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If you have recently purchased a vehicle through a dealership or a private seller, you will need to apply for a car registration. All vehicles in your possession must be registered in your name to be driven legally in your state. You cannot typically apply for a new vehicle registration online or by mail. You must visit a DMV office in person to register a car. To make sure that you are fully prepared for the process, download our informative digital guide. Our guide contains everything you need to know to register your vehicle with ease. You will also learn how to replace or renew your car registration, and how to change your name or address.

2. By Mail

Some states allow residents to register cars by mail. However, these applicants must meet certain eligibility requirements, such as temporarily residing out of state or having purchased the vehicle out of state. To obtain your new car registration by mail, you will need to send your completed application and all necessary documents (such as proof of ID, a bill of sale, an insurance card, etc.) to your local DMV office. You will also need to send in a check or money order for the full payment amount. Due to mailing and processing times, delays are common with the mail-in application method. It may take several weeks for you to receive your new car registration.

3. In Person at a DMV Office

In most instances, you will be required to get your car registration in person at a local DMV office. You must submit a filled-out application, proof of your identity, evidence of the car purchase and proof of auto insurance coverage for the vehicle. Additionally, you need to provide payment for all applicable fees, such as registration fees, titling fees and state taxes. Because many car owners are not sure which forms are required or which fees must be paid, application delays are common at the DMV. Additionally, any mistakes on DMV forms will add to your potential wait time for receiving your new registration.


The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that all first-time car registration transactions in South Dakota be handled in person. This includes newly purchased vehicles, either new or used, and previously registered vehicles being transferred in from out-of-state. Auto owners with newly purchased vehicles have 45 days from the date of purchase to apply for vehicle registration documents. New residents, by contrast, have up to 90 days to transfer their existing registrations over from their previous states of residence.

DMV registration unavoidably goes hand in hand with updating vehicles’ titles. As a result, it is vital that auto owners have their documents in order and with them when they apply to register. Special rules and documentation requirements apply for owners seeking to get registration documents for recovered, rebuilt or salvaged vehicles.

South Dakota Car Registration Requirements

Deadlines for registering a car in South Dakota vary by type of registration. Owners must register newly purchased vehicles within 45 days of the sale. This applies to both new and used cars purchased from dealers or private sales.

New residents have 90 days to transfer their previously-registered vehicles into the state. Failure to register in the allotted amount of time may result in additional fees and other penalties.

To be eligible for a new car registration, owners must have:

  • Bills of sale.
  • Documentation of vehicle cost (if not included on the bills of sale).
  • Salvage, Recovered Theft, and Uniform Damage Disclosure Statements (where applicable).

To be eligible to transfer your vehicle registration from out of state, owners need:

  • Current titles.
  • Salvage, Recovered Theft, and Uniform Damage Disclosure Statements (where applicable).

All applicants must have either state or federally issued photo IDs or Social Security Numbers. Motorists registering vehicles nine or fewer years old must have vehicles’ latest odometer readings. Applicants requesting registrations on behalf of others must have properly executed Power of Attorney documents, as well.

Car Insurance Requirements for Registering a Car in South Dakota

South Dakota’s car registration requirements include a universal vehicle insurance mandate. All auto owners must hold:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage, which pays for medical expenses incurred by motorists or passengers in auto accidents wherein the policy holder is at fault.
    Minimum coverage requirement: $25,000 for one person and $50,000 for two or more people
  • Property damage liability, which pays for damages to vehicles or property caused by accidents in which the policy holder is at fault.
    Minimum coverage requirement: $25,000
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which pays for injuries received by policy holders and their passengers in accidents wherein other drivers are at fault but the liable parties cannot be identified or are uninsured. Uninsured motorist coverage does not pay for damage to policy holders’ vehicles or property.
    Minimum coverage requirement: $25,000 for one person and $50,000 for two or more people

When applying for a DMV registration, auto owners must present written evidence of their current and compliant policies from their insurers.

Vehicle Inspection/Smog Inspection/VIN Inspection Requirements in South Dakota

Applicants registering a car in South Dakota do not need to submit their vehicles for smog, safety or VIN inspections.

Registering a Vehicle in South Dakota

Motorists wondering how to register a car in South Dakota will find that the exact processes and requirements vary. Generally, dealers handle the registry of newly manufactured vehicles at the time of sale while buyers of used vehicles must register their vehicles themselves. New residents must transfer their registrations themselves, as well. In all cases, transactions must be processed in person.

Once the initial registration is complete, motorists can renew their South Dakota car registration online, in person, by mail or via dedicated DMV terminals throughout the state.

