The minimum insurance the Palmetto State requires
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From the coastal cities of Charleston and Myrtle Beach to the national forests in the northwestern area of the state, South Carolina has a lot to offer. But like any state, there are car insurance requirements and driving laws you must meet to drive legally. This page will tell you everything you need to know, from the minimum insurance limits required to how long you have to file claims.
While bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage pay for injuries and damages you cause to another party, uninsured motorist coverage applies to your losses if someone hits your car when driving without insurance. However, what about your damages and injuries when you cause an accident?
For at-fault accident coverage, you’ll need comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, and medical payments coverage.
We also recommend increasing your liability and uninsured motorist limits, which should match. Ultimately, you should buy as much insurance as you can afford, with combined liability limits of up to $500,000.
People with a high net worth should protect their assets with more coverage, as they’re a greater target for civil lawsuits than people with a lower net worth. But even for those with a lower net worth, if you’re found to be over 50 percent at fault in an accident and your insurance doesn’t cover the injuries and damages you’ve caused, you could be sued or face wage garnishment.
In the end, how much insurance you need depends on your individual situation, which is why it’s important to discuss the topic thoroughly with your insurance agent. We recommend full coverage if you can afford it, which includes collision, comprehensive, and medical payments in addition to liability coverage.
Auto insurance in South Carolina costs 6 percent more than the national average, at $1,113 annually. Most of that cost, $715, is for liability coverage, compared to $312 for collision coverage and $217 for comprehensive coverage, which are both optional.
However, insurance companies don’t offer one-size-fits-all policies. Expect to pay anywhere from $558 to $6,372.08 per year for car insurance in South Carolina. Auto insurance rates will be low for someone with a clean driving record and minimum car insurance coverage, while premiums will be higher for a teen driver with full coverage. Get an insurance quote to see how much you will pay.
South Carolina’s at-fault insurance system means the person at fault in an accident is responsible for the other party’s property damage and bodily injury losses. If they don’t feel they have been compensated fairly, the victim can sue the perpetrator for damages as long as they were less than 50 percent at fault. If the victim was any percentage at fault under 50, their payout would be reduced by their degree of fault, according to the state’s modified comparative negligence laws.
While South Carolina requires uninsured motorist coverage (UM), which covers accidents caused by drivers with no insurance, it doesn’t require underinsured motorist coverage, which applies to drivers with insufficient insurance. However, you can choose to get it if you’re worried about someone hitting your car with limits too low to cover your repairs.
If you have more than one car with UM, multiply your number of cars by your limit, and voíla – you have your new limit per car, as South Carolina allows stacking.
South Carolina’s portion of uninsured drivers is 15 percent less than the national average, at only 11 percent. That’s about 257,000 people who ignore the state’s financial responsibility laws, according to estimates from the Insurance Research Council.
Drinking and driving is a dangerous activity, even if you think you are only tipsy. In South Carolina, you can’t drive a vehicle if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher. If you have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 percent, you won’t get convicted of a DUI automatically, although it’s possible with other evidence.
If you get convicted of a DUI, the penalties include thousands of dollars in fines, assessments, and surcharges; up to five years of imprisonment; and license suspensions. See below for the penalties for each offense.
|Offense number||1||2||3||4 and up|
|Fine||Up to $400||$2,100-$5,100||$3,800-$6,300||N/A|
|Assessments and surcharges||$992||$10,744.50||$13,324.50||N/A|
|Imprisonment||2 days to 30 days||5 days to 1 year||60 days to 3 years||1-5 years|
|License suspension||6 months||1 year||2 years, or 4 years if the third offense occurs within 5 years of first||Permanent|
|Other penalties||None||None||Vehicle confiscation if within 10 years of first offense||Vehicle confiscation if within 10 years of first offense2|
Everyone age 8 and older must wear their seat belt while riding in a car in South Carolina, regardless of which seat they’re in. This law is under primary enforcement, meaning it’s enforceable on its own with no other violations needed.
South Carolina drivers are allowed to use handheld devices while driving. However, they cannot text and drive, a particularly dangerous form of distracted driving. The ban on texting and driving is under primary enforcement and could result in a $25 fine.
|Graduated driver’s license law in South Carolina||Permit||Intermediate license||Unrestricted license|
|Curfew||12-6 a.m.||12-6 a.m. (unless you have supervision)||None|
|Supervision||Licensed driver at least 21 years old with at least 1 year of driving experience in front seat||Licensed driver at least 21 years old in front seat if driving during the hours of 12-6 a.m.||None|
|Passengers||No restrictions||No more than 2 passengers under age 21 unless with a licensed adult (at least 21); exceptions for transporting family members and students to/from school||No restrictions|
|Electronic devices||Can’t text while driving||Can’t text or call while driving||Can’t use a wireless electronic communication device to write, send, or read a text message while driving on a public street or highway|
You have three years from the date of an incident to file both property damage and personal injury claims. If you wait beyond this window, your insurance company isn’t legally required to cover your losses.
