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With the average cost for car insurance in South Carolina, the 16th most expensive in the country, it may be tempting for drivers to go without insurance to save money. But by doing so, state drivers put themselves at risk of receiving a penalty for driving without insurance in South Carolina.
Minimum insurance required in South Carolina
Like most states in the nation, South Carolina requires minimum amounts of insurance to drive legally. Purchasing at least the following limits is necessary to avoid receiving a ticket for no insurance:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
- Limits equal to liability limits for uninsured motorist coverage
Additionally, underinsured motorist coverage must be offered by car insurance providers, but drivers have the option not to purchase it. When driving on the roads in South Carolina, it is important to know the car insurance laws you are expected to follow and the penalties you could face if you do not.
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 are considered high-risk drivers.
For the first offense, you will be fined:
- Uninsured motorist fee of $550
- Up to $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 will have to pay a fee of up to $400 to reinstate your license and registration.
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 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.
If you have a third offense, the above fees and penalties apply but jail time is increased to between 45 days and six months. You will also be required to purchase an SR-22 and pay to reinstate your license and registration, which carries a fee of up to $400.
Fees from South Carolina’s online insurance verification system
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 or submit the form manually if you do not have insurance.
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|
Getting into an accident without insurance in South Carolina
Regardless of how safe of a driver you are in South Carolina, if you drive without insurance, accidents are especially risky. You could face more than the penalties, fees and jail time listed above. You could also have to consider towing and impound fees if your car is towed and impounded. If you are deemed at fault in the accident, you would also be personally 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 driving without insurance. South Carolina has a modified comparative negligence rule, which means someone with 50% or less at fault can sue the other party for non-economic and economic damages, which do not have a cap.
Frequently asked questions
What if you provide false insurance information?
South Carolina allows drivers to use digital copies of proof of insurance. You are required to provide proof of insurance if asked for it by a police officer. Providing false insurance information is considered a crime, just like driving without insurance and you could face criminal charges, fines and jail time.
How much is car insurance in South Carolina?
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 $558 per year and for full coverage, $1,512 for the year. These rates are much cheaper than the potential fines and penalties driving without insurance brings in South Carolina.
What happens if your insurance lapses in SC?
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 Department of Motor Vehicles. A request for proof of insurance may be sent to the driver, with a response needed within 20 days or the driver’s license and vehicle registration will be suspended. If your insurance lapses, you will have to provide proof of insurance SR-22 form from your insurance company, proving coverage was reinstated.
Can you get away with driving without insurance?
Driving without insurance in South Carolina is illegal. If you are pulled over or involved in an accident, the penalties are severe and costly. Insurance experts recommend purchasing appropriate coverage as the cost of car insurance rarely outweighs the cost of maintaining car insurance coverage to keep you financially protected.
What is the minimum fine for driving without insurance?
In South Carolina, you will have to pay a $550 fee for being an uninsured motorist. This does not include the fines, jail time and reinstatement fees you will have to pay if caught driving without insurance in South Carolina.