Selling your old car? Buying a new one? Any time a vehicle changes hands, its title must be transferred to the new owner. It's a fairly straightforward process that transfers legal ownership of a vehicle from one person or entity to another.

These two individuals or entities sign the title in the appropriate spaces and file the necessary accompanying paperwork, as well as pay any fees associated with the transfer. If you have everything you need at the start of the process, it doesn't take long at all — especially if both the buyer and seller visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) together.

Here's everything you need to know to transfer a title in the Palmetto State.

Transferring Your Title in South Carolina

The steps below outline how transferring a title works in South Carolina for a private car sale. You'll also learn the steps involved when you move to the state and need to title your car in South Carolina.

Cars parked on road, next to buildings, in South Carolina.

It's a good idea for the buyer and seller to go to the local South Carolina DMV together. This can help nip any potential problems in the bud as you attempt transferring ownership of a vehicle. This isn't mandatory, but rather a suggestion. You can exchange the vehicle title as you wish and can visit the DMV when it's most convenient for you or the other party. The following outlines what the parties (both the buyer and the seller) must complete:

  • Obtain the title for the car. If you don't have it and you're the seller, file for a duplicate title. If the seller is leasing or financing the vehicle, they must obtain lien documents and permission to sell from the lienholder. The lienholder then transfers their interest in the vehicle to the buyer's title. The seller provides a release of lien (forfeiting their interest in the vehicle upon the sale).
  • Collect all required documents. Both parties must show proof of identity, residency and current car insurance. If the original title is from on or before June 19, 1989, a Bill of Sale must also be provided. Property tax receipts for the vehicle sale are needed and the seller must present a Form 419, Notice of Motor Vehicle Sold.
  • Complete title application. Both parties provide full legal names, as well as their current addresses. Record the date the sale took place, how much the seller sold the vehicle for and both parties must sign.
  • Pay the fee(s). Title processing fee is $15 and buyers must pay the Infrastructure Fee, which amounts to five percent of the total purchase price of the vehicle, but not to exceed $500.
  • Car insurance. If you're the seller, discontinue your auto insurance coverage for the vehicle. Buyers must obtain mandatory minimum insurance before registration and road time.

Titling is only the first step in transferring ownership and responsibility of a vehicle in South Carolina. To legally have the car on South Carolina roads, you must also register the car. For more information on the registration process in the Palmetto State, see this vehicle registration information guide.

Handy Form Guide

*only if the motor vehicle does not have a prior title.

**only if the motor vehicle is one not made by a manufacturer, such as a kit car or a homemade vehicle.

***a missing title application used when the seller cannot find the original title.

Basket full of pens on a counter top next to forms.

What if You've Recently Relocated to South Carolina?

If you're moving to South Carolina or you've recently relocated here, it's important to transfer your title as soon as possible and obtain proper South Carolina registration and insurance. You only have 45 days from the date you arrive to complete registration — otherwise, you'll face fines as follows past the 45-day mark:

  • 14 days or less - $10
  • 15 to 29 days - $25
  • 30 to 89 days - $50
  • 90 days or longer - $75

The process to title an out-of-state car in South Carolina is:

  1. Provide ownership proofs
  2. Provide identification, proof of residency and car insurance card
  3. Complete Form 400
  4. Show the receipt for the taxes paid
  5. Pay title transfer and other fees
  6. Provide payment for South Carolina's Infrastructure Maintenance Fee ($250)

You can submit these items and fees through the mail to your local DMV or visit in person.

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In the market for a new ride? Use PrivateAuto to search listings, negotiate a sale, and e-sign a bill of sale as you prepare to transfer a title.