If your insurance company wants to cancel your policy midterm or not renew at the end of the term, it must alert you within 15 days of your policy expiration date.4
After the first 60 days, an insurer can cancel your car insurance policy only if you didn’t pay the premium, your license has been suspended or revoked, or you committed fraud or misrepresented yourself on your application.
Technically, you can insure your own cars in South Carolina. However, you must meet the following conditions:
South Carolina doesn’t require car inspections for safety or emissions.5
The state no longer requires SR-22s, which are certificates proving minimum insurance. In other states, people convicted of DUIs or reckless driving may have to file an SR-22, but not so in South Carolina.
Some insurance companies offer discounts if you take a defensive driving class and learn how to avoid hazards, reducing your likelihood of filing claims. In South Carolina, these courses can last anywhere from four to eight hours. Find one near you at https://www.nsc.org/safety-training/defensive-driving/courses/online.
You can file a civil suit following a car accident in South Carolina regardless of the monetary amount of your losses or the severity of your injuries. In other words, there’s no threshold for you to be able to seek economic damages (lost wages and medical expenses) and non-economic damages (suffering, anxiety, and pain).
Were you involved in a car accident that resulted in death, injury, or property damage worth over $1,000? If so, you must report it to the police within 15 days. The penalty for not reporting is a fine of $100 to $5,000, a year of imprisonment, or both.
Some states ban insurance companies from basing rates on credit scores and gender, arguing that these practices are discriminatory against people with bad credit and men. However, South Carolina is not one of those states, so expect higher auto insurance costs if you fall into either of these groups.
You’ve probably heard of a car being totaled, but what does that really mean? In South Carolina, it means a car’s repairs would cost more than 75 percent of its AMV, which is how much you would get if you sold it tomorrow. In this case, rather than repairing your car, the insurance company would declare it a total loss and reimburse you for the AMV, provided you had comprehensive or collision coverage.
|Registration scenario||Registration fee|
|Motorcycle or moped||$10|
|Utility or camper trailer||$10|
|Trailer with an empty weight over 2,500 pounds||$20|
|Person age 65 or older, or with a disability (with statement from medical doctor proving permanent disability)||$36|
|Person age 64 or younger||$38|
|Hybrid vehicle (road use)||$60|
|Permanent trailer plate||$87|
|Electric vehicle (road use)||$120|
|Infrastructure maintenance fee for future residents moving to state||$250|
|Infrastructure maintenance fee for current state residents||5% of purchase price, but no more than $500|
You can also complete the process online at https://www.scdmvonline.com/SCTRNS/Public/Transactions/EZDupTitle/CustomerType.aspx.
Car repairs in South Carolina cost an average of $393.40, 3 percent higher than the national average. Most of that cost, $239.82, is for parts, while $153.58 is for labor, according to CarMD.6
South Carolina’s car theft rate is 13 percent higher than the national average, with 282 thefts per 100,000 residents. In more densely populated areas, the rates are even higher.
|Metropolitan statistical area in South Carolina||Rate of motor vehicle theft per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020|
Along with its higher-than-average vehicle theft rate, South Carolina has a high traffic fatality rate, with 1,001 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That’s 29 percent higher than the U.S. average8, so drive with caution.
With handheld devices allowed, no inspections required, no SR-22s mandated, and no serious injury or monetary thresholds, South Carolina takes a relatively hands-off approach to driving. However, you could still face financial and legal penalties for breaking the law, so be sure to adhere to the state’s driving laws.
Car insurance follows the car in South Carolina, not the driver. That means if you let someone borrow your car and they get into an accident, your insurance would cover it just as they would if you were the driver.
Car insurance is so expensive in South Carolina for a few reasons.
These are some of the companies with the cheapest car insurance rates in South Carolina:
You can have your own car insurance in South Carolina when you get married. However, many car insurance companies such as Progressive require you to add your spouse to your policy if you live in the same household, so it may make more sense to insure all of your vehicles on the same policy.
Automobile Insurance. South Carolina Department of Insurance. https://www.doi.sc.gov/588/Automobile-Insurance
SC Laws Relative to Impaired Driving. South Carolina Department of Public Safety. (2022). https://scdps.sc.gov/scsoberorslammer/scduilaws
FIRST DRIVER’S LICENSE. South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. (2022). https://www.scdmvonline.com/Driver-Services/Drivers-License/First-Time-Drivers
South Carolina Code of Laws Unannotated. South Carolina Legislature. https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t38c077.php
Who’s in the driver’s seat when it comes to SC car inspections? ABC 4 News. (2021, Jan). https://abcnews4.com/news/local/whos-in-the-drivers-seat-when-it-comes-to-scs-car-inspections-not-sc
2020 State Repair Cost Rankings. CarMD. (2021) https://www.carmd.com/wp/vehicle-health-index-introduction/2020-carmd-state-index/
NICB ‘Hot Spots’: Auto Thefts Up Significantly Across the Country. NICB. (2021. Aug) https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/nicb-hot-spots-auto-thefts-significantly-across-country
Fatality Facts 2019 State by state. IIHS. (2021, Mar). https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state