From the Harbison State Forest to the sandy shores of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s no shortage of beautiful places to drive to in South Carolina. Even if you’re headed to work or school instead of starting an epic road trip, there’s one thing that motorists in the Palmetto State need to think about before they buckle up—their auto insurance policy

Whether you’re a new driver or experienced behind the wheel, it’s important to understand exactly what type of insurance coverage you’ll need in South Carolina so you can find the best rates for your specific needs. Insurify can help, offering drivers real-time quotes in a matter of minutes, with policy features that help you stay compliant while on the road.

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Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in South Carolina 

No matter where you live, your car insurance company will likely provide a number of policy choices when it comes to auto insurance. While it’s smart to purchase a robust policy, not every coverage type is legally required. In South Carolina, drivers must enroll in minimum auto insurance coverage options before they operate their vehicle, including:

  • Bodily injury liability with a limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident: If you’re found to be at fault for a car accident and the other driver sustains injuries, this part of your insurance policy will pay toward their medical bills. It may also help with your legal costs if the other driver sues you.
  • Property damage liability with a limit of $25,000 per accident: Car repairs can add up quickly, and if you cause damage to another person’s vehicle during a collision, this coverage can help cover those costs. Keep in mind, your property damage coverage won’t pay toward repairs on your vehicle.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage with a limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident: South Carolina requires that this type of protection match your bodily injury liability limits and include a $200 deductible. Should your vehicle get hit by an uninsured driver or be involved in a hit-and-run, this coverage will kick in.

It’s important to note that the above types include liability coverage only, and would not help a driver if their car is damaged in a car accident. Many drivers want more than just liability insurance and often opt for both comprehensive and collision coverage. While optional for South Carolina drivers, these features can create a more robust car insurance policy.

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If you want to make the most of your South Carolina auto insurance, personal injury protection (PIP) is another option to consider. This choice helps cover your own medical payments if you are injured in a car accident and, while similar in concept to bodily injury liability, is not based on who is at fault for the collision.

Is state minimum car insurance enough in South Carolina?

For drivers who rarely use their vehicles, enrolling in auto insurance with the minimum limits is enough. However, if you spend time on the road for work or pleasure, it might be wise to explore other types of optional coverage. Only you know what level of protection you need, but it’s critical that you have enough coverage in the event of a car accident.

Many motorists find that both collision and comprehensive coverage are essential elements of a robust car insurance policy. While these features may likely increase your monthly insurance premiums, they will more than pay for themselves should you become involved in a collision. Here’s what these types of car insurance coverage entail:

  • Collision coverage helps pay for repairs to your vehicle after an accident. It should be noted that South Carolina is an at-fault state, so the amount of money you’d receive from a claim may vary based on who was responsible for causing the accident. Drivers can select collision coverage with a range of limits and deductibles.
  • Comprehensive coverage kicks in if your vehicle is damaged outside of an accident. Vandalism, flooding, and theft are often covered incidents, along with any loss associated with fire or falling objects. South Carolina car insurance providers offer this type of coverage with several options for policy limits and deductibles.

South Carolina residents who are shopping for car insurance will likely try to find several insurance quotes before enrolling in a policy, and it’s no surprise that the more insurance protection you add on to a policy, the higher your insurance premiums will be. If you’re on a budget, a straightforward liability policy may be a better option for you.

What is the penalty for driving without car insurance in South Carolina?

Unlike other states, South Carolina doesn’t technically require motorists to enroll in car insurance before they get behind the wheel. Instead, residents have two options: they can purchase a minimum coverage policy from an insurer, or they can pay the DMV $550 to acquire uninsured motorist registration.

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If you meet certain requirements, including a driving record free from accidents for the last three years, you may be able to enroll in this unique type of registration. By doing so, you affirm that you will be held financially responsible for any accident you cause, and your registration may be revoked in the event of a moving violation.

