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South Carolina Car Insurance Laws & State Minimum Coverage Limits

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UPDATED: Jan 25, 2019

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South Carolina State Flag

South Carolina law requires that every driver provide a liability insurance policy to protect both themselves and others on the road from the financial fallout in the event of an accident. The law is in place to make sure everyone on the road is financially responsible.

There is also an option for drivers to request exemption from the requirement, if they meet certain specifications.

Mandatory Coverage

The law in South Carolina requires that drivers carry at the very minimum a liability insurance policy covering injury and death as well as property damage in the event that they are found at fault for an accident. The law also requires protection against motorists who are uninsured or do not carry sufficient insurance.

The coverage limits that are required by law are:

  • $25,000 for property damage to another person’s vehicle or any other property
  • $25,000 for bodily injury and death to any single person, and $50,000 for injury and death to all persons involved in the accident
  • $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for uninsured or underinsured motorists, and $25,000 for property damage

While these are the minimum limits required by the law, many drivers choose to carry higher limits in order to provide better protection against the high cost of car accidents. Most people increase their uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to match liability limits.

There is also a list of other coverage options that many people choose to put together a comprehensive package policy.

Optional Coverage

Increased liability limits are the first option most South Carolina drivers select on their car insurance policy. Additionally, there are several common options frequently added to create a comprehensive policy.

Among the most popular options are:

  • Collision Coverage – This pays for damage to your vehicle, minus a deductible, in the event that you are found to be at fault in an accident.
  • Comprehensive Coverage – This coverage pays for damage done to your vehicle in a non-collision loss. This can include theft, vandalism, weather damage, and fire damage. There is also a deductible applied. This coverage usually provides glass-only repairs as well.
  • Medical Payments – This coverage will pay for medical expenses for you or your passengers and family members in the event of a collision, no matter who is at fault.
  • Rental Reimbursement – This coverage pays for a rental car for your use during repairs under a covered claim.
  • Towing and Labor – This pays for towing or other roadside assistance needs in non-collision events.

In addition to these options, individual insurance companies typically offer a variety of options and add-on benefits for their auto insurance policies and customers.

Registered Uninsured Motorists

South Carolina gives drivers the option to opt out of the requirement for insurance by registering as uninsured motorists. In order to this, the driver must have been licensed for at least three years, and must not have certain major violations on their record. In addition, all drivers in the household must have held a license for at least three years.

Drivers wishing to register as uninsured motorists must pay a $550 fee to the state. This fee allows you to drive without insurance but is not any sort of insurance policy. Any driver who drives without insurance is financially responsible for injuries or damage in the event of an accident where they are found at fault.

Proof of Insurance and the Law

South Carolina drivers must provide proof of a liability insurance policy that meets the minimum legal requirements when they are requested to do so by a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident. Failure to provide proof of insurance can result in a ticket, fine, or even prison. If you are registered as an uninsured motorist, you must present evidence of this.

South Carolina uses an electronic system by which all liability insurance policies and cancellations are reported. When a policy is canceled, the owner of the vehicle will be required to present evidence of a new policy, unless they have registered as an uninsured motorist.

The penalties for having an uninsured vehicle include:

  • Suspension of vehicle registration and plates
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • An additional $5 per day that you were not insured (up to $400)
  • $200 to have your driver’s license and vehicle registration reinstated

Shopping for Car Insurance in South Carolina

Most drivers choose to carry car insurance rather than paying the uninsured motorist fee ($550). Insurance is more affordable in South Carolina than in many other states; rates fall in the bottom half of the average range, according to a 2017 Insure.com study that ranked South Carolina number 27 for insurance rates with an average annual rate of $1286. This was just below that national average which was $1318.

The South Carolina Department of Insurance provides an online price comparison tool for auto insurance to help consumers shop around and make informed choices. They also provide a guide to shopping for auto insurance. Rates in South Carolina are determined based on a number of allowable factors regulated by the government.

Insurance for High-Risk Drivers

Drivers who have certain factors on their record may find it difficult to obtain car insurance because insurers consider them to be high-risk. This means that the insurance company is taking on a greater risk by insuring that driver, and as a result, the rates are increased. In some cases, the risk is so high that insurers may refuse coverage.

For those who are unable to find insurance on the voluntary market, there is an assigned risk program called the Associated Auto Insurers Plan of South Carolina. This program assigns high-risk drivers to an insurance company, which must provide them with coverage under the law. Rates are still very high, and this is a last-resort choice for most drivers.

Teen Drivers in South Carolina

South Carolina teens that wish to obtain a driver’s license must go through a multi-stage graduated licensing program. This program helps teens to learn the rules of the road and practice driving skills over time to become safe drivers. Each level of the program has particular restrictions.

Beginner’s Permit

This is a learner’s permit that allows the teen driver to begin practicing behind the wheel. Driving is only permitted when a supervising driver of at least 21 years old, who has had their license for at least one year, is in the passenger seat and between the hours of 6am and midnight. You must be 15 years old and pass a written test to obtain this license.

Conditional License

After 180 days with a permit, teens can take the road test for a conditional license. They must meet the following requirements:

  • Have completed a driver education course
  • Be enrolled in school
  • Have completed 40 hours of practice driving time, 10 of which must be at night

With this license, a teen driver is permitted to drive unsupervised, but there are several restrictions on driving privileges:

  • Driving is only permitted during daylight hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. during daylight savings time, from 6/8 p.m. to midnight only if a licensed driver over 21, and from midnight – 6 a.m. only if a parent/guardian is in the car
  • No more than two passengers under the age of 21 are permitted in the car unless they are family members or you are transporting them to or from school

Special Restricted License

16-year-old drivers are eligible for a restricted license if they have either had a beginner’s permit for 180 days or hold a conditional license. The restrictions for this license are the same as those for the conditional license, but the time restrictions can be waived with a special application, for specific purposes.

