South Dakota License Plates

Whether you’re representing your tribe or supporting a local non-profit, you have numerous license plate options in South Dakota.
Written by Shannon Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
In South Dakota, your options to customize your license plates are numerous. Whether you want to represent your Native tribe or support your favorite non-profit, the numbers and letters tagging your vehicle can hold quite a lot of personal flair. 
vehicle registration
, most of us leave the license plate assigning and designing to the DMV powers-that-be. But for a little extra money and time, you can actually spruce up your vehicle’s id tags with emblems, quotes, and colors that hold significance to you—and sometimes even certain privileges. 
Here is your guide to your license plate customization options in South Dakota. From where to get your plates to what types of plates you can choose from, we’ll get you on your way to that stand-out (or subtle) SD license plate of your dreams!   
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What are South Dakota license plates and why do I need them?

License plates are primarily used as a means of identifying to whom a vehicle is registered. This is particularly important when law enforcement is searching for a stolen vehicle or when fellow highway drivers need to report a reckless driver. 
In South Dakota, the first one to two numbers appearing on a standard license plate encode what county the driver is from. It’s therefore a fun game for passengers to tally which counties are surrounding them on the road at different times and days of the week. 
To decode South Dakota’s license plate county numbers, just remember that numbers 1 through 9 are ordered by population size in 1987 (originally 1956), 10 through 64 are ordered alphabetically, and 65 through 67 are Shannon, Washabaugh, and Todd counties respectively. 
You are required by law to have a front and back license plate in South Dakota—so let’s take a look at your options! 

What license plates does South Dakota have?

When choosing the right South Dakota license plate for you, your options generally fall into three categories: 
  • Standard plates
    —“Default” license plates the South Dakota DMV assigns, featuring Mt. Rushmore as a backdrop
  • Special interest emblem plates
    —Features nonprofit organization decals with proceeds going toward special causes
  • Specialty plates
    —Distinct from the standard South Dakota license plate by either design or size (ie; motorcycle plates), but generally don’t profit any cause or organization

Standard license plates

  • Beige “Great faces. Great places.”—This is the design you’ll most commonly encounter on the road. Revamped in 2016, the previous “great faces” design was modified to feature Mt. Rushmore in beige with both the “South Dakota” and “great faces” banners changing from red to dark blue. 
  • White “Great faces. Great places.”—Introduced in 2006, the “great faces” new license plate design featured a Mt. Rushmore backdrop in white and was actually awarded Plate of the Year by the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association. 
  • Red, white, and blue—Between 2000 and 2005, the South Dakota standard license plate featured the state name in white across a red banner with a much smaller Mt. Rushmore outline as a bottom banner. 

Special interest emblem license plates

South Dakota’s special interest emblem license plates come from approved nonprofit organizations. To qualify, they must have more than 200 members (or donors or volunteers) and be registered with the Secretary of State. 
Members or supporters of these organizations or causes can then purchase the emblems as a decal for their license plate to help raise additional funds. 
Here are a few examples of nonprofit organization license plate decals you can buy: 
To order one of these decals, South Dakota’s Department of Revenue (DOR) instructs drivers to contact the organizations directly—you can find all of their contact information
on the DOR website
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Specialty license plates

To apply for a specialty license plate, mail a completed
Application for Special License Plates
and fee to the enclosed address or submit it to a county treasurer’s office. You may also need to provide proof of South Dakota residency. 
Here are the specialty license plates offered: 
  • Dignity sculpture
    This plate features an image of the Dignity sculpture near
    for an initial fee of $10.  
  • Tribal
    —Residents of local Indigenous tribes can obtain plate designs that display their tribe name and emblem for a $10 initial fee. 
  • Personalized
    —Any vehicle owner who lives in South Dakota can apply for a custom license plate tag consisting of one to seven characters for an annual cost of $25. 
  • Military
    —Current military members and veterans with an active South Dakota license or ID can receive plates designating their branch or awards. To apply, you will need a copy of your DD214 form and award certificate (if necessary). The initial cost is $10. 
  • Historical
    —Owners of vehicles 30 years or older may apply to use license plates manufactured in the model year for a $10 one-time fee.
  • Disabled Parking
    —This plate is marked with the International Symbol of Accessibility, allowing those with “substantial” mobility impairment to park in designated closer spaces. To apply, you will need to submit
    (validated by a physician) to the county treasurer. Disabled veterans can purchase a similar plate for $10 designating their veteran status as well by submitting
  • Occupational
    —Firefighters, EMTs, and amateur radio operators (licensed by the FCC) can each receive plates designed for their profession for a $10 initial fee.  
  • Rear Plate Only
    —Cars that are driven no more than 7,500 miles per year can qualify to display a specially-designed “rear plate only” license plate. You’ll need a current odometer reading and a $25 annual fee.
Note that if you wish to have your specialty license plates mailed to you, there may be a $1 to $5 mailing fee
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How do I get a South Dakota license plate?

To get your South Dakota license plates, all you need to do is register your vehicle. If you purchased your car from a dealership, this is typically taken care of for you. 
For those that purchased their vehicle from a private sale or transfer of ownership, you can register your vehicle yourself at the nearest South Dakota
county treasurer’s office
. You will need to bring the following: 
If you’ve already registered your vehicle and you’d like to refresh your ride with some snazzy new custom plates, you can apply to do so at any time. In the interim, you will likely continue using your standard South Dakota license plates until your specialty plates arrive. 

How to customize your car insurance savings in South Dakota 

Now that you’ve got the plates to express yourself as you drive, you can keep yourself protected with car insurance customized to your needs (and budget!).
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South Dakota offers approximately 142 different license plate options for its resident drivers.
Yes—to drive legally in South Dakota, you will need to have both a front and a back license plate.
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