Charleston Local Government


Perhaps the biggest pain of relocating to Charleston -- or anywhere for that matter -- is transferring your vehicle tags, obtaining a SC driver's license, changing your primary address, and paying your property taxes. Thankfully, you can use your legal, out-of-state driver’s license for 90 days, and you can keep your former vehicle tag for 45 ndays. After this time period expires, you’ll need to surrender your old license tag and obtain a South Carolina one.

Fortunately, the Tri-county offers several DMV office locations, all of which distribute drivers’ licenses; however, keep in mind that not all DMV offices process tags and vehicle registration. As an example, residents of Daniel Island (Berkeley County) get to enjoy the scenic drive out to Monks Corner to register their vehicles and purchase license tags. Then, they’ll need to travel to a separate DMV office to obtain their driver’s license. By contrast, Charleston County residents are able to complete both tasks simultaneously at most locations. Follow the steps below to ensure a smooth, single DMV visit:

Step 1: Gather all the necessary paperwork

Place the appropriate paperwork in a folder so that you can easily access the documents when asked. You will need the following documents to get your license:

·         Proof of citizenship (birth certificate)

·         Social security card

·         Current driver’s license or identification card

·         Car insurance card

·         Marriage certificate (if your name has legally changed)

·         Proof of residency

If applicable, don’t forget to bring your eyeglasses or to wear contacts for the eye exam. For a complete list of acceptable forms of identification, visit

For tags and registration, you will need to show the following forms:

·         Current driver’s license

·         Vehicle registration

·         Current insurance card with policy number

·         Certificate of car title

Additionally, you will want to bring check or cash for payment as some offices do not accept payment by credit card or debit card. The offices that do accept payment by card will charge an additional transaction fee, typically 2-3% of the total tax bill.

Step 2: Check office hours and locations

In Charleston and Berkeley County, the DMV offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays, the offices are open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. A few select offices have Saturday hours on a limited basis.  Determine the office closest to your residence and be sure that it offers the services you need. As previously mentioned, residents of Daniel Island (Berkeley County) can obtain their driver’s licenses from any DMV office, but they must go to the Monks Corner Municipality to register their vehicle and get their tags. As such, it is more efficient for Berkeley County residents to complete their vehicle and tag registration first and then use the Monks Corner DMV location.

Step 3: Arrive early

The line outside the DMV starts forming prior to 8:30 a.m. If you arrive around 8:15 a.m., you will secure a good spot in the line and thus a quick turnaround. If you are unable to make a morning run, check the website for wait times. Many of the offices will post an approximate wait time, which is especially helpful for a last minute decision to visit the agency.

Step 4: Know where to go

Technically, you can get your license first and then see the auditor and treasurer. However, then you will be back in the DMV line to get your tags. The best strategy is to see the auditor first so that he or she can assess your vehicle taxes and process your registration. Again, you will need your driver license, proof of car insurance, registration, and certificate of title. After the auditor determines your bill, you need to scoot over to the treasurer’s office to pay. Remember, cash or check is preferable; otherwise, you will have to pay a credit card transaction fee. Some offices do not accept cards at all, so if you do not have cash or check, you will have to find a nearby bank and then wait in line all over again. After payment is received, then you can check in with the admission receptionist at the DMV. Explain the reason for your visit, and he or she will give you a ticket and an application to complete. You can print the form beforehand online and complete at home, but you will have plenty of time to do it while waiting.

Step 5: Be patient

Speaking of waiting…. While no one enjoys visiting the DMV, recognize the staff is doing their very best. Government workers are often over-worked and underpaid; keep this in mind as you wait. Kindness goes a long way! Remember the state motto is “While I breathe, I hope.” Take deep breaths and hope the line moves quickly. Once your picture is taken and the card is created, you will be on your way with a fancy South Carolina license, registration, and tag.   

Property Taxes

If South Carolina is your primary home, you can apply for a special, reduced property tax rate. In Berkeley County, homeowners pay approximately 4% each year in property taxes. If the property is a secondary residence or acreage, then owners will be assessed 6% each year.

Home Insurance

Per South Carolina law, homeowners must have a home insurance policy. Finding the right policy and carrier can be a daunting task. The South Carolina Department of Insurance recommends shopping around to compare rates and coverage. For homes in designated flood zones, an additional flood insurance policy is required. Furthermore, because real estate in the Lowcountry is near the coastline, NV Realty Group recommends hurricane and wind insurance as well. Some home policies may cover all of these components thus condensing the paperwork and payment processes. Often your real estate agent and attorney can assist you with homeowner’s insurance as it is required before closing.

More information:
Honest Real Estate Agents Home Checklist

On behalf of NV Realty Group and the Nicklaus family, welcome to South Carolina. You are going to love it here. If our company can further assist you in the relocation process, please do not hesitate to contact our office.