UPDATED: Jan 25, 2019
We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For a list of companies that we recommend, visit our Best Insurance Companies page.