What is the penalty for driving without insurance in South Carolina?

One charge of driving without car insurance in SC is punishable by up to $750 in fines, jail time, and an additional fee of $5 for each day of lapsed coverage.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Failure to carry auto insurance in South Carolina counts as a misdemeanor
  • Fines and jail time may be imposed on someone convicted of driving without insurance
  • Purchasing the minimum amount of coverage or paying an uninsured motorist fee satisfies state law

South Carolina’s beaches support a booming tourism industry. Drivers travel down I-95 to connect with the numerous highways and byways to reach scores of destinations in the state.

Residents of South Carolina know increased traffic on the roads creates risks, which is why buying the best auto insurance policy remains a smart move.

Mistakes and oversights, however, can lead to lapses in insurance coverage. Missing a payment and ignoring the grace period creates an undesirable lapse in coverage.

Without auto insurance coverage, negligently causing an accident could lead to total financial ruin. Surprisingly, a crash happens on the road in South Carolina every four minutes or so and a person is injured in a crash every 10.5 minutes.

This data alone should prod many to make sure auto insurance stays active. Compare car insurance quotes today to find the right policy for your needs. Enter your zip code above to get started.

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance

The other reason to maintain consistent auto insurance coverage year after year entails staying in compliance with South Carolina state law. Unless the state accepts an “annual payment of an “Uninsured Motorist Fee,” drivers must carry auto insurance.

Drivers without insurance can be cited if law enforcement officers discover the lack of coverage. The citation won’t lead to a minimal penalty along the lines of a minor non-moving violation.

Driving without insurance comes with significant penalties, penalties designed to deter drivers from dropping or never carrying insurance.

First Offense

The state levies several monetary penalties against drivers unable to provide proof of insurance:

  • a $550 uninsured motorist fee
  • a five dollar per day fee for each day of lapsed insurance
  • a choice between a $100 to $200 fine or 30 days in jail

Until the driver can prove he/she purchased auto insurance, both the license and registration are suspended. Filing a form SR-22 and paying a $200 fee are required for reinstatement. The insurance company submits an SR-22 on a customer’s behalf.

Second Offense

Drivers caught without insurance must pay a $550 uninsured motorist fee along with a $200 fine. Five dollars in fines will be assessed each day there is a lapse in coverage. Thirty days of jail time shall be imposed.

Both the driver’s registration and license face suspension and remain suspended until the payment of a $200 reinstatement fee. The insurance company must file a form SR-22 with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As the jail time indicates, driving without insurance in South Carolina falls under the category of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction means a criminal record. Criminal records are permanent barring a successful and costly expungement process.

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What Proof of Insurance is accepted in South Carolina?

Insurance companies mail out Proof of Insurance (POI) documents to customers. The documents indicate the initiation and expiration date of the coverage along with identifying material related to the driver and vehicle.

Drivers without this document should order a new one. Printing out a copy online can be a quicker option.

As of March 4, 2014, South Carolina legalized the use of electronic POI documents. Showing digital versions of insurance proof on a smartphone or other mobile/computer device is acceptable. It would still be best to keep paper versions of POI documents on hand as well.

What are the minimum requirements for car insurance in South Carolina?

Purchasers of auto insurance coverage in South Carolina must carry the state’s minimum coverage amounts. Drivers can and should purchase more than the minimum amounts to increase their financial protections. The mandated minimum coverage amounts are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury for one person
  • $50,000 in bodily injury for more than one person per single accident
  • $25,000 to cover property damage

In South Carolina, auto insurers must offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage equal to the purchased amounts of liability protection. Collision and comprehensive coverage are available and not mandatory.

Drivers benefit from maximizing the amount of coverage on their vehicle.

While paying the uninsured motorist fee is cheaper than purchasing insurance, doing so comes with great risk. The driver would become financially responsible for any damage he/she causes. Buying insurance makes more sense and would be far more responsible.

Requesting online quotes, at least three or four, starts the process of purchasing insurance. The quotes come with price estimates and a rundown of the coverage protections on the policies.

Choose the best policy at a fair price with the right level of coverage based on need and net worth. Enter your zip code below to find the car insurance coverage that’s right for you!

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