes its residents when they pay for gas, and those fees help pay for building and maintaining roads around the state. Electric vehicle owners don't buy gas, which means they don't pay taxes on their gas consumption.

To account for the loss in revenue, the state charges electric vehicle owners an additional $120 per vehicle for registration, which is in addition to the standard passenger car charge of $40. Drivers of hybrid vehicles pay an additional $60 plus their $40 vehicle registration fee.

Saving money for drivers

Make your ride as affordable as possible, whether you drive an EV or a traditional vehicle, by doing some comparison shopping for car insurance in South Carolina. You might be surprised at how much you can save on your car insurance when you compare rates with different companies.

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