Traceable, Temporary License Plates Now Required By The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Vehicle sold on and after 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 11, 2019 that require a 45-day temporary license plate must display a traceable temporary license plate.

Governor McMaster signed Senate Bill 1083 into law in May 2018, and the full effective date is Monday, November 11.

“The General Assembly passing and Governor McMaster signing Senate Bill 1083 is a milestone for this state,” said SCDMV Executive Director Kevin Shwedo. “No longer will law enforcement officers be, essentially, blind when approaching vehicles that are only marked with a hand-written date and piece of paper. The accountability that now lies with dealers and consumers will keep more people in our state safe.”

While Governor McMaster signed the bill into law in May 2018, it was effective a year later and included a 180-day implementation period. Because of this implementation period, South Carolinians may have already started seeing traceable temporary plates on the state’s roads.

During the phase-in period, all dealerships in South Carolina were required to make any necessary changes to their computer system if they desired to issue the new traceable temporary license plate at their dealership to be ready for full issuance beginning with vehicles sold on Monday, November 11, 2019.

The SCDMV will issue traceable temporary license plates beginning Tuesday, November 12, 2019. All state offices are closed Monday, November 11 in honor of Veterans Day.

Temporary Plate Example

You’ll see an example of the new traceable, temporary plate above. On the top portion of the plate, the customer will see his or her temporary registration card. This portion tears apart from the plate portion that the dealer or customer will secure to the newly purchased vehicle. Customers should keep the registration portion in their newly purchased vehicle until their permanent registration card and metal plate arrives in the mail.

The traceable plate is underneath the temporary registration card. The plate is printed on reinforced, Teslin paper that is water resistant. There are four holes – two at the bottom, and two at the top – for dealers or customers to secure the plate onto their vehicle’s license plate well. By law, the top 50 percent of the plate is designated for dealer or company identification. In the example above, you’ll see the SCDMV logo in this space.

Underneath the logo, you’ll see an alphanumeric sequence. This sequence changes every time a vehicle is purchased in South Carolina. The numbers show the expiration date of the traceable plate, and the alpha sequence is assigned by the SCDMV. In the example above, this traceable temporary plate expired on November 11, 2019.

Because state law allows 45 days after purchase to properly register a vehicle, the public may continue to see “paper tags” with a handwritten date on South Carolina roads until December 24, 2019.

As of December 25, 2019, you should see no more non-traceable temporary tags that simply contain a date showing by which day that vehicle should be properly registered.

When buying a vehicle from a person versus a dealership or business, the person who buys the vehicle must buy a traceable temporary license plate from the SCDMV before driving the newly purchase vehicle unless the purchaser is transferring an existing license plate from a vehicle he or she already owns.
The process for a “casual sale” generally follows these steps:
  • Buyer and seller agree on a price
  • Seller signs title over to new buyer and collects payment, but buyer does not yet operate vehicle (cannot legally drive it without a plate)
  • Buyer visits an SCDMV branch to purchase a 45-day traceable temporary license plate
  • Buyer secures traceable temporary license plate to newly purchased vehicle and awaits metal plate and registration in the mail after paying property taxes
Previously, either a buyer or a seller could purchase a temporary plate from the SCDMV or county office, but under the new traceable temporary license plate process, only a buyer can purchase it after completing the vehicle purchase itself and only at the SCDMV.

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