All registrations begin with an Application for Motor Vehicle Title & Registration, car registration form MV-608, which applicants must submit to their County Treasurers’ Offices, along with supporting documents and payment. South Dakota registration fees include applicable taxes and, where applicable, penalties or fines.

How to Register a New Car in South Dakota

Dealers typically provide car registration services free of charge when motorists purchase newly manufactured vehicles. In order for purchasers to begin driving their new vehicles immediately, dealers may issue buyers short-term license plates called temporary tags. These tags are valid for up to 45 days and must be surrendered when motorists receive their state-issued permanent plates. Temporary plates must be displayed in the bottom right corners of vehicles’ front windows and the bottom left corners of their rear windows.

Registering a Used Car in South Dakota

Motorists purchasing used vehicles are responsible for completing the South Dakota vehicle registration process themselves. As such, they must:

  1. Acquire a legally acceptable bill of sale from the seller. Bills of sale must be signed by both parties, clearly denote vehicles’ VIN numbers and agreed-upon sale prices and include cars’ odometer readings at the time of sale.
  2. Take possession of vehicles’ titles, where applicable. In some cases, lien holders may hold onto their titles, leaving sellers without hard copies to provide to buyers.
  3. Get a Salvage, Recovered Theft and Uniform Damage Disclosure Statement, where applicable. Buyers purchasing recovered, salvaged or damaged vehicles must collect appropriate documentation of the vehicles’ restoration processes as part of the sale before applying for a DMV registration.
  1. Complete a South Dakota Application for Motor Vehicle Title & Registration. Motorists must fully complete and sign applications before attempting to submit them.

Applicants will need state or federally-issued personal identification numbers register a car in South Dakota. Most motorists use their DMV-issued drivers licenses for this purpose. However, Social Security Numbers or federal business ID numbers (FEINs) may be used instead, if preferred.

Auto owners must submit their applications and supporting documentation to their County Treasurer’s Offices in person at any time during standard business hours. Appointments are not required. Applicants must be prepared to pay car registration fees and costs at the time of application, including South Dakota’s four percent excise tax.

Applicants may wish to contact their County Treasurer’s Offices in advance to verify their business hours and what forms of payment they accept.

How to Register a Car in South Dakota as a New Resident

A common complaint among new residents is “I do not know where to register my car in South Dakota.” Vehicle registration is handled by SD County Treasurer’s Offices. New residents with cars registered in other states can download and complete a South Dakota Application for Motor Vehicle Title & Registration form.

On the form, in Box I, check “Transfer – New – Out-of-State.” Then take your completed forms, proof of ownership and proof of identity to their County Treasurer’s Offices. If the vehicles in question were salvaged, recovered or otherwise previously damaged, owners will need to submit Salvage, Recovered Theft and Uniform Damage Disclosure Statements, as well.

Car registration cost will vary depending on the attributes of the vehicles in question, such as weight.

Vehicle Registration for Military Members in South Dakota

South Dakota car registration requirements are the same for members of the United States military as for other residents in most respects. However, qualifying service members may apply for specialty military license plates with their registrations. Customized logo plates are available to holders of:

  • Air Force or Navy Crosses.
  • Bronze, Silver or Gold Stars.
  • Distinguished Flying or Service Crosses.
  • Disabled Veterans.
  • Medals of Honor.
  • Purple Hearts.

Pearl Harbor survivors, former Prisoners of War and National Guardsmen are also eligible for special plates. Applicants must submit an Application for South Dakota Military License Plate form with their DMV registration applications to request these plates.

South Dakota License Plates

License plates will be mailed to motorists after by County Treasurer’s Offices after they register cars in South Dakota. State law requires that most vehicles display both front and rear license plates.

Non-commercial vehicles traveling fewer than 6,000 miles annually may qualify to operate with rear plates only. To maintain their eligibility for this exception, owners must submit their odometer readings each year with their registration renewals.

South Dakota Car Registration Fees

South Dakota car registration fees vary and are influenced by vehicle type, when motorists apply and what taxes they have previously paid. Standard fees include:

  • Title $10.
  • Lien notation $10.
  • Solid waste $1.
  • Highway patrol $1.
  • Mailing costs $5.
  • State excise tax – four percent of vehicles’ sale price or value.

License plate fees vary by vehicle type. Late Application Penalties go into effect 46 days from date of purchase and accumulate at the rate of $1 per week up to a maximum limit of $50.

Last updated on Monday, December 3 2018.

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