It’s difficult to know exactly how much coverage you need. You should cover not only state minimums but also your own peace of mind. What goes into calculating your premium, and how much should you really be paying for coverage? More than the price tag, though, is the quality of the coverage you’re buying. It’s important to look at all factors, from the reliability and customer satisfaction ratings of the insurance company all the way to the coverage offered and even your deductible.
By really shopping around and knowing what’s required of you as a South Carolina driver, you can not only pick the best possible auto insurance policy, but save your budget in the process.
We aim to help make that process a little easier for you, too. We have researched all of the laws and regulations involved with getting auto insurance coverage in the Palmetto State, as well as the best options. By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll know exactly what you need, the factors that will impact your premiums, and the companies that will best serve your needs.
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Compare Car Insurance Plans in South Carolina
If you’re looking for auto insurance in the Palmetto State, you have quite a few options. Of course, your individual rates will vary depending on the coverage you choose, your personal driving record, and even your location.
Based on our research and consumer ratings, here are our top picks for your next auto insurance policy:
- Best Overall Satisfaction: State Farm
- Best Customer Service: Nationwide
- Lowest Premiums: State Farm
- Great If You Have a Perfect Record: National Grange Mutual
- Best If You Have a Less-Than-Perfect Record: State Auto
Each state has its own legal requirements for drivers in the form of state-mandated minimum auto insurance coverage. These limits include both bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. Failure to obtain these levels of coverage will result in you being an uninsured/underinsured (and illegal) driver.
What’s the difference between the two types of coverage? Bodily injury liability coverage will pay for the medical bills and personal injury expenses related to an accident for which you are liable. If multiple people are injured in your at-fault accident, the total bodily injury coverage included in your policy will be split between them.
On the other hand, your property damage liability is coverage that pays for the repair or replacement of someone else’s property following an at-fault accident. This could include other vehicles, buildings, and structures, or even object like a street sign.
While you can choose an insurance policy with liability in any amount–particularly if you want to protect your assets with additional coverage–these are the minimum thresholds in South Carolina. This means that you are required to carry at least this much insurance if you get behind the wheel in the state:
|Bodily Damage Liability|
|Death or injury of one person in any one accident||$25,000 minimum|
|Death or injury of 2+ people in any one accident||$50,000 minimum|
|Property Damage Liability||$25,000 minimum|
In addition to carrying this coverage for your vehicle, you’ll also need to have these same minimum amounts in uninsured motorist coverage. This means that your vehicle and injuries will be covered in the event that you are in a not-at-fault accident with a driver who doesn’t have liability coverage.
If you want to have additional coverage for your own vehicle, collision and comprehensive options are available. These will cover repairs to your car in the case of an at-fault accident (you’ll only be responsible for your policy’s deductible) as well as repairs for incidents such as a rock cracking your windshield or your vehicle being vandalized.
While these options are very useful, they do raise the cost of your policy. South Carolina doesn’t require them. However, if you’re still making payments on a car loan, your lender will likely require these coverage options.
South Carolina also allows drivers to self-insure. However, the rules are a bit more stringent than some other states.
In order to self-insure as a driver in South Carolina, you or your business will need to own (and have registered in your name) at least 25 motor vehicles. You will also need to have a net worth of at least $20 million or deposit a minimum of $3,000 in a separate account for each individual vehicle registered in your or your company’s name.
If you don’t carry a policy with the minimum property damage liability, bodily injury liability, and uninsured coverage limits mentioned above, you are driving illegally in South Carolina. Not only can you be ticketed and fined for continuing to drive, but you also will be unable to register your vehicle in the state.
When you get pulled over in South Carolina or are involved in an accident, you’ll need to provide proof of valid auto insurance coverage. Simply being unable to provide an insurance card (but having valid coverage) will usually result in a citation for failure to provide proof of insurance. However, if you provide proof that you indeed had coverage at the time of the incident, usually within 30 days, the court will drop the ticket.
However, if you do not maintain state-minimum coverage, the state will ticket and fine you for driving uninsured or underinsured. The state may suspend your license indefinitely until you get proper insurance coverage. And when you do get the proper coverage, you’ll have to pay a $100 fee to get your license reinstated. You also won’t be able to renew your vehicle’s registration during this time, until you purchase the right insurance.
Of course, the implications of driving without auto insurance coverage go far beyond a citation and suspended driving privileges.
If you get in an auto accident without adequate liability coverage, you are at risk of financial ruin. Even if you don’t have insurance, you are still responsible for any damages or injuries you caused. If you cannot afford to cover these bills out of pocket, the injured parties could sue you and seize your assets.
In addition, the state will likely require you to carry an SR-22 insurance policy moving forward. This certificate of financial responsibility is not only an added cost ($50-100 for form filing), but will also result in higher premiums. This is because SR-22 drivers are considered to be high-risk, since the certificate is only required by those who drive without proper insurance, drive with a suspended license, get a DUI/DWI, or are habitually found guilty of other motor vehicle offenses.
