Downtown Charleston South Carolina Skyline
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Driving off the lot with your new car, a world of opportunities will appear before your eyes. Perhaps you should explore Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge or treat the family to a summer vacation on Hilton Head Island. Maybe you just want to decorate your ride for a tailgate party at the next Gamecocks game. But before you hit the road, you need to think about South Carolina insurance.

According to 2015 Federal Highway Administration statistics, South Carolina has more than 3.6 million drivers. In 2017, more than 100,000 car accidents occurred in The Palmetto State, resulting in 925 fatalities and nearly 40,000 injuries, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. It makes sense to protect yourself with car insurance, and South Carolina law requires you to carry minimum amounts of coverage.

Before shopping for South Carolina insurance, seek guidance from experts such as the Insurance Information Institute, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the South Carolina Department of Insurance.

  • If you are looking for a new car, compare insurance costs between makes and models.
  • Find out what insurance South Carolina requires. For financed vehicles, check with the lender about insurance requirements.
  • Get lots of quotes from as many insurance companies as possible.
  • If you need to insure an older vehicle, consider dropping some coverages, like collision and comprehensive insurance to save money.
  • If you already have a South Carolina home insurance policy, ask your agent if you can bundle it with car insurance to get lower rates on both coverages.
  • Check your credit score and ask an agent how your credit might affect your premium.
  • When speaking with agents, ask a lot of questions about deductibles, limits and what each policy covers.
  • Ask agents about discounts to reduce your insurance premium.
  • Before purchasing a policy, search the National Association of Insurance Commissioners database to see if the company holds a valid license.

Best Car Insurance Companies in South Carolina

Searching for the best South Carolina insurance might seem like an impossible task. No need to worry, because the experts can help you find the best coverage for you. Every year, J.D. Power and Associates studies the car insurance market to find the best companies. Using a 5-star rating system, J.D. Power rates companies based on six categories and compiles a list of top companies in each U.S. region. In its 2019 U.S. Auto Insurance Study the top five car insurance companies in the Southeast region included:

Company Rank Overall Satisfaction Policy Offerings Policy Pricing Billing Process/Policy Information Customer Interaction Claims Handling
Farm Bureau TN #1 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars 5 stars
Erie #2 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 5 stars 5 stars
Alfa #3 4 stars 3 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars
Farm Bureau NC #4 4 stars 3 stars 4 stars 3 stars 4 stars 4 stars
State Farm #5 4 stars 4 stars 3 stars 4 stars 4 stars 3 stars
USAA Not ranked 4 stars 5 stars 4 stars 5 stars 4 stars 5 stars

Although USAA received all 5- and 4-star ratings, it does not qualify for the J.D. Power rankings, because it only offers insurance to military members and their families. Nonetheless, if you or a family member are in the military, you might want to look at what USAA has to offer. Also note, Erie Insurance is not currently available in South Carolina, but is available in North Carolina.

A.M. Best Rating Services rates insurance companies based on their financial stability. They provide critical information to insurance shoppers, because financial stability plays a major role in a company’s ability to fulfill claims responsibilities.

A.M. Best rates:

Consumers turn to the Better Business Bureau for help when they want to lodge a complaint against a company. The BBB rates companies based on:

  • Company size
  • Number of complaints the BBB receives against a company
  • How well a business responds to complaints filed with the BBB
  • The amount of time a company takes to resolve a complaint
  • The effort a business makes to resolve a complaint
  • How well a company resolves the underlying issues of complaints
  • Number of current complaints

The BBB rates:

Finding the right cheap car insurance in South Carolina for you

The Zebra, a private organization that researches the insurance markets, conducts surveys to find the cheapest car insurance prices in each state. In its 2019 study, South Carolina’s most affordable average annual car insurance premiums included:

Finding the lowest average rates is great, but some people have problems that negatively impact their car insurance rates, like bad credit or a DUI conviction. According to The Zebra, companies offering the best average annual rates for people with credit problems include:

According to a 2018 The Zebra study, companies offering the lowest average annual insurance rates for people with DUI records include:

  • USAA – $1,721
  • Allstate – $1,811
  • Progressive – $2,001
  • Geico – $2,126
  • Nationwide – $2,564

Average car insurance costs in South Carolina

Based on a 2016 Insurance Information Institute study, South Carolinians pay an average annual car insurance premium of around $922, which includes collision, comprehensive and liability coverages.

According to The Zebra’s 2019 estimate, South Carolina car insurance rates have increased to an average of $1,361 per year. Nevertheless, South Carolina insurance rates are more than 4.5% less than the national average. Female South Carolinians pay an average annual rate of $1,325, while males pay $1,367.

Teenage drivers always pay a lot for car insurance, but when South Carolina parents add their kids to their policies, they can enjoy a big savings.

Age Annual Rate on Parents’ Policy Annual Rate for Standalone Policy
16 $5,050 $6,372
17 $4,732 $5,274
18 $4,554 $4,620
19 $4,153 $3,190

On average, married South Carolinians pay about $68 per year less than single and divorced people do. When a husband or wife dies, the surviving spouse may experience an increase of around $40 per year.

South Carolina allows car insurance companies to use credit scores to rate insurance premiums. Drivers with very poor FICO scores (300-579) pay an average annual premium of $2,761, while people with the highest credit scores (800-850) pay an average of around $1,226.

Driving offenses often increase a driver’s insurance rates, and South Carolina car insurance is no exception. According to The Zebra, drivers with traffic offenses pay an average annual premium of:

Traffic Offense Average Annual Premium
DUI $2,065
Reckless Driving $2,127
At-fault Accident (less than $1,000 in damages) $1,995
At-fault Accident ($1,000-$2,000 in damages) $1,989
At-fault Accident (more than $2,000 in damages) $1,995
Open Container Violation $1,789
Speeding Violation (21-25 mph over limit) $1,632
Speeding Violation (16-20 mph over limit) $1,632

Car Insurance Discounts in South Carolina

State Farm offers several discounts that reward customers for staying safe, including:

  • Good driver discounts: When every driver in your household has no at-fault accidents or traffic violations in a three-year period
  • Passive restraint discounts: For vehicles manufactured in 1993 or prior that have seatbelts and/or factory-installed air bags that meet federal standards

Alfa Insurance features several discount programs that reward people who purchase or hold additional policies, including:

  • Multi-car discounts: For policyholders that insure more than one passenger car with Alfa
  • Combo discounts: For policyholders who take out a South Carolina home insurance policy with Alfa
  • Life insurance discounts: For policyholders who purchase an Alfa life insurance policy

State Minimum Insurance Requirements in South Carolina

According to the South Carolina Department of Insurance, state law requires drivers to carry bodily injury and property damage liability policies, and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

Bodily injury coverage pays for the medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering of another driver, or another driver’s passengers, when you are at fault in an accident. Under South Carolina law, you must have at least $25,000 in bodily injury insurance to cover one person and at least $50,000 in insurance to cover all persons injured in a single accident.

Property damage liability pays to replace or repair another driver’s car or other types of property, when you are at fault in an accident. South Carolina law requires you to purchase at least $25,000 worth of property damage insurance to cover damages in a single accident.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance pays for yours and your passengers’ medical bills and damage to your car if an underinsured or uninsured motorist is at fault involving your vehicle. This could include a common accident or a hit-and-run accident. South Carolina requires you to carry uninsured-underinsured insurance that matches the minimum limits established for liability coverage: $25,000 for bodily injury of one person, up to $50,000 to cover all passengers, and $25,000 in property damage coverage.