Ready to hit the road in the Palmetto State? Here's what you need to know, and what you need to get in coverage.
Auto Insurance Laws
First of all, South Carolina is best defined as a “no ifs, ands, or buts” state: Under the state's Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act to be registered and on the road, you need to have car insurance that meets the state minimums, and having insurance is strictly enforced.
Similarly, if you want a license, you'll need to have insurance if you own a vehicle; although really, since it needs to be registered, you'll probably have that base covered already. The state recommends that if you're moving there from another state, you change your address with your insurance company before you go in to register. As South Carolina verifies your insurance electronically, that will smooth over a lot of potentially annoying paperwork bumps.
They're not shy about enforcement, either. If a motorist is pulled over and is unable to demonstrate that his or her car is properly insured, a citation will be issued. This isn't a normal ticket: It requires you to prove that you had insurance while on the road within 30 days of being issued. If you can't prove it, and are convicted of driving while uninsured, your driver's license can be suspended indefinitely until you fulfill the state's requirements. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Similarly, if a driver's insurance lapses, the insurance company will contact the state DMV, which in turn will get in touch with the driver. Either the driver demonstrates that they have insurance... or he will have to surrender his plate and registration. If this happens to you, expect it to cost you $400 to get your plate back. The good news is that drivers who voluntarily surrender the plate and registration won't have to face any punishment under the Financial Responsibility laws.
So, how much do you have to have to get on the road? South Carolina has the following minimums:
- $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death of one person
- $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death of two people
- $20,000 in coverage for property damage or injury to others
Drivers that don't meet the minimums will, as you might have noticed, get either their license suspended or be forced to surrender their registration.
So what option do drivers have to get those items back?
It's called the SR-22. It has to be issued by insurance companies and is required in the case of drivers who have had their licenses suspended because of driving under the influence, were convicted of driving on a suspended license, or were convicted of driving while uninsured. However, this form will only be issued to South Carolina residents, so drivers from out of state with these problems may need to make other arrangements with the state.
Ultimately, what South Carolina wants from its drivers is responsibility. If you drive responsibility and stay current on your insurance, you'll be able to see all this lovely state has to offer with no trouble whatsoever.