South Carolina

Title Application

Every owner of a vehicle in South Carolina for which the Department of Motor Vehicles has issued no certificate of title must apply for a certificate of title.

An application for a certificate of title for a vehicle must be made by the owner to the Department on the form it prescribes and must contain or be accompanied by: the name and residence and mailing address of the owner; (2) a description of the vehicle, including, so far as the following data exists, its make, model, year, vehicle identification number, type of body, odometer reading at the time of application, and whether the vehicle is new or used; (3) the date of acquisition by applicant, the name and address of the person from whom the vehicle was acquired, and the names and addresses of any lienholders in the order of their priority and the dates of their security agreements; (4) an odometer disclosure statement made by the transferor of the vehicle and acknowledged by the transferee; and (5) any further information or documentation the Department reasonably requires.

If the application is not for the 1st certificate of title, the last certificate of title previously issued for the vehicle must accompany it.

If the application refers to a vehicle purchased from a dealer, it must contain the name and address of any lienholder holding a security interest created or reserved at the time of the sale signed by the dealer as well as the owner, and the dealer must promptly mail or deliver the application to the Department. If the application refers to a new vehicle purchased from a dealer, the application must also be accompanied by the manufacturer’s certificate of origin.

Title Transfer of Ownership

Whenever an owner transfers his ownership in a motor vehicle, he or she must immediately notify the Department in writing of the transfer by providing the Department with the name and address of the new owner and the date of transfer.

Whenever any person purchases a vehicle which was registered in South Carolina, the person receiving the vehicle must make an application with the Department for the transfer of the vehicle within 45 days of the date of transfer.

Titles for Mobile Homes

New or used mobile homes or manufactured homes must be titled. Owners must submit the previous title or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, a $15.00 fee, and a bill of sale if the title does not have the Bill of Sale on the back.

No sales tax is required on mobile homes if it was purchased between individuals. The title fee is $15.00.

Registration Application

Every motor vehicle, trailer, and semitrailer operated on South Carolina highways must be registered.

Newly purchased vehicles must be registered with a new plate or a plate transferred from another vehicle within 45 days of purchase. All vehicles operating on the streets or highways of South Carolina must display a regular license plate or a temporary license plate. The temporary plate is only valid for 45 days from the date of purchase of the vehicle and is available at local DMV offices or county auditor’s offices. During the 45-day period, a copy of the registration for the older vehicle, the bill of sale, title, rental contract, or a copy of any of these documents must be kept in the new vehicle at all times to verify the dates of purchase to law enforcement. Temporary license plates cannot be used to test drive a vehicle or to operate a vehicle until it is sold.

Application for registration must be made on the form prescribed by the Department. Every application must contain the following: (1) the name, residence, and mailing address of the owner or business address of the owner if a firm, association, or corporation and the county, municipality, if applicable, and school district in which the applicant resides; (2) a description of the vehicle including the make, model, type of body, number of cylinders, serial number, and engine or other number of the vehicle, whether the vehicle is new or used, the date of sale by the manufacturer or dealer to the person intending to operate such a vehicle, in the event a vehicle is designed, constructed, converted, or rebuilt for the transportation of property, a statement of the load capacity for which it is to be registered; and (3) any additional information as may reasonably be required by the Department to enable it to determine whether the vehicle is lawfully entitled to registration and licensing.

In addition to the information required above, if the application is for a motor vehicle which has been transferred from a previous registrant to the applicant, the applicant must complete the odometer disclosure statement on the application.

In addition to the other registration requirements, the Department must collect a federal employer identification number or social security number when a vehicle is registered with a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of more than 26,000 lbs. or as a bus common carrier.

A signed statement must accompany the application stating that all county and municipal taxes legally due by the applicant on the vehicle being registered have been paid.

There is a 45 day grace period for late registration.

Registration for Non-Residents

A non-resident owner of a vehicle that is registered in another state has to register his or her vehicle in South Carolina when that non-resident becomes a resident or if that person has operated the vehicle in South Carolina over 45 days.

Military personnel on active duty in South Carolina may maintain out-of-state vehicle registration.

Registration Type

A vehicle must be registered every 2 years.

A person cannot renew his or her motor vehicle registration if he or she has not paid his or her property taxes.

Emissions Inspection

No statewide emissions inspections required.

Safety Inspection

No statewide periodic vehicle safety inspection requirement.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $15.00

Registration Fee: Depending on age*


Title Fee: $15.00

Registration Fee: $10.00


Plate Fee: n/a

Registration Fee: $1.00

Driver’s License Fee: $10.00

Title Fee: $15.00

Special Plates: Varies

*For persons 65 years or older or handicapped, the fee is $20.00; if age 64, the fee is $22.00; if under age 64, then $24.00.

