Before getting auto insurance in South Carolina
You might think that getting car insurance is all the same no matter where you go. But coverage requirements and overall costs can vary a lot based on your location alone, and the level of coverage that works out in Nevada isn’t the same as what you need in South Carolina.
If you plan to drive in South Carolina, you’ll need to carry a minimum level of liability coverage. You’ll also have the option to carry additional protection on your policy, which might better protect you, your vehicle, your passengers and your fellow travelers on the road.
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Average car insurance costs in South Carolina
Most drivers in South Carolina can expect to pay about the national average, which was somewhere between $1,200 and $1,300 annually in 2017. This is quite a bit more than in the cheapest state, Maine, where coverage averaged around $900 a year, but it’s much cheaper than Michigan, the most expensive state in the country for auto insurance. Michigan’s drivers paid on average more than $2,300 a year in 2017.
What’s more, your costs are likely to change based on where you are in the state. City driving comes with additional risks for traffic accidents, theft and vandalism. If you live in downtown Charleston or Columbia, you can expect to pay more for your coverage than if you lived in Bluffton or Travelers Rest.
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State minimum requirements in South Carolina
To legally drive in South Carolina, you’ll need insurance that includes at least:
- $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person.
- $50,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident.
- $25,000 for property damage.
When you’re shopping for coverage, you might see these minimums expressed as 25/50/25.
Additional requirements: Uninsured motorist insurance
South Carolina also requires you to carry coverage for uninsured motorists, so that you’re protected in a hit-and-run scenario or a crash with someone who doesn’t have enough coverage. The amounts you’ll need for this coverage are the same as your typical liability insurance: 25/50/25.
What additional coverage can I get?
You might want additional coverage if you want extra protection for yourself, your car or your passengers.
In South Carolina, you can choose from options that include:
- Collision. Covers damages to your car after an accident.
- Comprehensive. Pays for damages not related to an accident, covering weather, theft or run-ins with animals.
- Medical payments. Pays for medical expenses if they exceed the limits of your normal coverage.
- Rental reimbursement. Covers a rental car, if you need one after an accident.
- Towing and labor. Covers towing and some repair costs.
Uninsured drivers in South Carolina
Less than 10% of South Carolina’s motorists were driving around without insurance in 2015, according to estimates from the Insurance Research Council. This was below the nationwide average of 13%, and far below the numbers for Florida, where experts reported up to 26% of all drivers were uninsured.
What can I do if I don’t want to buy car insurance in South Carolina?
You can deposit $35,000 with the South Carolina Treasurer’s Office for a certificate proving your financial responsibility. But if you do this, a severe accident could wipe out that deposit, leaving you owing more from your own pocket to cover medical bills and big vehicle repairs. For these reasons, plus the large initial cash outlay, most drivers in this state stick with traditional car insurance coverage.
You also have the option of paying a $550 fee annually to avoid buying insurance. But you must meet eligibility that includes five or more years of driving experience. And if you get into an accident, you’re on the hook for all damages you’re considered responsible for.
Can I buy temporary car insurance in South Carolina?
Yes, you can purchase temporary car insurance in South Carolina. It might be hard to find a good option, as not all providers offer it in every state, and it’s usually more expensive than normal car insurance.
What happens if I’m driving in South Carolina and I don’t have insurance?
If you’re caught driving without coverage, you can expect fines, a driver’s license or registration suspension, and possibly even jail time if you’re a repeat offender.
- If you’re caught driving someone else’s vehicle without coverage, your license is suspended for 30 days and you owe a $100 license reinstatement fee.
- If you’re caught driving your own vehicle without coverage, you’ll lose your license and registration until you can pay a $550 reinstatement fee. You’ll also have to carry a special attachment with your insurance, called SR-22 coverage, for up to three years.
What laws do I need to follow when I’m driving in South Carolina?
While most states in the US enforce similar traffic laws, South Carolina has a handful of its own laws you’ll want to take note of:
- Drivers and all passengers are required to wear seat belts at all times.
- Drivers are prohibited from writing, reading or sending text messages. However, talking on a cell phone is allowed.
