South Dakota

Title Application

An application for a certificate of title must be made to the applicant’s county treasurer on a form prescribed by the Department. This application must contain all of the following: (1) a full description of the vehicle; (2) the vehicle identification number; (3)  the county in which the vehicle is to be kept; (4) the names and addresses of the holders of all liens; and (5) any other information as the Department may require. If a certificate of title has previously been issued for the motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer in this state or any state, the application must be accompanied by that certificate of title.

A person is not required to obtain a certificate of title for a moped.

Each trailer or semitrailer pulled by a non-commercial motor vehicle upon which fees were paid under the non-commercial declared gross weight fee schedule must have a license plate displayed in a conspicuous manner. The license plate is valid for the useful life of the trailer or semitrailer. However, if the title to the trailer or semitrailer is transferred, the new owner must make an application for a new identification plate within 45 days of the date of transfer.

Title Transfer of Ownership

A motor vehicle cannot be sold without delivering the purchaser or transferee a certificate of title indicating the date that the vehicle was purchased.

The certificate of title can be transferred by completing the certificate.

Once the certificate has been completed and approved by the Department, the Department must issue the owner a new certificate of title. This new certificate of title will list all of the unreleased liens, if any on the vehicle.

Titles for Mobile Homes

Any new mobile/manufactured home must, upon its purchase, be initially registered and titled. If the mobile/manufactured home is sold by a dealer, the dealer must deliver to the county treasurer the manufacturer’s statement of origin, the manufacturer’s certificate of origin or the title for the home, together with the required fees and completed forms necessary to accomplish the initial registration within 45 days of the sale.

Registration Application

Every owner of a motor vehicle, motorcycle, truck tractor, road tractor, trailer or semitrailer, or recreational vehicle or trailer, which is operated or driven on the public highways, must present to the county treasurer an application for the registration of that vehicle.

There is no period of grace for late registration.

Registration for Non-Residents

A non-resident does not have to register his or her vehicle as long as the non-resident is in compliance with the registration procedures in his or her home jurisdiction. The owner must conspicuously display his or her license plate.

A person who stays in South Dakota for more than 90 days is determined to be a resident and must register his or her vehicle in South Dakota.

Military personnel on active duty in South Dakota may maintain home state vehicle registration.

Registration Type

Annual registration of vehicles is staggered throughout the year, excluding the months of April, October, and December.

Emissions Inspection

No statewide emissions inspections required.

Safety Inspection

No statewide periodic vehicle safety inspection requirement.

Title and Registration Fees


Title Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: varies depending on vehicle’s weight.


Title Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: varies depending on motorcycle’s engine capacity.


Plate Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: n/a

Driver’s License Fee: $15.00

Title Fee: $10.00

Special Plates: $25.00/yr

Plate Disbursement

Once a vehicle has been properly registered, the county treasurer will issue the vehicle’s owner reflectorized 2 license plates to be placed on the front and rear of the vehicle. The county treasurer will mail the license plates to an applicant upon request if that applicant pays the appropriate fees. Motorcycles are only required to display one plate.

Disabled license plates available upon application to the department.

The color scheme for license plates is red, white and blue on white background.

License plates are validated by a sticker.

Transfer of Plates

Upon sale or transfer of a vehicle the plates shall remain with the owner and may be transferred to another like vehicle, upon approval by the Department.

Driver’s License Examination

The Department must examine every applicant for an operator’s license, unless the Department determines that the examination is not necessary.

The examination must include a test of the applicant’s eyesight (20/40 vision acuity is required), ability to read and understand highway signs regulating, warning, and directing traffic, and knowledge of South Dakota’s traffic laws. An actual demonstration of the applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of a motor vehicle is also required – but may be waived for an applicant who has successfully passed an actual ability test in his or her state.

The Department may require any other physical or mental examination that it deems to be appropriate.

Graduated Driver's Licensing

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

At age 14, individuals are eligible for an instruction/learner’s permit.