Proof of Insurance
As we touched on above, you will need to provide proof of valid insurance coverage any time you are in an accident, pulled over, or go to renew your vehicle’s registration. Simply having coverage isn’t technically enough. You also need to be able to produce proof.
In South Carolina, this may be in the form of an insurance card. The insurance company may mail you a card or paper certificate, or even email you a PDF to print. You can then carry the insurance card on you each time you drive. It will include your policy number, vehicles and drivers covered under the policy, important insurance company numbers, your address, and the dates that the policy is valid.
Some insurance companies also offer mobile apps, where you can pull up proof of coverage when needed. However, keep in mind that if your phone dies or if you’re in an accident and your phone is damaged, you may have trouble using a mobile device to pull up your insurance card.
In South Carolina, as in most other states, the insurance companies will actually report lapsed policies to the DMV. This goes into a database, which means law enforcement officers can know whether you have a valid policy or not. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to still be able to show proof of a policy. But it also means you shouldn’t try to pass off a lapsed policy’s insurance card (even if it still shows valid dates) as being your current coverage.
If you choose to self-insure through the state, you’ll need to instead carry proof of the cash deposit or certificate of approved self-coverage when you drive. You can contact the state’s DMV to learn more if you are interested in this option.
You may wonder how your own auto insurance cost measures up when compared to others in your state. While there are many variables involved, let’s take a look at average expenses in South Carolina.
According to data from QuoteWizard, the total average of all auto insurance policies across the state is $853.53 per year, or $71.13 a month. The national average, in comparison, is a bit higher at $889.01.
This average includes those who buy liability-only coverage as well as those who buy collision and comprehensive coverage, so keep that in mind. You can break down the average further to compare based on coverage options. The average annual cost for liability coverage alone, for instance, is $527.09. The average for collision coverage is $265.07, while comprehensive coverage in the state runs an average of $180.94.
|Total Cost Per Year||$853.53|
|Price Per Month||$71.13|
Of course, your actual cost each year could vary greatly, depending on your personal factors. Things like your driving record, age, location in the state, what kind of car you drive, and whether you qualify for any discounts all impact the price of your policy.
It’s hard to decide which auto insurance provider has the cheapest car insurance in South Carolina. Rates have a wide range based on each insured individual and can vary wildly from company to company. The insurer that’s best for a mom with a clean driving record might not be the same one that’s best for the 19-year-old man with a sports car and speeding tickets.
However, we wanted to take a look at how the price tags compare between the most popular companies in South Carolina. We pitted them against one another using the same sample criteria, to see who offered cheaper policies with the same amount of coverage. This way, you can get a good idea of who is at the lower end of the price spectrum.
The easiest way to find the cheapest car insurance company is to use our auto insurance rate comparison tool:
Our sample driver was a single, 30-year-old male with a clean driving record, who lives in Mountville, SC and drives a ‘13 Chevy Malibu. Here’s what he would find in terms of pricing for state minimum liability coverage:
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
|National Grange Mutual||$1,140|
Of course, Mountville is one of the lower-cost insurance areas in the state. Let’s see how much he could expect to pay for state-minimum coverage if he lived in North Charleston instead:
|Insurance Company||Annual Premium|
|National Grange Mutual||$1,860|
Your results may vary based on your specific ZIP code and personal factors. However, if you live in South Carolina, you can probably bank on State Auto being one of your cheapest insurance providers in the state, followed by Nationwide and Bristol West.
If you’re asking how much auto insurance costs in South Carolina, there are literally hundreds of answers to the question. It depends on a number of variables, including:
- Marital status
- Driving record
- Vehicle(s) covered
- Whether your vehicle is financed, leased, or paid in full
- ZIP code
- Whether you own or rent your home
- Your credit score
- Miles driven each year and the purpose of those miles (work commute, pleasure, etc.)
- How much coverage is desired
There is no accurate way to precisely say how much your insurance would (or should) cost without knowing your individual factors. As mentioned above, though, the average cost of all auto insurance policies across the entire state of South Carolina is about $854 a year.
We can narrow that down a bit further, though. Let’s try to give you a better idea of how much you can expect to pay in the state for your minimum coverage, based on your age and a few other factors. To do this, we will compare four different “profiles” and see how our auto insurance quotes change.
All four of our example drivers live in Salem (ZIP code 29676), which is one of the lower-cost auto insurance areas in the state. Just keep in mind that insurance costs in cities like Hanahan, Moncks Corner, or Charleston could potentially be much, much higher.
First, we have Little Timmy. This 22-year-old is your typical high-risk insured driver. He’s still in college, rents an apartment, and cruises around in a financed 2012 Chevrolet Impala. He has a stereotypical lead foot. In the last three years, he’s managed to get two speeding tickets (but no accidents). He drives to work and school everyday, for an average of about 15,000 miles a year.
