South Carolina Auto Dealer License Guide
Applications for auto dealer licenses in South Carolina are handled by the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV).
Determine Which Type of License You Need:
- Motor Vehicle Dealer License: Sell motor vehicles retail or wholesale
- Motor Vehicle Wholesaler License: Sell vehicles to licensed motor vehicle dealers or other licensed wholesalers only
- Motorcycle Dealer License: Sell motorcycles retail or wholesale
Dealers selling used vehicles must meet the requirements for a Non-Franchise Motor Vehicle Dealer License within the motor vehicle dealer license category.
Note: There are also Travel Trailer/Camper Dealer and Motor Vehicle Wholesale Auction licenses.
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Attend a Pre-Licensing Course (Non-Franchise Motor Vehicle Dealers Only)
If you are applying for a motor vehicle dealer license, but do not intend to be an official franchisee, you are required to complete an approved 8-hour pre-licensing course. The only two providers who are authorized to teach the course are CIADA ($375) and CDT ($325).
Obtain a Permanent Business Location
Your business location must meet the following requirements:
- A permanent enclosed structure
- An office of at least 96 square feet
- A permanent sign with letters at least six inches in height (not required for wholesalers)
- Enough space to display a reasonable amount of motor vehicles
Obtain Proof of Liability Insurance
To purchase dealer plates from the SCDMV, you are required to obtain and maintain garage liability insurance. Proof of insurance must be included with your application.
Obtain a Retail License
Every individual who wishes to engage in business is required to obtain a retail license from the South Carolina Department of Revenue (DOR) prior to making any sales. When applying for a retail license, you also need to obtain a sales tax number.
Obtain a Criminal History Report
Each owner owning 10% or more of the business must submit a SLED Criminal History report (obtained through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division), which cannot be more than 90 days old. A license may be denied to anyone who has been convicted of a violation involving the acquisition or transfer of a motor vehicle title, tampering with vehicle identification numbers or markings, or disconnecting or altering a vehicle odometer.
Fill Out an Affidavit of Eligibility
You are required to be lawfully present in the United States to apply for a dealership license. You need to fill out the Affidavit of Eligibility form (AD-020-A).
Obtain Your Auto Dealer Bond
The cost of a South Carolina auto dealer bond is a small percentage of the total bond amount. The bond cost varies depending on your financial strength, e.g. personal credit. You can also take a look at our most frequently asked surety bond questions.
- Fill out our online application form to obtain a free bond quote for your auto dealer license. It takes 5 minutes and you will be able to lock your rate for the next 90 days (in case you want to purchase the bond).
All dealers must purchase a bond to get licensed. The bond must be in effect at the time of application.
Bond Amount Required:
- $30,000 for Motor Vehicle Dealer
- $15,000 for Motorcycle Dealers
Starting January 1, 2024, motor vehicle dealers must raise their surety bond amount from $30,000 to $50,000 and motorcycle dealers from $15,000 to $25,000 to maintain their licenses. Failure to increase the bond amount by this date will result in the expiry of the dealer license, prohibiting the sale of vehicles or motorcycles.
Submit Your Dealer License Application
Mail your completed application form to:
South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
Dealer Licensing and Audit Unit
Post Office Box 1498
Blythewood, SC 29016-0023
Dealer Plates: $20.00 per plate
Pass Your Business Location Inspection
After the Dealer Licensing and Audit Unit processes your application, the DMV will contact you and you are required to schedule an inspection of your place of business. The DMV agent will verify your building, sign and records.