- Kids under 8 years old must sit in the back seat of the vehicle, unless it has no back seat or it’s already full of children under 8.
Drunk driving laws in South Carolina
This state holds drivers to the same standards as every other state, enforcing an upper limit of 0.08% blood alcohol content (BAC) for everyday drivers and 0.04% for commercial drivers.
If you’re caught over the limit, you can expect steep fines, a driver’s license suspension and possibly a stint in jail.
|First offense||Second offense||Third offense||Fourth offense|
|Jail||2 to 90 days||5 days to 3 years||60 days to 5 years||1 to 7 years|
|Fines and penalties||$400–$1,000||$2,100–$6,500||$3,800–$10,000||Up to $10,000|
|License suspension||6 months||1 year||2 years||Permanent|
|Ignition interlock device (IID) required||No||Yes||Yes||N/A|
Implied consent law
In addition to the state’s DUI laws, South Carolina has a law of implied consent. This means if a police officer asks you to take a breathalyzer or portable breath test when you’re pulled over, you’re required to take it, whether you’ve been drinking or not.
Penalties for not taking the test can involve a driver’s license suspension. Your first offense suspends your license for six months, the second for nine months and the third for a full year. You’ll also likely have to pay a license reinstatement fee when your suspension is over.
Can I get SR-22 insurance in South Carolina?
Yes, you can get an SR-22 in South Carolina, which is a document your insurance company files with the state that proves you have the minimum liability coverage needed to get behind the wheel. You might need this kind of coverage if you’ve gotten a DUI or if you’re caught driving without the minimum car insurance required by the state.
What happens after an accident in South Carolina?
Even the smallest car accident can throw you for a loop, leaving you disoriented and not sure what to do next.
If you’re in an accident, follow these steps to ensure that you’re safe and protected against unnecessary worries when processing your car insurance claim:
- Be safe. Make sure nobody involved in the accident is in danger. If you need assistance or medical attention, call emergency services immediately.
- Contact your insurance company. After you’ve confirmed everyone is safe, call your agent to report the accident. They can walk you through everything they need for your claim while you’re still able to take pictures and record information on the scene.
- Document the accident. Write down the names of any police officers at the scene. Take pictures of each car involved from multiple angles, and talk to any witnesses you might be able to contact for more information later. If the accident results in a court case of any kind, having witnesses to call on can be helpful.
- Exchange information. Get the full name, contact info and insurance policy details from other drivers. Note the drivers’ car type, color, model and license plate number, as well as the approximate location of the crash.
- Don’t admit fault. When you’re talking to the other drivers after the accident, legal advice will often tell you never to admit fault to them or to police officers on the scene. If you imply that you caused the crash, your insurance provider could use that information to justify not paying your claim.
Who’s at fault after an accident?
South Carolina is considered a tort state, which means any driver not at fault for the accident can pursue a claim against the at-fault party after a crash.
South Carolina also follows a type of fault assignment called “comparative negligence,” which means if you’re judged 25% at fault for a crash, you can be denied 25% of your claim amount.
When should I report an accident in South Carolina?
You don’t have to report every fender bender you’re ever involved in, but some circumstances require getting the police involved. These situations include:
- If the accident causes more than $1,000 in damages.
- If anyone is injured or killed.
Should either of these conditions apply to the accident you’re involved in, file a Traffic Collision Report within 15 days of the crash.
When should I contact a lawyer?
You might need to hire an attorney if:
- You’re considered at fault for an accident that required a Traffic Collision Report.
- You’re charged with a crime after the crash, such as DUI, reckless driving, negligence or manslaughter.
- Another driver involved in the accident plans to file a civil suit against you.
- You plan to file a civil suit against the other driver.
- You plan to appeal a judgment made against you, such as one that assigns blame to you for the accident.
To best protect yourself, your vehicle and others on the road in South Carolina, you’ll want to find a car insurance policy that works for your needs and your budget. The good news is that you have a lot of options, and by shopping around and comparing rates, you’re sure to find a terrific value.
To learn more about these topics, from state laws and requirements to discounts and savings, read our comprehensive guide to car insurance.
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