In South Carolina, motorists can choose to either buy an insurance policy or pay a $550 uninsured motorist fee every year. Forgo these options, and you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
If you can't show proof of financial responsibility, you may have to spend time in jail, pay a fine up to $200, and surrender your registration and license plates. Plus, the state will ask you to file an SR-22 form, which can lead to an insurance rate hike.
How much car insurance do I need in South Carolina?
All drivers in South Carolina must either pay an uninsured motorist fee or have a car insurance policy — and carry proof of it while driving. A minimum-coverage policy in South Carolina has liability insurance along with uninsured motorist coverage. Both types of coverage come with these minimum limits:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Penalties for driving uninsured in South Carolina
Forgoing car insurance in South Carolina can result in the following penalties:
Third or subsequent offense
|Fine||$550 uninsured motorist fee; $100–$200 fine or imprisonment||$200; additional $5 for every day without insurance||$5 for every day without insurance|
|Daily fine for lapse||Assessment of $5 per day for lapse in required coverage||Assessment of $5 per day of lapse in required coverage||Assessment of $5 per day of lapse in required coverage|
|Imprisonment||30 days or fine||30 days; a combination of fines and imprisonment||45 days to 6 months|
|Driving privilege||Suspension of registration and license||Suspension of registration and license||Suspension of registration and license|
|Reinstatement requirements||$200 reinstatement fee; SR-22||$200 reinstatement fee; must furnish proper proof of insurance||$200 reinstatement fee; must furnish proper proof of insurance|
Police officers may ask you to show proof of coverage during routine traffic stops or at the scene of an accident. If you can't show proof of coverage — with a paper ID card or an electronic device — you'll receive a citation.
You'll need to ask your insurer to file an SR-22 form on your behalf, which is proof you have an active policy that meets state liability requirements. But if you lack coverage, you'll need to buy a new insurance policy immediately. Check out Article 3, Section 56-10-240 of the South Carolina Motor Vehicle Registration and Financial Security Code of Laws for more details.
The first time you're caught driving without insurance or the $550 uninsured motorist fee, the state will confiscate your vehicle registration and license plates. You can avoid harsher penalties by either paying the uninsured motorist fee or providing proof of insurance coverage within 20 days. If you don't meet this deadline, the court may charge you with a misdemeanor.
The state can then ask you to pay a $100–$200 fine, serve 30 days in jail, and surrender your license plate and vehicle registration. And for each day you go without coverage, you'll pay a $5 surcharge. Reinstating your driving privileges will cost a $200 fee, and you'll need to ask your insurer to file an SR-22 form on your behalf.
If you're caught driving uninsured again within 10 years of your first violation, you'll have to pay a $200 fine, serve 30 days in jail, and surrender your license plate and vehicle registration. Once you buy an insurance policy and pay the $200 reinstatement fee, you'll get your driving privileges back.
Third or subsequent offenses
The penalties get harsher if you're caught driving without insurance for the third time (or more) within 10 years of your previous violations. The state will identify you as a "habitual offender" and will require 45 days to six months in jail. The length of your jail term will depend on the number of times you have violated South Carolina insurance law.
The state will also suspend your license plate and vehicle registration. Once you complete your jail term, you might be able to reinstate your driving privileges. The fee is still $200.
Re-applying for auto insurance in South Carolina
A misdemeanor for driving without insurance — no matter if it's your first or fifth time — will permanently stay on your driving record. As a high-risk driver, insurance companies will charge you higher rates and may even decline to sell you a policy.
If you're struggling to find coverage, the state can offer some help. The Associated Auto Insurers Plan of South Carolina offers insurance coverage for people who have been rejected by at least once car insurance carrier.