Does South Dakota Require Front License Plates?

South Dakota requires front license plates for most passenger vehicles.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Updated on Oct 25, 2022
South Dakota requires most passenger vehicles to display valid
South Dakota license plates
on the front and back of the car. 
Despite recent attempts to amend the law, South Dakota still requires most passenger cars, vans, and trucks to display license plates on both the front and rear of the vehicle. While you may not like the look of a front plate, you’ll be glad it’s there if your vehicle is stolen, as front plates make identifying stolen vehicles much easier.
To help you understand why both front and rear plates are so important in South Dakota,
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Does South Dakota require front license plates?

Yes. Most passenger vehicles registered in South Dakota are required to display both front and rear license plates.
According to
Section 32-5-98
of South Dakota codified laws, two number plates must be “conspicuously displayed, horizontally and in an upright position” on the front and rear of any vehicle being operated on public roads. Both plates should be securely fastened and all parts of the plates, including all stickers and text, must be visible at all times.
These rules apply to standard, personalized, and special plates.


Generally speaking, if you’re driving a passenger vehicle in South Dakota, you need to have two license plates affixed—one on the front and one on the rear bumper. Motorcycles are exempted from this and only require a rear plate. 
In addition to motorcycles, South Dakota residents have lobbied for—and won—the right to forego license plates on the front of special interest vehicles. So what is a special interest vehicle, you ask? We’re talking about classic, collector, or hobby cars. To qualify for this exemption, the vehicle in question must not be:
  • For general use (i.e. a car for daily driving)
  • For commercial use
  • Driven more than 7,500 miles per year (odometer readings must be provided annually)
If your vehicle meets all of these qualifications, you can
apply for a Rear Plate Only exemption

What is the penalty for driving without a front license plate in South Dakota?

Operating a motor vehicle without displaying the proper plates is not just a primary offense for which an officer can pull you over, but it’s also considered a Class 2 misdemeanor. This means, if you’re caught driving without a properly-displayed front license plate, you could be facing up to $500 in fines and up to 30 days in jail.

Which US states do not require a front license plate?

Only 31 of the nation’s 50 states require two license plates. Here’s a list of the 19 states that don’t require them:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

Why South Dakota requires a front license plate

The reason for South Dakota’s front-plate requirement became clear in a recent bid by lawmakers to do away with the requirement. Put simply, they’re imperative for vehicle identification, especially given South Dakota’s propensity for foul weather that often leaves rear plates covered in dust, ice, mud, and grime, rendering them all but unreadable. Drivers can’t be expected to stop every few miles to clean off their rear plates, so law enforcement must rely on the front plate for identification.
But it’s not just bad weather that makes front license plates important—they’re also vital in helping police identify stolen vehicles and vehicles involved in the commission of other crimes, like theft and vandalism, as well.
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Which states have the highest rate of car theft?

New Mexico
, and
are the top three states in the nation for auto theft.
South Dakota may be among the states with the lowest rates of auto theft, but that doesn’t mean all cars are safe in the state. The vehicle theft rate in South Dakota is 1.42 per 1,000 residents, but your chance of being the victim of vehicle theft will vary depending on where you are in the state. For example, the two areas with the highest rates of vehicle theft are the national parks in west South Dakota and the city of
Sioux Falls

How to find cheap car insurance in South Dakota

Thanks to comparatively low vehicle theft rates, South Dakota residents tend to enjoy lower-than-average costs for car insurance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find ways to save even more on your annual premiums. The simplest way to save is to shop for coverage with
Here’s how it works: just download the free app, answer a few quick questions, and sit back while Jerry works its magic. In under a minute, Jerry scours its network of 55 top insurance providers to find you affordable car insurance quotes in South Dakota. Just tap your top pick, and you’ll be on your way to joining the ranks of Jerry customers who save an average of over $800 a year on their insurance premiums.
blew my mind, honestly. From start to finish, using the app took me 10 minutes and I ended up with $100 of savings a month. Best of all, customer service answered all my questions about rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance.” —Savanna R.
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