In South Carolina, drivers can choose to either buy a car insurance policy or pay a $600 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 of 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 yearly or have a car insurance policy — and carry proof of either 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 requirements:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
Penalties for driving uninsured in South Carolina
Driving without car insurance or paying the yearly uninsured motorist fee in South Carolina can result in the following penalties.
Third or subsequent offense
|Fine||$600 uninsured motorist fee; $100–$200 fine or 30 days’ imprisonment||$200||—|
|Imprisonment||30 days if not charged a fine||30 days; a combination of fines and imprisonment||45 days to 6 months|
|Daily fine for lapse||Assessment of $5 per day for lapse in required coverage, not to exceed $200||Assessment of $5 per day for lapse in required coverage||Assessment of $5 per day for lapse in required coverage|
|Suspension of registration and license||Suspension of registration and license||Suspension of registration and license|
|Reinstatement requirements||$200 reinstatement fee; SR-22 form||$200 reinstatement fee; SR-22 form||$200 reinstatement fee; SR-22 form|
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 on 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. If you lack coverage, you'll need to buy an insurance policy immediately.
The first time you're caught driving without insurance or proof of paying the $600 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 do either, the court may charge you with a misdemeanor.
With a misdemeanor, the state can ask you to pay a $100–$200 fine or serve 30 days in jail and surrender your license plates and vehicle registration. Additionally, for each day you go without coverage, you'll pay a $5 surcharge, up to $200. Reinstating your driving privileges will cost $200. You'll also need to get an insurance policy that meets the minimum state requirements and 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 offense
The penalties get harsher if you're caught for the third time (or more) within 10 years of your previous violations. The state will identify you as a "habitual offender" and require you to serve 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, and you must provide proof of a valid insurance policy
Reapplying 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. Because you’re 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.