Full License

At 17 years old, teen drivers can graduate to a full driver’s license, which has no restrictions.

All teen drivers with a license must carry liability insurance that meets the state legal minimums. Teens are not eligible to register as uninsured motorists until they have been licensed for three years. Additionally, the parents or guardians are also ineligible while there is a teen driver with less than three years experience in the household. During this time, insurance is required to meet the financial responsibility laws.

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About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

16 Comments

  1. I have an adult child living part-time (travels 2-3 weeks per month for work) in my home.

    In October, we removed insurance on the primary car he was driving, it’s been parked since.

    Our insurance company just hit us with inflated rates and back insurance since October for him on our vehicles.

    Stating SC law required us to cover him.

    Is this correct?

    Reply
  2. I have a car in my name but would like to let my 17 yr old nephew drive it. How to list him on my policy if he doesn’t actually live in my home?

    Reply
  3. If you are involved in an accident and the end result (assuming a lawsuit and judgment against you) exceeds your auto policy limits can your personal property (your home, bank accounts, etc) be taken in South Carolina? If so how do you prevent this possibility?

    Reply
    • Hi Norm,

      Yes, you can be personally liable for damages that exceed your insurance coverage. The first thing to do is increase your coverage amount to the policy max, which is generally $250,000 / $500,000. If you have a good driving record, its probably more affordable than you may think.

      If those coverage amounts are not suitable for what you want, you can also add an umbrella policy that extends your coverage in increments of $1 million. These are surprisingly affordable for people with limited claims history, and usually can be bought for a few hundred dollars per year. They require you have certain limits on your auto and home policy, but are a great supplement for anyone looking to insulate themselves from extra liability.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply
  4. Why do teen drivers have to be listed on your policy if you cover the cars? I am being charged an astronomical amount of money that I cannot afford. Can you drop the person & just cover the car since the insurance basically follows the car?

    Reply
    • Hi April,

      In most cases, insurance companies require all eligible drivers in a household to be listed on the policy. Teens are one of the most likely age groups to be in an accident, so they cost a lot of insure.

      You do have the option of excluding a driver from your policy, however, it will be the same as having no insurance if they drive. Its a risky move, and should only be done if your teen drivers are never going to touch the car.

      Bottom line – teens are expensive to insure, unfortunately.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply
  5. Does a married couple have to have the same auto insurance in the state of South Carolina?

    Reply
    • Hi Davida,

      In most cases, that is how it will work. Especially when they are in the same household. It typically works out to be cheaper.

      However, if you have a custom set up you want to try, its worth a call to your insurance company or companies. I am not aware of any SC law that prohibits people from having different policies.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply
  6. Can an insurance company cancel coverage because a small memership fee was not paid but all premiums were being deducted from bank account. I never received notice of cancellation until I called them to report an accident in. I later receive a letter saying I would be canceled after the accident. It was like they retroactive me. Now I’m in big trouble. Help!

    Reply
  7. I was getting quotes from Ins. Companies. I could not believe some of the the things the told me was a SC STATE LAW. I had to add any over the age of 14, had a licence and is related to me HAS to be on my policy , even if the have their own vehicle & ins.! REGARDLESS!!! If there was a person in the home that has no license/taken/unpaid tickets/didn’t renewel, whatever the case may be, i was told I would be penalized and my Ins. would cost even more! THIS IS SC STATE LAW AND I HAVE TO PAY IT! Now this Ins. Company was not located in SC, I told him that was BS it wasn’t SC STATE LAW. When i was at the DMV they told me “as long as there are Ins. on the vehicle, that’s all we/that matters. All those Ins. Companies want are you to pay them more money. And they really don’t need to be saying stuff like that. Don’t believe them when they tell you that! It”s NOT a SC STATE LAW and you need to report them! JUST MAKE SURE YOU HAVE INSURANCE ON YOUR VEHICLE!”

    Reply
  8. I have an 18 year old son who resides with me but has no driver license yet in South Carolina where we now reside. I do have him mentioned on my current policy. He has never had a license in the US, we are born and raised here in America for many generations now and are natural born citizens but went abroad for three years. Upon returning this year my son turned 18. We will be getting his learners permit and my current insurance says all I have to do is call when he obtains the permit so he will be added as an additional driver. In South Carolina (we are originally from Michigan) what other requirements would my son have to meet?

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara,

      As far as my understanding goes, notifying the insurance company should be it. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it will be extremely likely your insurance premiums will rise. Teenagers are one of the riskiest pools of drivers, so they will adjust your premiums to compensate, if they haven’t already.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply
  9. Can a insurance company in the state of South Carolina force you to add someone to your policy who you are not legally responsible for just because you guys stay in the same household even if the person doesn’t drive your car

    Reply
    • Hi Moni,

      Its going to depend on the insurance company. Some companies require that all driving-age adults in the same household be on the policy. Others will allow you to specifically exclude drivers completely.

      If the other driver is excluded, make sure they NEVER drive your car. It will be the same as them driving it without any insurance.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply
  10. Do teens who only have a learners permit in South Carolina have to have insurance coverage? Or do they only have to have it when they get their actual license?

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa,

      All drivers need to have insurance coverage. If you already have a car with a policy, then contact your insurance company directly and ask if the teen needs to be added to the policy and the premium adjusted. If there is no policy in force, then yes, one will need to be purchased.

      Best,
      Eric Stauffer

      Reply

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