The Risks of Driving Without Insurance in South Carolina

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Driving without insurance in South Carolina is illegal and punishable by law. The penalties for driving without insurance in the Palmetto State are hefty fees and fines, registration and license suspension, and even jail time.

An uninsured driver is any driver who fails to carry the legal minimum coverage in the state. While driving without insurance is illegal and punishable by law, other significant financial consequences come with this crime. Let’s check out what happens to drivers who are caught breaking the compulsory insurance law in the state and how you can build your South Carolina auto insurance policy to avoid any legal repercussions. 

The Risks of Driving Without Insurance in South Carolina

In South Carolina, driving without insurance is illegal. Those who fail to carry the minimum required coverage may face penalties such as fees, fines, license or registration suspension, or jail time. The legal consequences are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to driving without insurance, as this crime can significantly alter your life and put you at risk of financial ruin.

The minimum legal amount of coverage all South Carolinians must have is $25,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability per accident, $25,000 in property damage liability per accident (25/50/25 liability coverage, and the same 25/50/25 limit of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM). Those who lease or finance their vehicle may be required to carry collision and comprehensive coverages as part of their legally binding contract. 

Having at least the legal minimum required coverage in the state can help keep you and other drivers safe. If you cause an accident, the victim can use your liability coverage to help cover their medical expenses or vehicle repairs up to your policy limit. Since South Carolina isn’t a no-fault state but a tort or at-fault state, drivers must carry liability coverage to help protect other drivers should the policyholder cause an accident. However, at-fault drivers are on the hook for any remaining expenses, like the victim’s bills exceeding one’s policy limit and all of one’s expenses incurred in the accident. 

Having the minimum liability and UM coverages will help you cover some expenses in an accident and protect you from the legal consequences of driving uninsured. However, it may still leave you liable for a significant amount of money. If your victim’s expenses exceed your policy limit, they may sue you for the remaining costs. Plus, you have to find the money to cover your bills. However, the costs associated with driving with the necessary amount of coverage are nothing compared to those associated with driving uninsured.

Driving without insurance in the Palmetto State can be extremely financially risky. Between fees, fines, legal defense fees, significantly increased premiums, and potential work loss, the costs of driving uninsured tally up quickly. 

Having a history of driving uninsured can make it challenging to find coverage in the future, especially if you’re looking for the cheapest policy in the state. Drivers caught behind the wheel without insurance may have to file an SR-22 form, which inadvertently causes one’s premiums to skyrocket. While previously uninsured drivers may be eligible for a policy with one of the state’s top insurers, it won’t be cheap.

What’s the Uninsured Motorist Fee in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, the uninsured motorist fee ranges depending on the frequency and severity of the crime. For every offense, uninsured motorists must pay a $600 fee on top of the other penalties they may face. Fines typically begin at between $100 and $200, plus a daily fee for however many days one is without a policy. Drivers may also face reinstatement fees if their licenses or registrations are suspended or legal defense fees should they face jail time.

Repeat offenders may face more severe consequences, like higher fines, license or registration suspension, or a more significant risk of jail time. Those who have their license or registration suspended will have to pay to reinstate them, plus they’ll likely need an SR-22 form filed on their behalf. 

An SR-22 is a form an insurer files on behalf of a driver who’s considered high-risk like one caught driving uninsured or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While the form itself isn’t costly to file, about $25 on average, the existence of it on one’s record causes insurers to raise one’s premiums to sometimes double or triple the average cost.

While the legal consequences are undoubtedly severe, other consequences come with driving uninsured. Those with a history of driving without insurance may face higher premiums when they eventually bind a policy. 

In South Carolina, a full coverage premium costs, on average, about $1,640 annually. A high-risk driver with a history of driving uninsured may be charged double or triple that amount for their premiums, which can cost nearly $5,000 annually for a full coverage policy. 

It’s also crucial to remember that license and registration suspension can seriously impact how you earn and save money. If you depend on your vehicle to get to and from work and your license is suspended or your vehicle gets impounded, your income and employment may be jeopardized. 

In short, driving uninsured can be much more expensive than paying a minimum coverage policy premium. Since a minimum coverage policy is about half the protection of a full coverage policy, it typically costs half as much in premiums. This means a year’s minimum coverage may cost about $820 annually in the Palmetto State, which is about the cost of the fees and fines associated with driving uninsured. 

While finding room in your budget for an insurance premium can take some time and organization, an insurance policy is far easier to budget for than the potential costs of getting into an accident without sufficient insurance coverage. 

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What Is the Penalty for Driving Without Insurance in South Carolina?

The penalty for driving without insurance in South Carolina can range from fees and fines, license and registration suspension, jail time, or any combination of these. First offenders will likely face a hefty uninsured motorist fee on top of fines and possible jail time, depending on the severity of the offense. 

The severity and frequency of the offense are the key factors in determining an uninsured motorist’s consequence for the crime. If a driver has a clean driving record and accidentally lets their policy lapse for a week, they’ll likely face a lighter consequence than a driver who knowingly got behind the wheel without a policy and caused an accident. Those who cause accidents while uninsured often face more severe consequences than those charged for this offense during a routine traffic stop. 

Those who drive uninsured risk financial ruin each time they get behind the wheel. While a minimum coverage policy isn’t always the best choice for every driver, it’s still better than no policy at all. Ultimately, a full coverage policy provides the best protection, even if it comes at a higher cost. It’s far easier to budget for an insurance premium than for a catastrophic accident, and with a full coverage policy, drivers may be entirely protected by their insurance coverage even in the worst-case accident scenario.

Maintaining a full coverage policy carries a more significant investment in one’s premiums, but this investment pays off in terms of one’s safety on the road. A full coverage policy in the Palmetto State is any policy with a liability limit that exceeds 25/50/25, a UM limit that exceeds 25/50/25, and has additional, optional coverages like collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, or a first-party medical benefit (FPMB) like medical payments coverage (MedPay) since personal injury protection (PIP) isn’t available in the state. 

How To Get a Car Insurance Quote in South Carolina

Whether you’re looking for a minimum or full coverage policy, the best way to sift through all South Carolina insurance to find a policy that meets your needs is to get and compare quotes online. By getting and comparing quotes online, you can see all the policies for which you’re eligible to get the best coverage for your budget. 

Luckily, quotes are our specialty here at Clovered. You can access your unique quotes in minutes using our free quoting tool. If you’d rather speak to a professional about your quote, you can contact one of our licensed professionals at 833-255-4117 or

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.

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