John and Jane Smith are just average parents. These 42-year-olds are still paying on the mortgage for their home, but they own a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. They also financed a 2014 Toyota Sienna last year, and drive an average of about 16,000 miles a year. John and Jane both have bachelor’s degrees, great credit, and good driving records, but Jane was in a small fender bender a couple of years ago.
Next, there’s Straight-Laced Sally. The 35-year-old college grad owns a 2010 Toyota Camry and a condo. She drives about 10,000 miles a year and hasn’t had an accident or traffic ticket in over a decade.
Bringing up the rear is Grandpa Joe. The 65-year-old cruises around in a 1998 Honda Civic, for an average of about 8,000 miles per year. He owns his home, has a degree, and hasn’t had a traffic ticket or accident since he was young.
Now, while you probably don’t perfectly match any of these profiles, there’s likely one that you can most relate to for insurance purposes. Are you mid-30s with a clean driving record, like Sally? Are you a college kid with a few traffic citations under your belt, like Timmy?
Well, let’s see how each of them measure up when it comes to getting auto insurance quotes in South Carolina. (We used The Zebra to find coverage prices for state-minimum liability.)
|Little Timmy||John & Jane Smith||Straight-Laced Sally||Grandpa Joe|
|National Grange Mutual||$185||$188||$73||$125|
|Allstate||$188||$82||not given||not given|
|State Auto||$255||$90||not given||$88|
|The General||$288||$176||$144||not given|
As you can tell, accidents and citations seem to have the biggest impact on premiums, followed by age.
Each state has its own unique laws and requirements, some of which will affect your premiums. Here’s a look at some that you’ll encounter in South Carolina:
They Want You to Report Fraud
The South Carolina Attorney General’s office goes to great lengths to educate residents on the impacts of insurance fraud. They have even established the South Carolina Insurance Fraud Hotline. This 24-hour hotline allows anyone to call toll-free and report suspected insurance fraud, without having to reveal their identity.
The most common types of auto insurance fraud include:
- Under-reporting the number of miles driven each year
- Falsifying or over-exaggerating an accident-related injury
- Faking or staging an accident to get a settlement or inflate injury claims
- Claiming old damages were the result of a new accident
Credit Is a Factor
In many states, insurance companies will take your credit history into account when determining your insurability. This is also the case in South Carolina.
When driving in the state, your credit history–whether good or bad–will play a factor in determining your auto insurance approval and premium costs. Depending on your financial choices over the years, this might be a good thing or a bad thing!
…Location Is, Too
Where you live in the state plays a role in calculating your premiums, even down to the exact ZIP code. Can you imagine moving only a few streets away but seeing your auto insurance costs double or triple? Well, it’s possible.
Of course, South Carolina law dictates that your location be used as a secondary factor when calculating your premiums. Your driving record, age, and the vehicle you drive will play more of a factor than exactly where you live. However, your locale is still a pretty significant part of the calculation.
There are a few popular auto insurance companies in the state. Wondering who has the biggest share of the market, though? Here’s a look at how these companies rank in actual auto insurance customers in South Carolina:
Curious to see how these insurance companies measure up in customer satisfaction? Here’s a look at some of the scores given by two of the most popular ratings bureaus, for the top five insurance providers in the state. We looked at both A.M. Best and JD power ratings for these comparisons.
Holding a significant lead with a whopping 24.8% of the market share in South Carolina, State Farm insures almost as many people as the next four companies combined. Here’s how they ranked in customer satisfaction and stability, though:
- A.M. Best: “A++” (Superior) rating for financial strength and “aa+” for the issuer credit rating
- JD Power: #7 in the state with a 3-star rating in overall satisfaction
This company is the second-largest auto insurance market shareholder in the state with 10.5% of the market, but insures less than half as many people as the number one company. Here’s what its customers and the ranking companies think:
- A.M. Best: “A+” (Superior) rating for financial strength and “aa-” for the issuer credit rating
- JD Power: #15 in the state with a 2-star overall satisfaction rating
Nationwide is the third-largest insurer with an 8% market share.
- A.M. Best: “A+” (Superior) rating for financial strength and “aa-” for the issuer credit rating
- JD Power: #8 with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
This company insures only 5.3% of drivers in the state, but has a pretty good reputation for being both reliable and financially secure.
- A.M. Best: “A++” (Superior) rating for financial strength and “aaa” for the issuer credit rating
- JD Power: #11 in the state with a 3-star overall satisfaction rating
South Carolina Farm Bureau
This small company insures 4% of the drivers in the state, but is small enough to be excluded from most national ratings. This was the case with the JD Power rankings for the Southeast region; SC Farm Bureau was simply excluded.
- A.M. Best: “B+” (Good) rating for financial strength and “bbb-” for the issuer credit rating
- JD Power: Not ranked
If you want to learn more about being an insured driver in South Carolina, the state provides a wealth of useful educational materials and resources on their website. You can view them here.
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