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South Dakota License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in South Dakota

South Dakota License Plate Search: License Plate Lookup in South Dakota
November 22, 2022

South Dakota is a sparsely populated state in the Midwestern region of the United States. The state is renowned for its rolling prairies and the popular Black Hills National Forest. 


The state's motor laws provide that every motorist or vehicle owner must title their vehicle within 45 days before putting them on South Dakota highways. 

Aside from the titling requirement, they must also ensure that the vehicle they are purchasing is in good shape and not stolen. 


So, again, verifying the vehicle's history will aid you in avoiding damaged or stolen vehicles.

One way to confirm a vehicle's history is by conducting a license plate lookup. 


South Dakota license plates contain valuable details about a vehicle's past and can tell you whether or not the dealer has a legitimate right to sell. 

Continue reading to find out how to conduct a license plate lookup in South Dakota.

Overview of South Dakota License Plates

South Dakota license plates are metallic plates containing distinct alphanumeric characters assigned to vehicles following registration. 


The state of South Dakota first mandated vehicle license plates in 1905; however, it never issued the plates. 

The state started issuing plates manufactured from porcelain to vehicle owners in 1913. 


License plates issued to motorhomes, trucks, and cars feature five to seven alphanumeric character combinations, while those issued to motorcycles have only six characters. 

a man handing over car keys to another man

Spaces between license plates are counted as characters, and the state does not allow special characters, like #, @, and &. 


The distinct combination of letters and numbers on the state's license plates helps in identifying and tracking vehicles. 

Unlike in most states, the authorities responsible for issuing license plates in South Dakota are local counties. 


The county treasurer is responsible for the registration of license plates and vehicle titling. 

To register and obtain a license plate, reach out to your county treasurer and provide the required details. South Dakota is a two-plate state, meaning that vehicle owners are supplied with two plates attached to the rear and front of the vehicle at the end of the registration. 


Trailers and motorcycles are, however, allowed to bear only rear plates. 

However, the state permits individuals to drive vehicles without license plates if they have a temporary dealer's permit. Temporary permits are only valid for 45 days after the vehicle was purchased. 

South Dakota license plates are the owner's property, not the state's. 


This means an owner can transfer license plates from their old vehicle to a new one. However, this transfer must be implemented at the local county treasurer's office. 

South Dakota issues various types of license plates, including:

* Trailer license plates
* Dealer license plates
* 2016 license plates
* 2017 license plates
* Commercial license plates
* Boat license plates
* Standard license plates
* Disabled person license plates
* Organizational license plates
* Military plates, including:
   - General license plates
   - Active-duty license plates
   - Veterans' license plates
* Special plates, such as:
   - Rear plate only 
   - Dignity 
  - Indian tribal plates
  - Historic plates
  - Amateur radio 
  -  Commercial radio
  -  Construction vehicle 
  - Firefighter 
* Snowmobile license plates
* Low-speed vehicle plates
* Historic plates
* Personalized plates
* Prorate license plates
* Motorcycle and off-road vehicle license plates

a blank license plate on a car

How to Conduct a License Plate Lookup in South Dakota:

There are over 1.2 million registered vehicles in South Dakota, each bearing details provided by the owners while registering the vehicle. 


South Dakotans looking to purchase pre-owned vehicles can start with a license plate lookup. This will give them essential data about the vehicle's history and past owners. 

Specific details that can be retrieved via a license plate lookup include mileage records, vehicle safety ratings, vehicle title, accident history, vehicle recalls, driver's criminal history, and odometer readings. 

While South Dakota license plate records are publicly accessible, the state's Department of Revenue reserves the right to deny or allow certain information. This is in line with the provisions of the Driver's Privacy Protection Act. 


Some of the details restricted under the act include social security numbers, disability information, photographs of registrants, and medical information. 

To conduct a South Dakota license plate lookup, interested parties must possess two items. 


First, they need to have the full South Dakota license plate number and a valid reason for conducting their search. 


Equipped with these details, parties can undertake a license plate search through any of the following techniques:

An in-person visit to the state's Public Safety Department at the following address:

SD Public Safety Department,
118 West Capitol Avenue, 
Pierre, SD 57501

You can also visit the South Dakota Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle section online. Here is how to perform a license plate lookup on the site:

1. Navigate to the website of the SD Department of Revenue
2. Click on "online services."
3. Create a mySDcars account
4. Enter the vehicle's license plate number
5. Click on "view results."

an illustration of a car with a form next to it

For a physical application, you can also visit the Department of Revenue at:

445 East Capitol Avenue,
SD 57501

Finally, you can also retrieve vehicle details from private database firms. 


These companies collate data from government-based agencies like law enforcement agencies and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

License plate search with these companies is easier than most government-based platforms. 


However, they cost more than government platforms and may have limited information. 


Purchasing a pre-owned vehicle requires proper planning and research into the vehicle's history. 


This can be done through a license plate lookup. Residents of South Dakota can now conduct license plate lookups using any of the techniques above.

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