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After you buy a car and get car insurance, your next step is to get your South Carolina license plates. 

Your South Carolina license plate number consists of a unique set of characters that associate your vehicle with:

  • Your current registration status and details. 
  • Your name and address.
  • Information about the vehicle itself.  

Like the VIN number, the license plate number is another unique identifier of your vehicle. 

Whether you’re getting the standard sequential plates or custom license plates, the process is basically the same. 

And then after you’ve got your new plates you’ll need to make sure to keep them up to date and renew your car tags each year.  

We’ve compiled all the information you’ll need to make it easy to get license plates for your vehicle in South Carolina.

Looking for more information about your vehicle (or a vehicle you’re interested in)? Check out our free South Carolina license plate lookup and our VIN Decoder. 

Plus, we’ve got plenty of resources for buying and selling vehicles, get started here:

How to Get a License Plate in South Carolina

When you buy a new or used vehicle in South Carolina, you’ll first need to transfer ownership into your name.

If you’ve bought a car from a dealership, they’ll typically take care of this process for you

But, if you’ve purchased a car from a private seller, you’ll be responsible for completing the process through the DMV.  

You can apply for your new license plates in person or through the mail. You’ll need to do this within 45 days. 

Once the title is transferred into your name, you’ll be ready to register the vehicle and get your new license plates. In most cases, you’ll be able to take care of these steps all at once. 

To get new license plates in South Carolina, you’ll typically need to:

  • Provide proof of ownership for the vehicle you need plates for. 
  • Complete an application for a new South Carolina registration.
  • Complete a VIN inspection, depending on the type of vehicle and if you bought it out of state. 
  • Complete any necessary vehicle safety and emissions inspections. 
  • Provide proof of car insurance and/or have an active policy for the vehicle that meets South Carolina’s minimum insurance requirements. 
  • Have paid all necessary state, local, sales and use taxes. 
  • Pay your initial registration and license plate fees. 

In some cases, you may receive your new license plates on the spot. In other cases, your new plates will be mailed to you within about 2 to 3 weeks. 

After you’ve received your new South Carolina tags, you’ll need to install them. Learn how to remove and install license plates with this simple guide. 

Be sure to mount them properly and affix the necessary car tags to the plate. 

How much will my car tag cost in South Carolina?

The exact cost of your car tags will depend on the type of vehicle you have, the type of license plates, and where you live. 

Base fees for your car tags typically start at $40.

The total cost of your car tags will vary depending on:

  • The weight of your vehicle. 
  • The value/age of your vehicle. 
  • The type of vehicle you have (gasoline, hybrid, electric). 
  • Sale price, if applicable. 
  • Local fees and taxes. 
  • Specialty and personalized license plate fees, if applicable. 

For the most up-to-date car tag costs for your vehicle, please visit the official DMV website or refer to your renewal notice. 

Does South Carolina require a front license plate?

No, a front plate is not required in South Carolina. 

Learn more about front license plate requirements here. 

Where do you place the car tag in South Carolina?

License plate decals go on the rear plate. 

Failing to keep your plates and car tags valid, up-to-date, and properly mounted can result in a ticket. (What are car tags?)

South Carolina License Plate Renewal 

In order to continue driving legally, you’ll need to make sure that your car insurance policy is current and your car tags are renewed. 

You’ll need to renew your car tags every 2 years. 

Renewing your license plates in South Carolina is a simple process. You’ll typically have the option of renewing your plates:

  • In person. 
  • By mail. 
  • Online. 

For any  license plate renewal eligibility questions, you should refer to your renewal notice or contact the South Carolina DMV. 

To make sure you’re able to renew your South Carolina license plates, you should have the following information and items ready:

  • Your current registration card and/or license plate renewal notice. 
  • Your South Carolina registration number/license plate number. 
  • Your vehicle’s VIN. (Where to find the VIN?)
  • Your current address. 
  • Your driver’s license number. 
  • Your current car insurance policy details
  • Payment for your license plate renewal fees. 

Replace a Lost, Stolen, or Damaged License Plate in South Carolina

Remember, in order to drive legally, you’ll need to display your valid, up-to-date license plates on your vehicle. 

If your plates have been lost, stolen, or damaged, you’ll want to be sure to replace them as soon as possible. 

In the case of a stolen license plate, be sure to contact your local law enforcement office to file a police report first. Learn more about what to do if your license plate is stolen here. 

In South Carolina, you’ll typically be able to replace your license plates:

  • In person. 
  • By mail. 
  • Online. 

In order to get replacement license plates or stickers, you’ll typically need to provide:

  • Your full name, driver’s license number, and address to prove your identity
  • Your license plate number and registration details. 
  • Payment for the replacement fee. 

Types of License Plates in South Carolina

There are a variety of different types of license plates to choose from in South Carolina. 

