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How to Obtain a New Car Registration in South Carolina

Obtaining new car registration in South Carolina is a required step for all motorists who want to maintain driving privileges in the state. Car registration helps state officials keep accurate records for safety and security purposes. The DMV car registration process differs slightly for current residents and those relocating from out of state. Likewise, obtaining vehicle registration differs for new and used cars. Regardless of the car’s condition, new vehicle registration is required when ownership changes. Learning how registration of vehicle details work is important to do as responsible a car owner.

When to Apply for Registration of a Vehicle in South Carolina

Drivers wondering “When should I register my car?” are informed that all motorists should get car registration in South Carolina within 45 days of their vehicle purchase, per state statutes. In addition to automobile registration, motorists should purchase any temporary or permanent vehicle license plates within the 45-day period if necessary. Drivers may not apply for car registrations until they have the vehicle’s certificate of title.


Getting car registration documentation in South Carolina is something state drivers should not neglect. Drivers must carry motor vehicle registration in their vehicles at all times in case of a traffic stop. Law officers need to compare vehicle registration papers and the operator’s driving license with DMV records to verify the identity of the driver and the legality of the vehicle. Driving without car registration may result in fines for the motorist.

How to Get Car Registration in South Carolina

South Carolina car registration is essential for all drivers. The vehicle registration process is slightly different for new residents and used car purchases. Typically, vehicle registration of a new car is a quick and simple process for the purchaser. The dealership submits the registration of a vehicle purchased from it, freeing South Carolina drivers from the responsibility of registration application. Drivers may receive vehicle registration and car license plates during the purchase, depending on the dealer’s protocols, and only need to focus on registration renewal at a later date. The South Carolina DMV does not offer new car registration online, but the DMV does offer an online resource so drivers may print forms and receive a checklist of items to submit to complete car registration. Drivers may also exchange their license plates for a new design, if desired. Motorists with a current and valid auto registration may also exchange their vehicle license plates online. Drivers must update their address with the DMV before requesting a plate exchange, if necessary.

New Residents

South Carolina car registration for new residents must take place after obtaining a state driving license. Before submitting a car registration and title transfer application, new South Carolina drivers must pay property taxes with their county treasury office. Once that step is complete, the new resident may transfer his or her vehicle registration and certificate of title to reflect his or her new South Carolina address. To register a car in South Carolina, drivers should complete a registration and title application from the DMV and provide the following information to their local office:

  • The car registration, title and lien company information from the previous state
  • Valid form of identification like a driver license or passport
  • Insurance policy with the driver’s new address
  • The original property tax receipt for the vehicle
  • Payments for registration and additional fees

New residents must submit the above vehicle registration documentation in person to their local DMV office.

For those drivers without a South Carolina drivers license wondering, “What is the process for registering my car?” they are informed that there is a process specifically for such scenarios. Those residents without a South Carolina license in need of car registration include: students from out of the state, military personnel and residents without licenses for medical conditions. These residents must fill out a Statement of Vehicle Operation form and provide documentation to prove their residency status.

Used Car Purchases

South Carolina auto registration for used cars have a different process than new car registration. Buyers must provide the following items:

  • A filled-out title and vehicle registration application
  • The title signed over to the buyer
  • A property tax receipt from the buyer’s county of residence
  • Registration and title fees.

The buyer may submit this car registration documentation in person to a local DMV office or by mail to the DMV’s P.O. box.

In addition to a vehicle registration application, drivers will need to transfer the certificate of title during a used car purchase. Current South Carolina drivers may begin the title transfer procedure through the DMV’s online portal and print out the appropriate title application and required documentation checklist. From there, motorists must submit the paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person or through mail to the DMV P.O. box.