Plate Disbursement

The Department upon registering and licensing a vehicle must issue to the owner 1 license plate. This license plate must be attached to the outside rear of the vehicle, except that on truck tractors and road tractors the license plate must be attached to the outside front of the vehicle. New replacement plates are issued every 10 years.

License plates are revalidated by stickers.

The license plate color scheme is blue, orange and white with black characters.

A disabled license plate or placard is available from DMV by completion of RG-007. $1 fee for each placard. Only one placard may be issued to each applicant.

Transfer of Plates

Whenever the owner of a registered and licensed vehicle transfers his or her ownership, he or she must immediately notify the Department in writing, giving the name and address of the new owner and the date of transfer. The license plate issued for the vehicle must remain with the prior owner. Within 30 days of the transfer, the prior owner must either apply to transfer the plates to another vehicle or return the plates to the Department. In either event, the registration card must be concurrently returned to the Department.

The Department, upon application and payment of a fee, must transfer the license plate previously assigned to an owner or lessee for 1 vehicle to another vehicle of the same general type owned or leased by the same person.

If the transferred plate is within three months of expiring, the plate should be renewed before transferring.

Driver's License Examination

The Department must examine every applicant for a driver’s license, unless the Department waives this requirement. The examination must include a test of the applicant’s eyesight (20/40 visual acuity required), his or her ability to read and understand highway signs and all South Carolina traffic laws. This test must also include an actual demonstration of the applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of the type motor vehicle for which a license is sought. The Department may require a further physical and mental examination if it considers this necessary to determine the applicant’s fitness to operate a motor vehicle. The Department must make provisions for giving an examination in the county where the applicant resides.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

South Carolina has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 15, individuals are eligible for a beginner’s permit.

  • Beginner’s permit holders may drive from 6 a.m. to midnight if a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has at least 1 year of driving experience accompanies the driver in the front seat. Beginner’s permit holders may drive from midnight to 6 a.m. if a licensed parent or guardian accompanies him or her in the front seat.
  • Permit holders must accumulate 40 hours (10 hours at night) of supervised driving.

At 15 and 6 months, drivers are eligible for a conditional/restricted license if they have: (1) passed a certified driver’s education course; (2) successfully passed a road test; and (3) satisfied the school attendance requirement.

  • Restricted license holders may drive alone during daylight hours from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time). From 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time) until midnight, the restricted license holder must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 21 years of age. Between midnight and 6 a.m., restricted license holders may drive if a licensed parent or legal guardian accompanies them.
  • Drivers may not transport more than 2 passengers under the age of 21 unless they are accompanied by a licensed adult who is at least 21 years old. Family members and fellow students being transported to and from school are exempt.

At age 16 and 6 months, drivers are eligible for an unrestricted license. Drivers applying for a full unrestricted license must have held a restricted license for 1 year and have no traffic offenses or have ever been involved in any at-fault collisions.

Driver education is required for all license applicants under age 17.

Driver's License Issuance/Application

Every application for a driver’s license or permit must: (1) be made upon the form furnished by the Department; (2) be accompanied by the proper fee and any identification required by the Department; (3) contain the full name, date of birth, sex, race, and residence address of the applicant and briefly describe the applicant; (4) state whether the applicant has been licensed as an operator or chauffeur and, if so, when and by what state or country; and (5) state whether a license or permit has been suspended or revoked or whether an application has been refused and, if so, the date of and reason for the suspension, revocation, or reason for refusal.

School attendance is a requirement for the issuance of a conditional license. The Department may not issue a license to a person unless the person has a high school diploma or certificate, or a General Education Development Certificate, or is enrolled in a public or private school which has been approved by the State Board of Education or a member school of the South Carolina Independent School’s Association, a parochial, denominational, church-related school, or other programs which are accepted by the State Board of Education. Also to obtain a conditional license a person must do the following: (1) conform to the attendance laws, regulations, and policies of the school, school district, and the State Board of Education, as applicable; and (2) the person must not be suspended or expelled from school.

The Department may issue a special restricted driver’s license to a person who is between 16 years of age and 17 years of age, who has held a beginner’s permit for 180 days and who has successfully passed the road test or other requirements the Department may require. The special restricted driver’s license allows the license holder to operate a vehicle between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time). The holder of a special restricted driver’s license may not drive between midnight and 6 a.m., unless accompanied by the holder’s licensed parent or guardian. The restrictions on a special restricted license may be modified or waived by the Department if the restricted licensee proves to the Department’s satisfaction that the restriction interferes with the license holder’s employment, opportunity for employment, or ability to attend school.