Available plates include:

  • Standard plates. 
  • Military plates. 
  • Motorcycle Plates. 
  • Personalized plates. 
  • Antique vehicle plates. 
  • Organizational plates. 

Plate designs and affiliations include:

  • 250th Year Anniversary Revolutionary War
  • Air Force Cross
  • Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
  • Allen University
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • Amateur Radio
  • American Red Cross
  • Ancient Free Masons
  • Anderson University
  • Antique
  • Appalachian State University
  • Army Distinguished Service Cross
  • Army Distinguished Service Medal Plate
  • Auburn University
  • Autism Awareness
  • Beaufort Water Festival
  • Benedict College
  • Bob Jones University
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Boykin Spaniel Foundation
  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Bronze Star
  • Camp Sertoma
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Charleston Animal Society
  • Charleston Southern University
  • Chase Away Childhood Cancer
  • Children’s Hospital of Greenville Health System
  • Choose Life SC
  • Claflin University
  • Clemson University
  • Clemson 2016 National Football Championship
  • Clemson 2018 National Football Championship
  • Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Coastal Conservation Association
  • Coker University
  • College of Charleston
  • Columbia College
  • Connie Maxwell Children’s Ministry
  • Converse College
  • Delta Sigma Theta
  • Denmark Technical College
  • Disabled Plates
  • Disabled Veteran
  • Disabled Veteran Handicapped
  • Disabled Veteran Motorcycle
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Donate Life
  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
  • Driven By The Arts
  • Driver’s For a Cure
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Eagle Scouts of America
  • Earth Echo International
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Endangered Species
  • Erskine College
  • Farm Vehicle
  • Firefighter
  • First in Golf
  • Florida State University
  • Forestry Association of South Carolina
  • Francis Marion University
  • Fraternal Order of Police
  • Furman University
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Georgia Tech Foundation
  • Gold Star Family
  • Gone Fishing
  • Heritage Classic Foundation
  • HL Hunley
  • Homeownership:  The American Dream
  • Friends of Hunting Island State Park
  • In God We Trust
  • In Reason We Trust
  • Kappa Alpha Psi
  • Keep it Beautiful
  • Kiwanis International Foundation
  • Korean Veteran
  • Lander University
  • Limestone University
  • Lions International
  • Marine Corps League
  • Marine Distinguished Service Medal
  • Medal of Honor
  • MUSC
  • Mississippi State
  • Morris College
  • Morris Island Lighthouse
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving
  • Motorcycle
  • Motorcycle Awareness Alliance
  • Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • MUSC Children’s Hospital
  • National Guard
  • Navy Cross
  • Navy Distinguished Service Medal
  • Newberry College
  • No More Homeless Pets
  • North Carolina State University
  • North Greenville University
  • Northwestern High School
  • Nurses Foundation
  • Omega Psi Phi
  • Our Farms Our Future
  • Palmetto Cross
  • Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital
  • Parrothead
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Penn Center
  • Personalized Disabled Plate
  • Personalized License Plate
  • Phi Beta Sigma
  • Play Tennis!
  • Powering the Palmetto State
  • Presbyterian College
  • Prince Hall Masons
  • Prince Hall Order of the Eastern Star
  • Prisoner of War
  • Public Education
  • Purdue University
  • Purple Heart
  • Purple Heart Disabled Plate
  • Purple Heart Motorcycle
  • Quality Deer Management
  • Reduce Reuse Recycle
  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
  • Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Rotary International
  • SC Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
  • SC Aviation Association- Hall of Fame
  • SC Cattlemen’s Association
  • SC Chiropractic Association
  • SC Concerns of Police Survivors
  • SC Elks Foundation
  • SC Equality
  • SC Stands With Israel
  • SC State University
  • SC Troopers Association
  • Shag
  • Share the Road
  • Shriners
  • Sigma Gamma Rho
  • Silver Star
  • Sons of Confederate Veterans
  • Southern Wesleyan University
  • Special Olympics
  • Square Dance
  • Support Our Troops
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • Technology Alliance
  • The Citadel
  • The Ohio State University
  • Tree My Dog
  • Trees SC
  • Trout Unlimited INC.
  • United We Stand
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Tennessee
  • US Air Force Academy
  • US Armed Forces Retired
  • US Military Reserve
  • US Naval Academy
  • US Navy Chief Petty Officer
  • USC Association of Letterman
  • USC Baseball National Champions
  • USC 2017 Women’s Basketball National Champions
  • Veteran
  • Veteran Motorcycle
  • Veteran Wheelchair
  • Vietnam Veteran
  • Virginia Tech
  • Volunteer Firefighter
  • Voorhees College
  • West Point
  • Wildlife Deer
  • Wildlife Painted Bunting
  • Wilson High School
  • Winthrop University
  • Wofford College
  • Working for the Wild Turkey
  • World War II
  • Zeta Phi Beta

For more information about South Carolina license plates as well as official forms, fees, and details, check out the state’s website at the following link: