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South Dakota ranks fifth in the nation for the lowest number of licensed drivers, coming in at just over 638,000. Accordingly, the state’s driving and car insurance laws are relatively lax, with no inspection requirement for regular vehicles, no seat belt requirement for those in the back seat, and no ban on handheld electronic devices for most drivers.
However, that doesn’t mean South Dakota is a lawless land, especially when it comes to car insurance. Here’s what you need to know, whether you’re a new driver or just new to the Mount Rushmore state.
South Dakota’s minimum coverage may not be enough if you cause an accident or are a victim of car theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. We recommend getting full coverage insurance in addition to the required liability insurance. Read on to see the difference.
|Claim type||Full coverage||Liability coverage|
|Damage to the other car||Included||Included|
|Injury to passengers in the other car||Included||Included|
|Damage to your car||Included||Not included|
|Your injuries||Included||Not included|
|Your passenger’s injuries||Included||Not included|
Liability coverage only reimburses the other party’s losses in accidents you caused. To get your own losses covered, you’ll need collision insurance. You’ll also need comprehensive coverage to pay for your damages from anything that’s not a collision, like the aforementioned vandalism.
Additionally, we recommend medical payments coverage to pay for you and your passengers’ medical bills, even if you already have health insurance. When it comes to insurance, redundancy is key.
The limit for collision and comprehensive coverage is your car’s actual market value (AMV); in other words, what you would get if you sold it tomorrow. We also recommend liability limits on your liability and uninsured motorist coverage that are as high as you can afford, up to $500,000 if you have a high net worth.
Car insurance in South Dakota is the fifth cheapest in the nation, averaging only $739 annually. That average insurance price is 29 percent lower than the rest of the country. In 2020, the last time the National Association of Insurance Commissions published national data, liability insurance in the state cost an average of $325, while collision coverage cost an average of $246 and comprehensive coverage cost an average of $353.
Keep in mind that minimum coverage is always the cheapest option, although you may have to pay more for a covered claim with low car insurance rates. Instead of getting the cheapest car insurance that meets the minimum insurance requirements, consider spending more on South Dakota car insurance to save more later.
If you have the required car insurance but can’t prove it, do you really have it at all? To law enforcement, the answer is no. If you’re caught driving without insurance in South Dakota, you could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor and face the following penalties.
Proof of insurance can be either paper or electronic.
South Dakota’s at-fault insurance system means the person who caused an accident is responsible for the other party’s property damages and bodily injuries, as well as their own. Regarding negligence laws, the state is unique with slight-gross comparative negligence. That means the plaintiff, or the accident victim, can only recover money if they displayed “slight” negligence and the defendant displayed “gross” negligence.
However, the state legislature does not define these two thresholds in terms of percentages, so it’s up to the judge’s discretion to determine compensation, if any.
Since South Dakota requires uninsured motorist coverage (UM), you’ll be happy to find out UM includes coverage for hit-and-runs — when someone hits your car and leaves without leaving their information. However, you can’t stack coverage limits if you have multiple cars, unlike in some other states.
Only 7 percent of South Dakota’s drivers are uninsured, which is 69 percent less than the national average. All in all, that’s about 50,000 people driving without insurance.
|Offense number||Crime classification||How long driving privileges are revoked||Requirements for restricted driving for employment, 24/7 sobriety testing, or school or counseling program attendance||Imprisonment term||Other requirements|
|1||Class 1 misdemeanor||30 days to 1 year||SR-22||None||Addiction counselor evaluation if you had a BAC 0.17% or higher|
|2||Class 1 misdemeanor||1 year minimum||SR-22||3 days minimum||None|
|3||Class 6 felony||1 year minimum||SR-22 and completion of a court-approved chemical dependency counseling program||2 years maximum||None|
|4||Class 5 felony||2 years minimum||SR-22 and completion of a court-approved chemical dependency counseling program||5 years maximum2||None|
|5 and up||Class 4 felony||3 years minimum||SR-22 and completion of a court-approved chemical dependency counseling program||10 years maximum3||None|
In South Dakota, people 18 and older are required to wear seat belts in the front seat only. Seat belts aren’t required at all in the back seat, nor are they required for those under 18 in any seat. On top of that, the seat belt requirement is under secondary enforcement. That means, for law officers to issue a ticket for a seat belt violation, another violation would have to occur.