License includes a color photograph. Social security number is not displayed on license.

The following persons do not have to obtain a beginner’s/learner’s permit to operate a motor vehicle: (1) students regularly enrolled in a South Carolina high school that conducts a driver’s training course while the student is participating in the course and when accompanied by a qualified instructor of the course; and (2) a person 15 years or older enrolled in a driver training course conducted by a licensed driver training school. This person must be accompanied by an instructor of the school and can only drive the school’s automobile.

The expiration dates on non-citizens’ driver’s licenses and I.D. cards are linked to the expiration date of the person’s visa.

Driver’s License Renewal

Every license expires on the licensee’s birth date on the 8th year after the year in which the license was issued. Every license is renewable on or before its expiration date by filling out an application and the payment of the required fee.

The Department requires all applicants obtaining their initial license to take a vision test. The vision examination can be waived if the license holder submits a certificate from a person authorized by law to examine eyes. When renewing a license, certification that the vision of the person screened meets the minimum standards required by the department or have been corrected to meet these requirements if a screening is required.

The department may renew a driver’s license of a resident by mail or electronically upon payment of the required fee, if the renewal is a digitized license.

Any person licensed to drive a motor vehicle in this state who is involved in 4 accidents in any 24-month period, may, at the discretion of the Department, be required to take any portion of the driver’s license examination. Any person who has had 4 accidents and fails to submit to such test within 30 days after having been notified by the Department will have his or her driver’s license suspended until he or she takes and passes the examination.

If a person’s license expires and he is unable to renew it before its expiration date because he is on active military duty outside this State for a continuous period of at least 30 days immediately before the expiration date or because he is the spouse or dependent living for a continuous period of at least 30 days immediately before the expiration date with a person on active military duty outside this State, within 60 days after returning to this State, the person may renew his license in the manner permitted by this section as though the license had not expired. The department may require proof from the person that he qualifies for renewal of his license under this paragraph. Upon request, the person shall provide the department with a copy of his military service record, a document of his branch of military service showing the date of active military duty outside the State, or other evidence presented by the person showing the dates of service.

Any valid driver’s license issued to a person on active duty out of the state, or the person’s spouse, is effective without requirement for renewal until 90 days after the date of the person’s discharge from the service.

For cause shown, the department may require the submission by the applicant of evidence satisfactory to the department of the applicant’s mental and physical fitness to drive and his knowledge of traffic laws and regulations. If the evidence is not satisfactory to the department, the department may require an examination of the applicant as upon an original application. Parallel parking is not required as a part of the driver’s test.

The renewal license forms distributed by the department must be designed to contain a certification that the vision of the person screened meets the minimum standards required by the department or have been corrected to meet these requirements if a screening is required. The certification must be executed by the person conducting the screening. The minimum standards of the department shall not require a greater degree of vision than 20/40 corrected in one eye.

Types of Driver's Licenses

Class D vehicles are passenger vehicles and all non-commercial vehicles that do not exceed 26,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW).

Class E vehicles are non-commercial single unit vehicles that do not exceed 26,000 lbs. GVW.

Class F vehicles are non-commercial combination vehicles that exceed 26,000 lbs. GVW.

Class M vehicles are motorcycles.

Class G vehicles are mopeds.

Distracted Driving

Texting while driving is prohibited.


No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.

Impaired Driving

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). Utah’s per se limit is 0.05 BAC. All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

South Carolina requires the use of ignition interlocks for repeat and high BAC (.15 BAC or greater) impaired driving offenders only. Other first offenders have the option of using ignition interlocks.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers to reduce speed and, if safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to stationary emergency vehicles, including tow trucks and recovery vehicles.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers age 6 and older.

Violation of the seat belt law is a standard offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted for persons under age 15 unless an adult is present or when secured by passenger restraint; some other exceptions apply.

Child Passenger Safety

Children over age 8 or at least 57 inches must be restrained in a seat belt.
Children ages 4 to 8 who outgrow forward-facing child restraint must be in belt positioning booster using lap/shoulder belts. Children under age 2 must be restrained rear-facing until the child exceeds the manufacturer height/weight limit.
Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing, the driver of the vehicle must stop within 50 feet, but not less than 15 feet, from the nearest rail of the railroad and must not proceed until he or she can do so safely. The requirements apply when: (1) a clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train; (2) a crossing gate is lowered or when a flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train; (3) a railroad train approaching within approximately 1,500 feet of the highway crossing emits a signal audible from such distance and the train, by reason of its speed or nearness to the crossing, is an immediate hazard; or (4) an approaching railroad train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to the crossing.

