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To get a South Carolina driver’s license, teens must go through a graduated licensing program aimed at helping them become safe drivers. Adults moving to the Palmetto State will have an easier time transferring their licenses — they’ll only need to show some important documentation at a South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) location.
Here’s what you should know about getting a South Carolina driver’s license.
Requirements for a South Carolina driver’s license
The SCDMV sets standard requirements for anyone to get a South Carolina driver’s license. In addition to a complete application, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, U.S. citizenship, date of birth, Social Security number, and proof of your current South Carolina address.
If you’ve legally changed your name, you’ll need to show proof of that as well. In addition, you’ll need to pass a vision test and pay all applicable fees before you receive your license.
How to get a teen driver’s license in South Carolina
South Carolina’s graduated licensing system starts with a beginner’s permit. You’ll need to be at least 15 to apply for one. The permit allows you to drive between 6 a.m. and midnight, provided you have a passenger who’s 21 or older and who’s had a driver’s license for at least a year. To get a beginner’s permit, you’ll need to pass a written test and a vision test.
You must keep your beginner’s permit for at least 180 days, take a driver’s education course with a minimum of eight hours in a classroom setting, and complete six hours of behind-the-wheel training. Plus you’ll need to practice 40 total hours of driving, with 10 of those hours at night.
The next step after the beginner’s permit is a conditional driver’s license, which is for drivers between 15½ and 16. It can allow you to legally drive between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. with no more than two passengers under 21. To receive a conditional license, you’ll have to pass a South Carolina road test and submit several documents.
If you’re 16 years old but less than 17, you may receive a special restricted license and waive restricted driving times so you can drive for school or work purposes. You may earn full, unrestricted driving privileges once you turn 17 or have held your conditional license for one year, as long as your record is free of traffic offenses and at-fault accidents.
How to transfer an out-of-state license in South Carolina
If you move to South Carolina and already have a driver’s license from a different state, it’s easy to get a South Carolina license. You’ll need to visit an SCDMV location, where you’ll surrender your old driver’s license and provide the following documents:
Proof of a current, physical South Carolina address
Social Security number
Proof of identity, date, place of birth, and authorized length of stay in the U.S.
Legal documents related to any name changes
Car insurance information
Keep in Mind
If your out-of-state license expired nine or more months ago, you’ll also have to pass a written knowledge test and behind-the-wheel road test.
To transfer a license from a different country, the SCDMV recommends you get an International Driving Permit from your home country. It can translate your foreign license into English so that law enforcement officers can read it.
How to renew a South Carolina driver’s license
Your South Carolina driver’s license will expire every eight years, typically on your birthday. The SCDMV allows you to renew driver’s licenses online, via mail, or in person at an SCDMV location.
To renew your license online, visit the SCDMV website and pay a $25 fee with a credit or debit card. Keep in mind that if you have unpaid traffic fines, are convicted of an offense, or have a suspended license, you won’t be eligible for renewal.
How to get a South Carolina driver’s license reinstated
If you receive a DUI or accumulate too many points on your driver’s license, for example, the SCDMV may suspend your license. To reinstate it, you must fulfill your suspension period, meet any court requirements, and pay a reinstatement fee of $100. If applicable, you’ll also need to complete an alcohol and drug safety program and install an ignition interlock device.
In addition, the SCDMV will require you to get the hardship license that makes the most sense for your situation, such as a temporary alcohol license, provisional driver’s license, or a route-restricted driver’s license. Each option will run you $100.
Nearly 3,300 people died in alcohol-related car crashes in South Carolina from 2009 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In South Carolina, a driver is legally drunk with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08% or higher.
Liability insurance requirements in South Carolina
South Carolina, like most states, requires drivers to have a minimum amount of liability insurance. You’ll need to show proof of insurance to register a vehicle in the state. The liability insurance requirements in South Carolina are:
$25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
$25,000 per accident for property damage
$25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury
While states don’t require full-coverage insurance, if you finance or lease your vehicle, your lender or leasing company will require you to have comprehensive and collision insurance in addition to your liability coverage.
Getting a driver’s license can be exciting, but it’s important to follow the process and understand all the state’s driving rules and requirements. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about South Carolina driver’s licenses.
What are the requirements for a South Carolina driver’s license?
To get a driver’s license in South Carolina, you’ll need to fill out an application and provide documents, such as proof of identity and proof of your current address. Depending on your age and the type of license, you may also be required to pass a vision test and a written test, complete a course, and pay a fee.
What is a South Carolina provisional driver’s license?
The provisional license is an unrestricted license that can allow you to drive after your license has been suspended due to a first DUI offense or unlawful alcohol concentration (DUAC). With a provisional license, you’ll be able to drive to work, school, church, errands, social activities, and anywhere else you need to go. To get one, you’ll be required to submit an application and pay $100.
What’s the youngest age to get a learner’s permit in South Carolina?
You can apply for a beginner’s permit in South Carolina when you turn 15. This permit will allow you to drive with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old. You may qualify if you provide certain documents and pass a vision and knowledge test.
What counts as proof of residency for the South Carolina DMV?
The SCDMV accepts a number of documents as proof of residency. These include utility bills, lease agreements, voter registration cards, state or federal income tax returns, school records, transcripts, and more. The document must show your name and address.
How long does it take to get a South Carolina driver’s license?
Several factors determine how long it takes to get a driver’s license in South Carolina, including your age, license type, and unique situation. For example, receiving a beginner’s permit or conditional license takes longer than renewing an out-of-state license.
How long can you drive with an expired license in South Carolina?
It’s illegal to drive with an expired license in South Carolina. You can find the expiration date right below your issued date on your license. If you don’t renew your license within a week, you may face consequences.
Anna Baluch is a Cleveland-based personal finance and insurance expert. With an MBA from Roosevelt University, she enjoys writing educational content that helps people make smart financial decisions. Her work can be seen across the internet on many publications, including Freedom Debt Relief, Credit Karma, RateGenius, and the Balance. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn.