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Penalties for driving without insurance in South Carolina

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South Carolina requires all drivers to maintain active car insurance coverage that meets the state’s minimum coverage requirements in order to drive legally in the state. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) is notified electronically any time a driver cancels an insurance policy. For that reason, it is important to maintain your insurance, as driving without insurance in South Carolina can lead to penalties. Those can be financial, but you can also have your license suspended for driving with no insurance in South Carolina. Understanding the state’s laws and requirements can help you avoid these penalties.

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Is car insurance required in South Carolina?

Like most states, South Carolina requires a minimum amount of insurance to drive legally. Required minimum coverage types and levels are:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $25,000 per accident for property damage
  • $25,000 per person for uninsured motorist bodily injury
  • $50,000 per accident for uninsured motorist bodily injury

Uninsured motorist coverage must be offered by car insurance providers, but drivers have the option to decline the coverage in writing.

Penalties for driving without insurance in South Carolina

The penalties you may face for driving without car insurance in South Carolina vary by the number of offenses. Drivers caught without valid insurance may be considered high-risk drivers.

First offense

There are a few possible penalties for a first offense uninsured driving conviction. The first time you drive without insurance in South Carolina, you may experience:

  • An uninsured motorist fee of $600 if coverage is not restored
  • Up to a $200 fine or 30 days in jail, or both
  • $5 per day for each day you went without insurance

Your license and registration could be suspended until you can provide proof of car insurance coverage, also called an SR-22. Plus, you may have to pay a fee of up to $400 to reinstate your license and registration.

Second offense

For the second offense, all the penalties for driving without insurance in South Carolina apply from the first offense. There is no “or” for the fine or jail time for the second offense; you will likely be fined and face up to 30 days in jail. South Carolina considers a second offense a criminal misdemeanor which stays on your criminal record permanently.

Third offense

If you have a third offense, the above fees and penalties apply, but jail time is increased to between 45 days and six months.

Fees for driving without insurance in South Carolina

Car insurance companies are required to provide proof of insurance when requested electronically through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles Automobile Liability Insurance Reporting system (SC ALIR). If someone is caught driving without insurance in South Carolina, or there is a lapse in insurance, the owner will have to pay penalties or fees.

If you receive an FR-4 Suspension letter or FR-31 Verification request notice, you must notify your insurance company to complete the required proof of insurance information in the ALIR system within 20 days, submit the form manually if you do not have insurance, or surrender your license plates and registration to the SCDMV.

If you are convicted of driving an uninsured vehicle that you do not own, your license may be suspended for 30 days, and you will likely need to pay a $100 reinstatement fee to get it back.

Fines for not responding to a confirmation notice

Reason for fee Fee amount
Per day fine for lapse of insurance $5/day, $200 maximum
Reinstatement fee for driver’s license $100
Reinstatement fee for vehicle registration $100

Uninsured motorist fee in South Carolina

Drivers who do not want to purchase car insurance in South Carolina may be able to pursue uninsured motorist registration. This annual $600 fee is paid by drivers who register their vehicle but want to avoid carrying car insurance. Drivers who qualify can legally drive their vehicles uninsured, but they are still legally and financially liable for any accident they cause — SCDMV specifically states that the uninsured motorist registration is not a car insurance policy.

Although the uninsured motorist fee is an option for qualified drivers in South Carolina, most insurance experts recommend carrying an insurance policy instead. The average cost of minimum coverage car insurance in South Carolina is $524 per year — less than the uninsured motorist fee of $600. Additionally, minimum coverage car insurance may at least provide some level of liability coverage if you are deemed at fault for an accident or other covered incident.

Current legislation is underway to remove the uninsured motorist registration from the law and convert it to an uninsured motorist fine that drivers must pay as part of the penalty for not having insurance. Once enacted, South Carolina drivers will need to have an active insurance policy or surrender their plates and registration to avoid penalties.

Getting into an accident without insurance in South Carolina

Regardless of how safe of a driver you are in South Carolina, driving without insurance may be financially risky. You could face more than the penalties, fees and jail time listed above. You may also have to consider towing and impound fees if your car is impounded. If you are deemed at fault in the accident, you may also be financially responsible for the other person’s injuries, lost wages, medical bills and property damage.

While the costs for the accident could be high, the injured driver and passengers of the other car may also sue you for your part in the accident, especially if you are at fault and found to be driving without insurance. South Carolina has a modified comparative negligence rule, which means someone with 50 percent or less at fault can sue the other party for non-economic and economic damages, which do not have a cap.

Frequently asked questions

    • In South Carolina, providing false insurance information is considered a crime. While the state allows drivers to present digital copies of their insurance, attempting to falsify that information or show incorrect information to a police officer is considered a crime. Similar to driving without insurance, you can face penalties including fines and jail time for offering false information.
    • Minimum auto insurance requirements may help ensure that both you and other drivers are financially protected while driving in South Carolina. According to The Insurance Information Institute’s 2019 study, 10.9 percent of drivers in South Carolina are uninsured. Having a high number of uninsured drivers may lead to more lawsuits which could be one reason why South Carolina is the 16th most expensive state in the U.S. for car insurance. Maintaining at least the state’s required minimum limits of insurance may help you and others avoid the expense and stress of having to pay for damage from an accident out of pocket.

      Learn more: Why is car insurance mandatory?

    • The cost for car insurance in South Carolina varies by driver, based on driving history, location, vehicle type and coverage needs. The average cost of car insurance in South Carolina for state minimum liability limits is $524 per year. For full coverage, the average cost is $1,532 per year. This is low compared to the national annual averages of $2,014 and $622 for full and minimum coverage, respectively.
    • The fine for an insurance lapse in South Carolina is $5 per day, up to a maximum fine of $200 per occurrence. When a car insurance policy is canceled, an electronic notification is sent to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. A request for proof of insurance may be sent to the driver, requesting a response within 20 days. If no response is received, the driver’s license and vehicle registration may be suspended. If your insurance lapses, you may have to provide a proof of insurance SR-22 form from your insurance company, proving coverage was reinstated.
    • Driving without insurance in South Carolina is illegal unless you have paid the $600 uninsured motorist registration fee. The penalties may be severe and costly if you are pulled over or cause an accident while uninsured. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles receives a notice when you or an insurer cancels an insurance policy, so even if you are not driving, you likely cannot get away with driving without insurance. Most insurance experts recommend purchasing appropriate coverage as the cost of car insurance rarely outweighs the uninsured motorist fee or the cost of paying for damages out of pocket if you were to cause an accident.

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