A person must not drive any vehicle through, around, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while the gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.

The DOT and local authorities with the approval of DOT may designate particularly dangerous highway grade crossings of railroads and erect stop signs at those crossings. When such signs are erected, the driver of any vehicle must stop between 15 and 50 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad and must proceed with care.

Notwithstanding the indication of a traffic signal to proceed, a driver must not enter an intersection, a marked crosswalk, or drive onto a railroad grade crossing unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection, crosswalk, or railroad grade crossing to accommodate the vehicle the driver is operating without obstructing the passage of the other vehicles, pedestrians, or railroad trains.

When stopping as required at a railroad crossing, the driver must keep as far to the right of the highway as possible and must not form 2 lanes of traffic unless the roadway is marked for 2 or more lanes of traffic on the driver’s side of the center line of the highway.

School Buses

The driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus stopped on the highway must stop before reaching the bus if the bus’s flashing red lights are in operation, and the driver must not proceed until the bus resumes motion or the flashing red lights are no longer on.

The driver of a vehicle does not have to stop upon meeting a stopped school bus when the bus is in a passenger loading zone completely off the main travel lanes and when pedestrians are not allowed to cross the roadway, and on highways where the roadways are separated by an earth or raised concrete median.

The driver of a vehicle must stop upon meeting or passing a stopped school bus on any 2-lane highway, on any 4-lane or multi-lane highway where the opposing highway is separated only by painted lines on the roadway or a narrow gravel median, or when overtaking a school bus which has its red or amber signal lights on.

Bumper Height

It is illegal to elevate or lower passenger vehicle more than 6 inches from the original height.

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, when wipers are in use, and when visibility is less than 500 feet.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard lights may be used while driving for the purpose of warning the operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.

Tire Chains

Tire chains are permitted.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted if they do not project more than 1/16 inch when compressed.

Glass/Window Tinting

A sunscreening device must be nonreflective and may not be red, yellow, or amber in color.

A sunscreening device may be used only along the top of the windshield and may not extend downward beyond the AS1 line. If the AS1 line is not visible, no sunscreening device may be applied to the windshield.

A single sunscreening device may be installed on the sidewings or side windows, or both, located at the immediate right and left of the driver and the side windows behind the driver, or the rearmost window. The sunscreening device must be nonreflective and the combined light transmission of the sunscreening device with the factory or manufacturer-installed sunscreening material must not be less than 27%.

If a sunscreening device is used on the rearmost window, 1 right and 1 left outside rearview mirror is required.

Each vehicle equipped with an after-factory sunscreening device, whether installed by a consumer or professional, at all times must bear a certificate of compliance containing the following information: the percentage of light transmission allowed by the sunscreening device; the identity of the installer by name, address, and telephone number; and the date of installation.

These light transmittance requirements apply to windows behind the driver on pickup trucks but do not apply to windows behind the driver on other trucks, buses, trailers, mobile homes, multipurpose passenger vehicles, and recreational vehicles.

Video Screens

A person must not drive a motor vehicle equipped with any television screen which is visible to the driver while he or she is operating the motor vehicle.

Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.

Windshield Stickers

A person must not drive a motor vehicle with any sign, poster, or other non-transparent material on the front windshield which obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Any motorcycle carrying a passenger, other than in a sidecar or enclosed cab, must be equipped with footrests for that passenger.

A person must not operate a motorcycle unless it is equipped with a rearview mirror which will afford the operator ample rear vision at all times.

It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to operate or ride on a motorcycle or a moped unless he or she wears a protective helmet approved by the Department. Such a helmet must be equipped with either a neck or chin strap and be reflectorized on both sides.

It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to operate a moped or a motorcycle unless he or she wears goggles or a face shield of a type approved by the Department.

The provisions with respect to goggles and face shields do not apply to the operator of moped or a motorcycle equipped with a wind screen.

Any person who operates a motorcycle or moped must have the headlights on at all times.

Every motorcycle and every moped must have at least 1 rear reflector.

Every motorcycle and every moped must be equipped with at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps.

The headlamp or headlamps upon every motorcycle and moped may be of the single-beam or multiple-beam type and must be of sufficient intensity to reveal a person or a vehicle at a distance of at least 100 feet when the motorcycle or moped is operated at any speed less than 25 mph and at a distance of at least 200 feet when the motorcycle or moped is operated at a speed of 25 mph.