The state has similarly lax distracted driving laws.
|Unrestricted licenses||Learner’s permits or intermediate licenses|
|Allowed to text and drive?||No; under primary enforcement||No; under secondary enforcement|
|Allowed to use electronic devices for actions other than texting?||Yes; handheld and hands-free||No; under secondary enforcement except for those over 18 with intermediate licenses|
The fine for texting and driving in South Dakota is $100.
|Restriction||Learner’s permit||Intermediate license||Unrestricted license|
|Minimum age for learner’s permit||14||14.75||16|
|Curfew||10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless a licensed parent/guardian 18 or older is in the front seat||10 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless a licensed parent/guardian 18 or older is in the front seat||None|
|Supervision||If under 18: Parent/guardian or another licensed adult with 1 year of driving experience in front seat
If over 18: Any licensed adult with at least 1 year of driving experience in front seat
|Licensed adult at least 21 years old during curfew hours||None|
|Passengers||First 6 months of permit: No passengers outside of immediate family/household
After 6 months: 1 passenger outside of immediate family/household
|First 6 months of permit: No passengers outside of immediate family/household
After 6 months: 1 passenger who’s not part of your household
|Electronic devices||Can’t use any wireless communication devices while driving||If under 18: Can’t use handheld wireless communication devices||None4|
You have six years to file property damage claims and three years to file personal injury claims following a car accident — that is, if you want insurance coverage. While technically you can file claims after this statute of limitations, your insurance company isn’t obligated to cover you under your policy’s terms at that point.
Can an insurance company cancel your insurance at any time? The answer is yes, and for any reason during the first 60 days of your policy. After the first 60 days, an insurer can only cancel your policy due to nonpayment, fraud, misrepresentation, or a revoked or suspended license. That said, the company must notify you that your coverage is ending 20 days prior to the expiration date.
Non-renewals aren’t as highly regulated, as they just entail a company not renewing a policy at the end of its term. Still, the insurer must give you 60 days’ notice before your coverage ends.
While all states allow some form of self-insurance, the majority require that you own a minimum amount of vehicles, usually 25. South Dakota doesn’t have a minimum vehicle requirement, but it does require that you put down $175,000 in collateral instead5. If you don’t have this money lying around, the personal auto insurance route is best for you.
South Dakota doesn’t require regular safety or emissions inspections for the majority of cars, unlike most states. It only requires inspections for rebuilt or salvaged vehicles. You’ll need to repair your salvage vehicle to get car insurance, but an inspection is the first step.
|Sioux Falls Inspection Station||Pierre Inspection
|Rapid City Inspection Station|
|Address||300 S. Sycamore Ave., Suite 102
Sioux Falls, SD 57110
|445 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501-3185
|1520 Haines Ave., Suite 3
Rapid City, SD 57701
|When inspections take place||First Wednesday of every month||Second Wednesday of every month||Third Wednesday of every month|
If you are convicted of certain crimes, the minimum coverage isn’t enough. You’ll also need to file an SR-22, a certificate proving minimum insurance, with your insurance company. SR-22s are required when your license has been suspended or revoked for being convicted of any of these offenses:
You’ll need to maintain the SR-22 for three years following the date your license is reinstated. Expect higher auto insurance premiums when you have an SR-22, as it means you’re classified as a high-risk driver.
You may have heard the term “defensive driving” before, but what does it really mean?
