Titling Motor Vehicles

A Guide for Buyers and Sellers

Over 1.2 million vehicles are officially registered in South Dakota, all of which are identified by a legal document called a vehicle title. While the main purpose of a title is to establish who owns the vehicle, titles also provide vehicle information like make, model year, weight and the vehicle identification number (VIN).

As vehicles are bought and sold, the title becomes the legal documentation of each change in ownership. Both the buyer and the seller must follow specific procedures to ensure the title is properly transferred from one owner to the next.

Both buyers and sellers need to be aware of their roles and responsibilities in the titling process. Five distinct buying and selling transactions are used to illustrate possible titling scenarios. A basic checklist of documents that a vehicle owner will need to present to their county treasurer when transferring a vehicle title is also included.

NOTE: If you have already paid tax on the vehicle to another state, and that tax is equal to or greater than South Dakota’s 4% excise tax, you will owe no tax. If the tax already paid is less than South Dakota’s, you will receive credit for the tax previously paid and will be assessed tax up to the 4%. Further proof that you paid the tax, other than the title in your name, may be required. If sufficient proof of previous tax paid by the applicant cannot be furnished, the county treasurer will collect the 4% motor vehicle excise tax on the retail value of the motor vehicle listed in the National Automobile Dealers' Used Car Guide (NADA).

For more information
For more information about titling procedures or buying and selling vehicles in South Dakota, contact your local county treasurer’s office or the Division of Motor Vehicles in Pierre. If you do not receive your title from the seller within 45 days from date of purchase, you should file a written complaint along with a copy of your purchase agreement to: Division of Motor Vehicles, 445 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, SD 57501 or at the division’s website.

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