Helmets are required for riders under 21.

Motorcycle Licenses

A motorcycle vehicle examination will be provided where the knowledge and skills examination for a commercial driver’s license is offered.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

No statewide motorcycle noise limit restriction.

Mopeds & Other

A person may not ride on a moped other than on or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the moped.

A moped may not be used to carry more persons at 1 time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

It is unlawful for a person to operate a moped without: operable pedals if the moped is equipped with pedals; at least 1 rearview mirror; operable running lights; and brake lights which are operable when either brake is deployed.

The operator of a moped must have the operating lights turned on at all times while the moped is in operation on the public highways and streets of South Carolina.

It is unlawful for a person to modify or change the equipment of a moped so that the vehicle exceeds 2 brake horsepower and produces speeds in excess of 30 mph on level ground.

It is illegal for a person to operate a moped without displaying the metal identification plate, which must be attached to the vehicle.

A person under 21 may not operate or ride upon a moped without an approved protective helmet.

To ride a moped, a person must either have a valid driver’s license or a moped license.

A person must be at least 14 years old to obtain a moped license. Effective January 1, 2017, moped operators under 16 may only operate a moped during daylight hours. During night time, the operator must be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older with at least one year of driving experience, within a safe viewing distance of the operator.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: 53 feet (excluding safety equipment, energy conservation devices, loading equipment, compressors, and fuel-saving equipment on the front); trailer length: 40 feet (excluding safety equipment, energy conservation devices, loading equipment, compressors, and fuel-saving equipment on the front); motor home length: 45 feet (excluding safety equipment, energy conservation devices, loading equipment, compressors, and fuel-saving equipment on the front); width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding safety equipment, for motor homes appurtenances up to 6 inches); height: 13 feet 6 inches.

Trailer Brakes

Every combination of vehicles must be equipped with service brakes that are capable and adequate to control the movement of and to stop and hold the vehicle with any load and on any grade on which it is operated.

Every vehicle manufactured or assembled after June 7, 1949 must be equipped with brakes on all wheels except trailers and semitrailers of a gross weight less than 3,001 lbs. as long as the total weight on and including the wheels of the trailers does not exceed 40% of the gross weight of the towing vehicle when connected to the trailer.

Every motor vehicle manufactured after July 1, 1964 and used to tow a trailer or semitrailer must be equipped with a means for providing that the towing vehicle is capable of being stopped by the use of its service brakes.

Every motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer must be equipped with brakes that have a braking system arranged so that 1 control device can be used to operate all service brakes.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

Drawbar or other connection must be of sufficient strength to pull all weight towed. Drawbar or other connection must not exceed 15 feet from 1 vehicle to the other except when transporting objects which cannot readily be dismembered. When 1 vehicle is towing another vehicle and the connection consists of a chain, rope, or cable, there must be displayed upon such connection a white flag or cloth not less than 12 inches square.

Trailer Lighting

Tail, license plate, and brake lights are required. Turn signals and reflectors are also required.

Trailer Mirrors

Every motor vehicle that is constructed or loaded so that the driver’s rear view is obstructed, the driver’s position must be equipped with a rearview mirror that reflects the driver’s view of the highway for at least 200 feet.

Trailer Speed Limits

Manufactured, modular, or mobile homes must not be transported at a speed in excess of 10 miles below the maximum posted speed limit when the maximum posted speed limit is in excess of 45 mph, and never in excess of 55 mph.

A person driving a vehicle towing a house trailer must not drive faster than 45 mph.

Trailer Towing


Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailer is not permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be reported in case of death, injury, or when property damage is in excess of $1,000.00.

The deadline to report a crash is 15 days.

Liability Laws

Insurance in South Carolina is compulsory. Upon driver’s license issuance and renewal, applicants must certify that they hold required coverage.  Motor vehicle owners must certify when they register the vehicle and each year upon re-registration that they have and will maintain the required coverage. 

All motor vehicles must have liability insurance as follows: (1) $25,000 for bodily injury to 1 person in any 1 accident; (2) $50,000 for bodily injury to 2 or more persons in any 1 accident; and (3) $25,000 for injury to or destruction of the property of others.

Owners must maintain proof of financial responsibility in the motor vehicle at all times and it must be displayed upon demand by a police officer or any other person duly authorized by law.

Uninsured motorists may be eligible to apply for a $550.00Uninsured Motorist Fee that allows them to drive and operate an uninsured motor vehicle on South Carolina roads.

State has non-resident service of process law and has no guest suit law.