Defensive driving is a method of avoiding hazards on the road. It includes practices like leaving enough space between you and the car in front of you and avoiding aggression. In South Dakota, defensive driving courses are four to eight hours long. Find a course near you at https://www.nsc.org/safety-training/defensive-driving/courses/online.
In South Dakota, there’s no dollar minimum to sue for compensation in a civil trial. Similarly, there’s no severity of injuries threshold you’ll have to meet. Your negligence must be slight to receive compensation, but the state imposes no monetary or serious injury threshold for civil suits.
Do you need a police report for an insurance claim? Not necessarily, although it will bolster your case. However, you must report an accident to the police immediately if it involves any of the following:
If you don’t report an accident that meets these conditions immediately, you could be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which has a penalty of a $500 fine, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
Certain states ban insurance companies from determining car insurance premiums based on credit scores and gender. However, South Dakota is not one of those states. If you have poor credit and/or are male, expect to pay higher premiums than your counterparts with good credit and/or who are female.
Not all cars are worth repairing. In South Dakota, a car is declared a total loss under these conditions:
If you’ve purchased a new car, you must register it with the South Dakota Department of Revenue within 45 days of your purchase date. You have a few registration methods to choose from.
|Registering in person||Registering by mail||Registering online||Registering at Now License Renewal Kiosk|
|Contact information||County treasurer’s office: https://dor.sd.gov/government/county-treasurers/contact-county-treasurers/||State of South Dakota Motor Vehicle Division
445 E. Capitol Ave.
Pierre, SD 57501
|Documents you’ll need||Signed Application for Motor Vehicle Title & Registration: https://sddor.seamlessdocs.com/f/1001||
|Accepted payment methods||N/A||
||N/A||Credit/debit card from Discover, Mastercard, or Visa|
Expect to pay about $376.53 for car repairs in South Dakota, a rate 2 percent lower than the rest of the country. Most of that cost will go to parts ($222.91), while some will go to labor ($153.62).
Despite its relatively small population, South Dakota’s car theft rates are 5 percent higher than the U.S. average. In 2020, there were 259 car thefts per 100,000 residents, according to FBI data. The rates in cities like Rapid City and Sioux Falls were even higher, based on National Insurance Crime Bureau data.
|Metropolitan statistical area||Rate of motor vehicle theft by 100,000 inhabitants in 2020|
|Rapid City, SD||400|
|Sioux Falls, SD||372|
|Sioux City, IA-NE-SD||232|
Keep in mind that car insurance covers theft only if you have comprehensive coverage. If you lack comprehensive coverage and your car is stolen, you’ll be responsible for buying a new car on your own.
One advantage of such a small and low-density population is a lack of motor vehicle deaths. With only 102 motor vehicle deaths per 100 million miles driven, South Dakota’s average rates are 594 percent lower than the rest of the country.7
Interested in driving outside of the Mount Rushmore State? Perhaps heading north? Enjoy our guide to car insurance in North Dakota. If you prefer to learn more about South Dakota, read our frequently asked questions below.
Insurance follows the car, not the driver, in South Dakota. That means anyone who drives your car with permission can be covered for any accidents they cause or are a victim of.
These companies have the best cheap car insurance in South Dakota:
Car insurance for a 21-year-old male in South Dakota costs an average of $2,648 a year, although it can range from around $1,717 all the way up to $3,218.
To drive your newly purchased used car off the lot in South Dakota, you’ll need to buy insurance beforehand. Otherwise, you can buy the car but not drive it legally, as the state requires proof of financial responsibility.
Automobile Insurance. South Dakota Department of Labor & Regulation. (2016).
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Minniehaha County. (2016).
Codified Laws. South Dakota Legislature. (2022).
Teen Drivers. South Dakota Department of Public Safety. (2022).
MOTOR VEHICLE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILTY. South Dakota Legislative Research Council. (2022).
Vehicle Inspection. Department of Revenue. (2020).
Fatality Facts 2019 State by state. IIHS. (2022).
Fatality Facts 2019 State by state. IIHS. (2022).