South Dakota Permit and Driver's License FAQ

  • Applying for Your SD License
  • Preparing for the SD Permit Test
  • Taking the SD Permit Test?
  • Preparing for the SD Driving Test
  • Taking the SD Driving Test
  • Renewing Your SD License
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Applying for Your SD License: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the age requirements for getting started?

South Dakota’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing Program (GCL) requires teen drivers complete the following stages to receive their unrestricted driver’s license:

  • Instruction Permit – 14 years old
  • Restricted Minor’s Permit – Must hold instruction permit for 90 days with driver’s ed or 180 days without
  • Operator’s Driver’s License – 16 years old

What documents am I required to bring with me when applying for a license in South Dakota?

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of Social Security Number
  • Proof of residency
  • $28 for fee

Here is a list of documents that are accepted as proof of identify, Social Security Number and residency.

Where do I file my SD driver’s license application?

You should file your application at a local driver license office.

How can I contact my local office?

Visit https://dps.sd.gov/licensing/driver_licensing/exam_schedule.aspx for office locations and contact information.

Do I have to take a Driver’s Ed Course?

No, driver’s ed is not required in South Dakota. However, taking driver’s ed does offer advantages. You can get your driver’s license faster and you’ll be allowed to bypass certain driver’s license tests.

What if I am new to South Dakota?

Teen drivers new to South Dakota have 90 days to transfer their out-of-state license to a SD license. If you have an out-of-state permit, call the SD DPS at (800) 952-3696 to find out how which South Dakota permit you are eligible to receive.

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Preparing for the SD Permit Test: Frequently Asked Questions

What subjects are commonly covered on the written test?

The written test covers rules of the road and safe driving practices. Questions are taken from the South Dakota Driver’s Manual. Here are examples of content from the manual that you could be tested on:

  • Under the South Dakota point system any driver who accumulates 15 points in any 12 consecutive months, or 22 points in any 24 consecutive months, is subject to a driver’s license suspension
  • Shared center lanes are reserved for making left turns (or U-turns when they are permitted) but can be used by vehicles traveling in both directions

How is the test formatted?

The South Dakota test is multiple choice.

Are there a lot of “trick” questions on the written test?

Questions on the test have not been written to “trick” you but rather to ensure you have the knowledge necessary to drive safely in South Dakota. If you study the driver’s manual sufficiently you should not find any of the questions to be “tricky.”

How many questions are on the test and how many do I need to answer correctly to pass?

There are 25 questions on the test and you must answer at least 20 of them correctly to pass.

What are the best ways to prepare for the written test?

Number 1 – you should study the South Dakota Driver’s Manual thoroughly. Be sure to read it multiple times and to study each section of the guide so that you build a solid foundation of knowledge concerning driving in South Dakota. Number 2 – to test your driving knowledge and identify any subjects that you need to study more, take practice tests online.

Where can I get a free South Dakota Driver’s Manual to study?

You can get a free copy of the manual here at this website.

How can I improve my odds for passing the first time I take the test?

Study the driver’s manual as much as possible. Be sure to pay close attention to measurements, distances, lengths, speed limits and other numerical information. Also, be sure to study road signs so that you immediately know their meaning upon sight, safe driving tips and drinking and driving rules and effects. To get a better idea of the type of questions you will face on the test, take a practice test.

What should I do the night before the test?

Assuming that you have been studying your driver’s manual regularly, the night before the test you should plan on doing a light review of the manual and taking a practice test online. You should then be sure to get plenty of rest so that you are at your best the next day.

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Taking the SD Permit Test?: Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to make an appointment to take the written test?

Contact your local driver license office to see if appointments are accepted. If they are, it is recommended that you make one to avoid a possible long wait. The best time to visit a Driver Exam Station is mid-month, mid-week, or mid-morning. The busiest times are before and after a holiday weekend, Tuesdays, and Friday afternoons.

Where do I take the written test?

You will take the test at a local driver license office.

What do I need to bring when I sit for the written test?

  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of Social Security Number
  • Proof of residency
  • $28 for fee

Here is a list of documents that are accepted as proof of identify, Social Security Number and residency.

Who should accompany me to the written test?

You should be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

Do I need to pay a fee to take the written test?

Yes, you will need to pay a fee of $28.

What should I expect when I sit for the written test?

The test has 25 questions covering rules of the road, road signs and safe driving tips. All questions come from content in the South Dakota Driver’s Manual. However, you cannot refer to the manual or any notes when taking the test. It is NOT an open book test. To familiarize yourself with the test format, take a practice test.

What happens after I pass the written test?

You will receive your Instruction Permit which is valid for one year. With an instruction permit you are allowed to drive from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a supervising driver who is at least 18 years old, has a minimum of one year of driving experience and who is seated next to you.

What happens if I fail the written test?

You can retake the test.

How many times can I retake the written test?

You have three attempts to pass with each test fee that you pay.

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Preparing for the SD Driving Test: Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve passed the written permit test, what are the next steps?

You can drive from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a supervising driver who is at least 18 years old, has a minimum of one year of driving experience and who is seated next to you.

How long after getting my Learner’s Permit can I apply for a Restricted Minor Permit?

You must hold your instruction permit for at least 180 days and you cannot have any traffic violations within the previous six months to apply for a Restricted Minor Permit.