Should a motorist opt out of both traditional auto insurance and uninsured motorist registration, they could face steep fines if they are found operating a vehicle. In addition to paying the $550 uninsured motorist fee, drivers without car insurance could also be subject to:

  • An additional fine ranging from $100 to $200
  • 30 days in jail
  • A daily fine of $5 for each day they remain uninsured
  • Suspension of their vehicle registration and driver’s license
  • A $200 reinstatement fee and an SR-22 added to their driving history

It’s essential that you maintain continuous auto insurance coverage in South Carolina and carry proof of insurance inside your vehicle in the event of an auto accident. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and local law enforcement take car insurance seriously, as it’s designed to protect everyone on the road.

Minimum Requirements in South Carolina for SR-22 Policies

Individuals with driving records that are less than perfect might find that auto insurance rates are higher, but if you have a history of repeated moving violations, you may be considered a high-risk driver by insurers. If so, you may need to file an SR-22 with the DMV in order to remain compliant with state law.

An SR-22 isn’t insurance and doesn’t offer protection in the event of an auto accident. Instead, it confirms that you have enrolled in auto insurance that meets, if not exceeds, the minimum coverage limits required in South Carolina. Once you’ve enrolled in your new policy, your insurer will file your SR-22 with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

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High-risk drivers in some states might be familiar with the FR-44 form, and while it’s similar in function to the SR-22, it isn’t required in South Carolina. Motorists should expect their auto insurance rates to be higher while they have an SR-22 on their driving record, but over time and with good driving habits, you may be able to obtain insurance without this requirement.

Additional Coverage South Carolina Drivers Should Consider

Obtaining auto insurance that meets the minimum requirements set forth by the state of South Carolina is a must, but some drivers want to focus on having the most robust policy possible in the event of an accident. If your budget for car insurance is rather large, you may want to consider adding some of these additional coverages:

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury (or UMBI) helps cover your own medical bills after an accident if the other party is either uninsured or underinsured. If you have both PIP and UMBI protection, it’s likely that your PIP would pay toward your claim first, as it generally offers smaller limits of coverage.
  • If you’re looking for even more robust coverage toward medical expenses, MedPay might be a smart option to consider. While PIP may help with lost wages in addition to medical costs, MedPay can offer a greater level of funds for medical and funeral expenses.
  • Many drivers want to feel secure on the road in the event of a flat tire or a mechanical breakdown, and roadside assistance is a great option to offer the ultimate peace of mind. This feature is often quite affordable, and taking advantage of it usually won’t lead to an increase in your car insurance rates.

Remember, your auto insurance policy has to meet your specific driving needs, and while some motorists may want every option available, others might pick and choose which types of additional coverage make the most sense for them. It’s smart to get several auto insurance quotes with various options to get an idea of how much your premiums might be.

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Frequently Asked Questions: South Carolina Minimum Car Insurance

Is car insurance mandatory in South Carolina?

Motorists in South Carolina must enroll in a minimum coverage policy or apply for uninsured motorist registration. While a car insurance policy will help pay toward damages and medical expenses resulting from an auto accident, uninsured motorist registration requires drivers to pay out of pocket for these costs.

In what situations do drivers in South Carolina have the right to sue?

South Carolina is an at-fault state, meaning your auto insurance policy will pay toward a claim based on your level of responsibility in an auto accident. Drivers who are not at fault are able to sue another motorist for up to three years after the date of the incident; however, wrongful death lawsuits start from the date of an individual’s death.

Are there alternative proofs of financial responsibility in South Carolina?

Residents who do not want to enroll in auto insurance or register as an uninsured motorist can provide the DMV with alternative proof of financial responsibility. Such proof can include purchasing a surety bond that states you’ll pay for liability expenses if you’re at fault in a car accident, opting for a real estate bond that would pay for expenses in the event of an accident, or placing $35,000 down as a security deposit.

Updated September 9, 2021

A former licensed insurance producer, Courtney Levin has been a freelance writer since 2016. She graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in Communications and has been creating content for Insurify for nearly two years.