The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) manages vehicle titling and registrations in the state. For new residents moving to South Carolina, you must register your vehicle within 45 days of moving to the state. If you have a valid driver's license or ID, you must turn it in and apply for a South Carolina license or ID within 90 days of moving to the state.
For those moving temporarily to South Carolina, such as college students or members of the armed forces, they need not apply for a license or ID as long as they have a valid out-of-state license or ID to drive around the state.
With more and more people owning cars these days, vehicle theft is now a more major concern. In 2021, South Carolina experienced 15,680 cases of vehicle theft, a small 1.1 percent upsurge from the previous year. Even so, the financial impact of losing a vehicle is still significant. With the risk of buying a stolen vehicle, you should safeguard yourself by getting a vehicle history report from VinFreeCheck.
Where Can I Find My South Carolina Plate Number?
South Carolina only requires rear plates to be displayed. If you need to lookup your vehicle's license plates but aren't currently with your vehicle, you'll find it on your registration card or other important documents.
Acquiring a South Carolina License Plate
You'll first need to register and title your vehicle before you can get license plates. If you bought a car from a licensed dealership, they'll assist you with the titling and registration process on your behalf. Otherwise, you'll need to provide the following items to the SCDMV:
- A completed Title Application form
- For new residents, a completed Statement of Vehicle Operation in South Carolina form
- Signed vehicle title (if applicable)
- Lienholder details (if applicable)
- Odometer disclosure (if applicable)
- Infrastructure Maintenance Fee or Sales Tax, if applicable
- A signed Bill of Sale/Buyer’s Order, if applicable
- Payment of all fees and taxes
You can also mail the required items and payments to the SCDMV.
Titles and Registration
PO Box 1498
Blythewood, SC 29016-0024
Once a car is registered, you only need to renew it every two years. For license plates, you'll need to pay the "personal vehicle property taxes" in order to renew them and receive a new decal. Payment of these taxes and the associated renewal fees can be done at the county treasurer's office.
You can obtain a traceable temporary license plate while the permanent plates are being prepared; you'll need to furnish the "title, bill of sale, or lease contract from the seller of the vehicle" as well as a completed Application to Issue or Replace 45-Day Temporary Plates form.
South Carolina also uses color-coded decals placed on the lower right-hand corner of a license plate for the purposes of identifying valid registrations.
You can find additional information in the SCDMV's website.
Further information can be found in the DOT's freely accessible Motor Vehicle Registration Information manual.
What License Plates Are Available in South Carolina?
License plates follow the format of six alphanumeric characters in an "ABC 123" format.
Standard plates: These use the "While I Breathe, I Hope" license plate introduced in 2015.
Personalized plates: These plates have specific requirements in order to be mounted on a vehicle.
- The vehicle has an "empty weight of 9,000 pounds or less and a gross vehicle weight of 11,000 pounds or less"
- Limit of seven alphanumeric characters for cars and trucks (six for motorcycles and specialty plates)
- Blank spaces are considered a character
- Only the ampersand (&) special character is allowed
- Combinations can't be vulgar, insulting or offensive in nature
Antique plates: These are issued to vehicles and motorcycles that are 25 years or older, and can only be used during special events and not for "general transportation."
Veteran plates: These plates are issued to active duty and former members of the military, including disabled persons. Eligible persons may apply for plates based on the armed forces branch they served with (such as the Air Force) or if they were recipients of commendations such as the Purple Heart.
Specialty plates: These cater to people affiliated with various causes, organizations or institutions. Specialty plates available in the state include:
- Amateur radio plates
- Collegiate plates
- Organization plates (e.g., Lions International, Heritage Classic Foundation)
- Charitable cause plates (e.g., Autism Awareness, Breast Cancer Awareness)
- Conservation plates
- Patriotic plates
What Can I Find in the License Plate Lookup Report?
If you intend to buy a used car, a license plate lookup report will be an essential tool to help you find the right car. Details you'll find in it include:
Vehicle specifications: Learn about what's inside the car, from its engine to transmission type, and even its technical aspects such as its fuel capacity and more.
Market value: The estimated or actual market value of the car. You'll be able to tell if a vehicle being sold is charged above or below its actual market value.
Past owners: Find out how many persons previously owned the vehicle and the duration of ownership. It doesn't reveal any of their personal information, but does help you gauge how the car was used before they sold it to subsequent owners.
Accident records: Find out if the car was involved in any road accidents. Some cars that were in an accident may not have had extensive maintenance performed to keep it roadworthy. You should always be cautious if you see such records; get an independent check done to look for potential problems.
Flood records: Note any damage to the car caused by floods. Floods can cause certain mechanical faults that can be missed without a thorough inspection. In some cases, you might not be informed beforehand by the seller, whether by accident or otherwise.
Junk/salvage title check: If a car sustains significant damage in an accident or flood, it may be written off as a ‘total loss’ by an insurance company. This record indicates that the car may no longer be roadworthy, and that the total expenses to maintain or restore the car are far too high.
Lien records: This tells you if the car was used as collateral for a debt, or as a rental car, and so forth. A dealership (or a private seller) is legally obligated to repay any existing liens before selling the car. If they don't, you may end up becoming liable to repay the remaining amount, even if it wasn't yours in the first place.
Odometer records: Determine how far the vehicle has been driven. Odometer records can be tampered with by unscrupulous individuals to make it seem like the car was driven far less than it actually has. As odometer tampering is considered a federal offense, you should report it immediately to the relevant authorities.
Should I Really Get a License Plate Lookup Report?
The short answer is yes. You might not think you'll be a victim of motor vehicle theft until it happens to you. When that happens, your car might be taken to another state to be sold, or it might even be taken apart at a "chop shop" to be reassembled as a different, or "new," car. Consumer education is essential so that people can be aware of possible motor vehicle scams and report such occurrences to the authorities for action to be taken.
The license plate lookup report is a crucial part of consumer education, as it tells you everything you need to know about a particular vehicle. Dealerships may give customers a free report to woo them to make a purchase, but you might not know if the details in the report are accurate. You might end up acquiring a lemon vehicle plagued with constant mechanical issues, or you might find a completely different car than the one advertised.
If you're handed a report by a seller, but you have a nagging feeling that something's up, take note of the license plate number and look it up. This simple action could potentially save you a great deal of money (and your peace of mind) when you learn the car is using a cloned VIN - basically a VIN that belongs to a completely different car.
Here at VinFreeCheck, we provide you with an easy-to-use license plate lookup system to obtain updated information on a used vehicle. All data comes from reputable sources such as the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), to name a few. You only need to key in the license plate number into the field, and you'll quickly get your report in no time. It's so easy!
What's the Legality of Reverse License Plate Searches?
Rest assured that these lookups are in accordance with the law. Our services comply with the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), for one, where personal information on a vehicle's prior owners is never revealed. Our lookup system performs a reverse search that obtains the vehicle's VIN number and its associated historical records. Nothing in our report is traceable to any particular individuals.
Additionally, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows any individual the right to access to information collected by the government. As such, you have every right to perform as many license plate look-ups as needed with our handy service - plus it's FREE!
State Based Informational Guides
We have compiled a list of state specific guides for you. Feel free to check them out.