Can I drive anywhere in South Dakota with my Instruction Permit?

Yes, as long as you are accompanied by a licensed driver age 18 or older with at least one year of driving experience, you can drive on any South Dakota public road or street.

Should I practice driving solely during the day?

Experts recommend that you also practice driving at night to get used to the different conditions.

Does anyone have to be in the car with me when I’m driving with my Learner’s Permit?

Yes, you must be accompanied by a licensed driver who is at least 18 years old and has a minimum of one year of driving experience.

What should I do if I have a lost South Dakota Learner’s Permit?

To replace a lost or stolen permit, visit a local driver license office with proper identification.

How can I be sure I’m prepared to ace the driving test?

There is no substitute for actual behind the wheel driving practice. The more comfortable you become driving in traffic and completing common vehicle maneuvers, such as parking, stopping and backing up, the better you will do on the test. So be sure to practice, practice, practice.

Are there particular driving maneuvers I should practice?

Yes, you should practice stopping and starting smoothly; parking, including parallel parking and parking on a grade; obeying traffic signs and signals; turning around with a three-point turn; turning at intersections; and more.

How can I simulate the driving test?

Talk to friends who have taken the test and then practice the maneuvers that they say are on the test. You should also practice using good safe driving techniques when in traffic, such as signaling, following at a safe distance, checking mirrors, obeying signs and signals and more.

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Taking the SD Driving Test: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I schedule my driving test?

You can schedule a drive test appointment online or by contacting your local driver license office.

Where do I take the driving test?

You will take the test at a local driver license office. If you passed driver’s ed with a score of 80% or better, you can have the road test waived.

What should I bring to the driving test?

  • Proof of identity, Social Security Number and residency – here are acceptable documents
  • A well-maintained vehicle
  • Vehicle registration
  • Proof of insurance

Who should bring me to the driving test?

A licensed parent or legal guardian should bring you so that they can give their permission for you to get your permit or license.

What will I be asked to do on the driving test?

You will be asked to display driving competency by performing various vehicle maneuvers, such as parking, stopping and backing, and by driving in traffic. When driving in traffic you will need to use safe driving methods, such as following at a safe distance, signaling when turning and checking mirrors when changing lanes.

What are the most common reasons new drivers fail the driving test?

Reasons new drivers fail the test range from not being able to perform a maneuver, such as parallel park; not listening to the examiner; causing an accident; running off the road; and getting stopped for a moving violation.

What are five mistakes I should be sure to avoid when taking the driving test?

  • Driving with hands in incorrect position on wheel
  • Turning or changing lanes without signaling
  • Running a red light
  • Performing a rolling stop
  • Not completing a maneuver as directed by the examiner

What happens if I fail the driving test?

You will be allowed to retake the test. You may not retest before the next working day.

How many times can I retake the test?

You are allowed 3 opportunities to test for each fee paid within a 6-month period. After 3 failures in a 6-month period, the fee will need to be repaid.

I’ve passed the road test, now what?

You will receive your Minor’s Permit.

What restrictions come with a Minor’s Permit?

  • You can drive unsupervised from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a parent or guardian’s permission
  • You can drive between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when supervised by a parent or guardian

What are the insurance requirements for drivers in SD?

Recognizing that car accidents can have great financial consequences, South Dakota requires all drivers to carry at least the following minimum insurance coverage:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury liability insurance per person
  • $50,000 total bodily injury liability per accident
  • $25,000 property damage liability per accident
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Renewing Your SD License: Frequently Asked Questions

What if I need to renew my license or replace a lost/stolen license?

Your South Dakota Driver’s License is valid for five years and expires on your birthday. The SD Department of Public Safety will send you a renewal notice with instructions before the expiration date. You can renew up to 180 days before the expiration date.

You can replace a lost or stolen license by visiting a local driver license office with proper identification. There is a $15 replacement fee.

Where can I renew my South Dakota driver’s license?

You can renew your license online or in person at a driver license office.

Will I be required to take a vision test when renewing my license?

Yes, you must take a vision test each time you renew your license. If renewing online, you will need to present a recent vision statement from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses while taking the vision test, you will be required to wear them whenever driving. If you do not pass the vision test, you must present a statement from an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist certifying that you possess the visual ability to drive safely before continuing the examination process.


The South Dakota DMV Test — What You Need to Know

South Dakota’s Motor Vehicle Division will only issue you a permit after you’ve passed the driver knowledge test. More commonly known as the permit test, the test will determine if you possess the knowledge to be a safe and courteous driver.  You will face questions about the rules of the road, safe driving practices, road and traffic signs, and traffic laws specific to South Dakota.

The Power of Practice Tests

Are you afraid to take the written test? Do you generally struggle with tests?  Don’t feel bad. Many test-takers fail the exam.  In fact, statistics reveal that 2 out of 3 test people fail the exam every year.

No need to worry though as our study resources will help you prepare for your South Dakota permit test. On this page, you’ll find a collection of valuable study material.   Our sample interactive South Dakota practice permit tests are a great tool if you are looking for feedback or you simply want to get a better idea of what the real test format looks like. We also have the official South Dakota Drivers Handbook.  Interested in getting your motorcycle permit?  We have study resources for that exam too.

Don’t put it off any longer. A learner’s permit brings you one step closer to getting behind the wheel.Get started now!