  • From 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. the permit holder must be accompanied by a person holding a valid operator’s license who is at least 18 years of age, that has at least 1 year of driving experience, and who is occupying the front seat beside the applicant. From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. a parent/legal guardian must accompany the permit holder.
  • South Dakota does not have requirement for supervised driving time.

At 14 years and 6 months (14 years and 3 months with approved driver education), individuals are eligible for a restricted minor’s permit/intermediate license who have: (1) held the permit for at least 6 months (3 months if successfully completed an approved driver education course); (2) passed all applicable tests; and (3) not been convicted of a traffic violation during the past 6 months.

  • A restricted minor’s permit/intermediate license holder is prohibited from driving unsupervised between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • South Dakota does not have a passenger restriction.

At age 16, drivers who have not been convicted of a traffic violation during the 6 months prior to application are eligible for an unrestricted license, after completion of the instruction permit requirements.

Driver’s License Renewal

Each operator’s license, motorcycle operator’s license, restricted minor’s permit, or motorcycle restricted minor’s permit expires on the licensee’s birthday in the 5th year following the date the license was issued, or on the same date as the expiration date on the valid documents authorizing the applicant’s presence in the United States, whichever occurs first.

Any license issued to a person under 21 expires 30 days after the person’s 21st birthday.

Each operator’s license, motorcycle operator’s license, restricted minor’s permit, or motorcycle restricted minor’s permit is renewable 180 days before its expiration, except when the licensee is turning 21 years of age.

The Department will waive the knowledge and driving tests for renewal, if the licensee applies and makes payment of the required fee within 30 days following the license expiration date.

If the licensee applies and makes payment of the required fees 31 or more days after the expiration date of the license, the licensee must take the knowledge test.

For renewal of an operator’s license, motorcycle operator’s license, restricted minor’s permit, and motorcycle restricted minor’s permit, the Department requires an eye examination.

Any person who holds a valid operator’s license, motorcycle operator’s license, or nondriver identification card may apply by mail or electronically for a replacement or updated license or identification card and a renewal once in any ten year period if the applicant:

(1) is a citizen or national or is an alien who has permanent resident status;
(2) has not had a material change in any personally identifiable information;
(3) is not applying for reinstatement after a revocation, disqualification, or cancellation;
(4) submits two forms of proof of current address; and
(5) submits a vision statement signed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist that supplies proof that the applicant has adequate eyesight, if the applicant is sixty-five years of age or older at the time of renewal.

The licenses of active duty military personnel remain valid for the length of their service outside the state and 30 days following the date on which the holder of such license is honorably separated from such service or returns to this state, unless revoked for cause as provided by law. The license is valid only when in the immediate possession of the licensee while driving; and if the licensee has been discharged, his separation papers must also be in his immediate possession. This extension does not apply to military dependents.

Types of Driver's Licenses

Class 1 – Car/Light Truck/Moped/Non-CDL Vehicles

Class 2 – Class 1 and Motorcycles

Class 3 – Motorcycles only

The holder of a valid commercial driver’s license may drive any vehicle in the class for which that license is issued, and any lesser class of vehicle, except a motorcycle. No person may drive a vehicle requiring an endorsement unless the proper corresponding endorsement appears on that person’s commercial driver’s license. A commercial driver’s license may be issued with the following classifications:

  • Class A Combination Vehicle. Any combination of commercial motor vehicles and towed vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more if the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicles being towed is in excess of 10,000 lbs. This class includes:
  • Any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; and
  • Any vehicle used in the transportation of hazardous materials that require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 C.F.R. Part 172, Subpart F, as amended through January 1, 1993.
  • Class B Heavy Straight Vehicle. Any single commercial motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 lbs. or more or any such commercial motor vehicle towing a vehicle with a gross weight rating not exceeding 10,000 lbs. This class includes:
  • Any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; and
  • Any vehicle used in the transportation of hazardous materials which require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 C.F.R. Part 172, Subpart F, as amended through January 1, 1993.
  • Class C Small Vehicle. Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that meets neither the definition of class A nor that of class B. This class includes any vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is used in the transportation of hazardous materials which require the vehicle to be placarded under 49 C.F.R. Part 172, Subpart F, as amended through January 1, 1993.

Distracted Driving

Texting while driving, accessing social networking sites, and using handheld mobile electronic device are prohibited. Instruction/learner’s permit and restricted minor’s permit/intermediate license holders are prohibited from wireless device use while driving. A secondary offense.


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 Dakota offers the use of ignition interlocks for impaired driving offenders as part of its 24/7 sobriety program.

Move Over Law

State law requires drivers to reduce speed and vacate the lane closest to official emergency vehicles, including tow trucks and wreckers.

Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all passengers age 18 and older in the front seat.

Violation of the seat belt law is a secondary offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is permitted.

Child Passenger Safety

Children under age 18 must wear a seat belt.

Children under age 5 and weighing less than 40 lbs. must be properly restrained in a child restraint system.

Violation of the child restraint law is a standard offense.

Railroad Crossing

If any person driving a motor vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing and a clearly visible or audible signal gives warning of the immediate approach of a railway train, he or she must bring the vehicle to a complete stop 15 to 50 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad. The driver must not proceed until it is safe to do so.

School Buses

The driver of a vehicle on a 2-lane highway or private road meeting, from either direction, any school bus that is flashing amber lights must reduce the speed of the vehicle to no more than 20 mph and proceed past the bus with caution.

The driver of a vehicle on meeting, from either direction, any school bus flashing red lights must stop the vehicle at no closer than 15 feet before reaching the school bus. The driver may not proceed until the flashing red lights are no longer activated.

The driver of a motor vehicle on a highway with separate roadways does not have to stop when meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway.

Bumper Height

Modification of original bumper height is permitted.

Headlight Use

Headlights must be used 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and when visibility is less than 200 feet.

Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is permitted while driving.

Tire Chains

Tire chains are permitted.

Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted October 1 to April 30. Studded tires are permitted May 1 to September 30 if retracted. School buses and municipal fire vehicles permitted to use studs anytime.

Glass/Window Tinting

The windows on a vehicle cannot be cracked, broken, shattered, or distorted to the extent that it significantly impairs the driver’s vision.

A vehicle must not have any adhesive film or glaze on the front windshield, sidewing vents, side windows on either side forward of or next to the operator’s seat which reduces the light transmission of the window below 35%.

Video Screens

A person may not drive a motor vehicle equipped with a television screen that is located in a position where the driver of the vehicle can see it.

Radar Detectors

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

Windshield Stickers

These are prohibited unless official.

Other Equipment Rules


Motorcycle Equipment

Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least 1 but no more than 2 headlamps.

All persons under the age of 18 must wear motorcycle safety helmets that are approved by the Department of Transportation.

A person riding in an enclosed cab attached to a motorcycle does not have to wear a safety helmet.

A motorcycle operator must wear an eye protective device unless the motorcycle is equipped with a windscreen of sufficient height and design that protects the motorcycle operator. When headlights are required to be on, a motorcycle operator cannot wear protective eye devices that are tinted or shaded to reduce the light transmission of the device below 35%.

Motorcycles must have at least 1 tail lamp, which when lighted emits a red light visible for a distance of 500 feet. A motorcycle may display a blue light of up to 1-inch diameter as part of the motorcycle’s rear brake light.

The motorcycle plate may be mounted in any visible manner other than upside down.

Motorcycle helmets are required for riders under 18 years of age.

Motorcycle Licenses

A person may not operate a motorcycle, except a moped, without a motor vehicle driver’s license or permit upon which a state testing officer has certified that such person is qualified to operate the motorcycle. However, the operator of a moped must have a valid motor vehicle operator’s license or permit.

The Department may waive the motorcycle testing requirements upon completion of an approved motorcycle safety course.

Any minor who has successfully completed the Department approved motorcycle safety education courses, and a driver education course of another state that the Secretary of Public Safety has determined is acceptable, can qualify for a restricted minor’s permit in 30 days.

A motorcycle restricted minor’s permit may be issued, upon application and payment of the proper fee, to a minor who is at least 14 years of age but less than 18 years of age. The applicant must have successfully passed all applicable tests and completed the requirements of an instruction permit and must have not been convicted of any traffic violation during the previous 6 months.

While driving a motorcycle during nighttime hours, the beginner’s permit, conditional license or special restricted license permittee must be accompanied by a motorcycle-licensed driver twenty-one years of age or older who has had at least one year of driving experience. The accompanying driver must occupy a seat beside him/her when operating a motor vehicle or be within a safe viewing distance.

A motorcycle restricted minor’s permit entitles the holder to operate a motorcycle during the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. if the motorcycle is being operated with the permission of the holder’s parents or guardian.

Motorcycle Noise Limits

Every motorcycle must at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise.

Mopeds & Other

Valid driver’s license required; minimum operator age is 14 for instruction permit and 14 years and 6 months (14 years and 3 months with approved driver’s education course) for restricted permit.

Helmet required under age 18.

A moped must be equipped with a single beam headlamp. The headlamp must be of sufficient intensity to a person clearly discernable at a distance of at least 100 feet.

Mopeds must have at least 1 tail lamp, which when lighted emits a red light that is visible for a distance of 250 feet.

Trailer Dimensions

Total length: not stated; trailer and motor home length: 45 feet (excluding bumpers); trailer width: 8 feet 6 inches (excluding safety equipment, for motor homes appurtenances up to 6 inches); height: 14 feet.

Trailer Brakes

Every trailer and semitrailer must be equipped with a braking system that is arranged so that 1 control device can be used to operate all of the service brakes.

Trailers, semitrailers, or pole trailers of a maximum gross weight of less than 3,000 lbs. and trailer and semitrailers not exceeding 7,000 lbs. manufactured before July 1, 1974 do not have to be equipped with brake action on all wheels provided that: the total weight on and including the wheels of the trailer or trailers does not exceed 40% of the gross weight of the towing vehicle when connected to the trailer or trailers; and (2) the combination of vehicles consisting of the towing vehicle and its total towed load is capable of complying with all performance requirements.

Trailer Hitch/Signals

Either ball hitch mounted on bumper or secured to frame is permitted; safety chain is required.

Trailer Lighting

Trailers and semitrailers manufactured before July 1, 1973 can have 1 red tail-lamp mounted on the left-hand side which emits a light from a distance of 500 feet.

Trailer Mirrors

Every motor vehicle when towing another vehicle must be equipped with a mirror located so that the driver has a rear view for a distance of at least 200 feet to the rear of the vehicle.

Trailer Speed Limits

65 mph on secondary highways except where posted. 75 mph on interstate except where posted.

Trailer Towing

In addition to the regular trailer hitch or coupling device, every trailer that is towed on the public highways at a speed of more than 20 mph must be coupled to the towing vehicle with a safety chain, chains, cables, or an equivalent device. This requirement does not apply to a semitrailer having a connecting device composed of a 5th wheel and kingpin assembly that meets the requirements of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailers is permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be immediately reported in case of death, injury, or when property damage is in excess of $1,000.00 for one person’s property or $2,000.00 for an accident.

Liability Laws

Every person who drives or owns a motor vehicle required to be registered in South Dakota shall maintain financial responsibility and must provide proof if requested by law enforcement. Proof of financial responsibility, in form of SR-22 filing, must be filed with the state following conviction for certain vehicle offenses.

All motor vehicle operators must have motor vehicle insurance in the following amounts: $25,000 for bodily injury to or the death of 1 person in any 1 accident; $50,000 for bodily injury to or the death of 2 or more persons in any 1 accident; and $25,000 for injury to or destruction of property of other in 1 accident.

State has non-resident service of process law.

State has mandatory uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage.

State has “add-on” supplemental insurance law. Sale mandatory. Purchase optional. Benefits: medical, $2,000; wage loss, $60/week (14-day waiting period, 52-week maximum); death, $10,000. General damages, no limit.