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South Carolina Car Insurance

If you live in South Carolina, you probably take pride in the state's rich history. With an affordable cost of living, a low unemployment rate, and low real estate costs, South Carolina has been ranked one of the best places to live. One of the only pitfalls is that commutes are long and that puts you more at-risk for having an accident.

To protect vehicle occupants and pedestrians, state officials in South Carolina have passed a mandatory insurance law which requires vehicle owners to buy insurance to legally drive in the state. By requiring insurance, the state feels that consumers will be better able to pay for financial losses they cause.

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Here's what you know about the requirements.

What is auto insurance and why can the state require it?

It's not every day that the state tells you that you're required to buy insurance for financial protection. But it's a whole different story when it comes to auto insurance.

When you buy disability insurance or life insurance, the benefits are paid strictly to you or your loved ones. However, auto insurance covers the potential that you could unintentionally hurt someone you have no attachment to.

South Carolina requires that you buy a certain amount of third-party coverage so that damages to someone else can be paid for. That's where the main difference between optional coverage and mandatory coverage lies.

What is the significance of tort law in South Carolina?

Tort states are states where the victim in an auto accident is free to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. While this might sound like common sense, some states have rolled out a unique no-fault law where everyone collects for damages under their own policies.

South Carolina is a tort liability state. Instead of collecting under your own insurance, you're entitled to file a claim against the at-fault driver's liability coverage. You're also entitled to sue for pain and suffering without having to buy the right, which is different from no-fault state rules.

How much insurance must you carry in South Carolina?

Since the law says that someone who's financially responsible for a loss must compensate the victim for their damages, it's important that you carry enough liability coverage. In South Carolina, third-party liability coverage is mandatory.

Here's a breakdown of what each coverage does:

  • Bodily injury (BI) coverage – BI pays for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and other treatment-related expenses that are deemed necessary to help the injured claimant recover. If a pain and suffering claim is made, the settlement will also come from this coverage. You must have at least $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident (25/50) in South Carolina.
  • Property damage (PD) coverage – PD pays for damage that you do to another car or to the other person's property when you're at fault in the accident. The policy will only pay for the property's actual cash value at the time of the loss as long as the value is below the limit you carry. You can carry no less than $25,000 to cover you in one accident.

Do you need higher liability limits?

In South Carolina, the limits of liability that are required are written 25/50/25. Even though this requirement might sound like a significant amount of coverage, the limits are actually very low when you think about how much hospital and repair bills cost. Since just one car can cost upwards of $25,000 to replace, it's best to carry higher limits.

You might feel comfortable with higher limits, but just how much should you carry? When you're buying a policy, selecting a limit could be one of the most difficult tasks you face. Most experts recommend carrying nothing less than $100,000/$300,000/$100,000 for your bodily injury and property damage limits.

Is there a requirement for any other type of coverage?

Out of all of the different coverage options that you've seen offered, it might seem odd that only two coverage types are required.

In some states that's the case, but in South Carolina you must carry uninsured motorist protection (UM) as well. However, underinsured motorist coverage isn't required.

UM is a lot like bodily injury coverage. The only major difference is that it kicks in to pay for your own medical bills when an at-fault driver is uninsured and doesn't have the coverage to compensate you for treatment.

You must carry at least $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident, but can carry higher limits only if you have higher BI liability limits. Additionally, UM comes with a $200 deductible.

Do you need higher limits for UM coverage?

Just like it's important to assess the cost of raising your BI and PD limits, it's also important to consider raising UM limits.

In South Carolina, despite the strict compulsory insurance law, about 7.7 percent of drivers don't have insurance. The rate of uninsured motorists is low compared to other states, but the risk is still high.

Doing the math can help you visualize this risk. There are approximately 2.9 million cars registered in SC. If you calculate how many drivers do not have insurance, there are almost 224,000 uninsured cars. It's not as many as other states, but it still creates a need for higher UM limits.

What are the penalties for driving without insurance?

The rate of uninsured motorists in South Carolina is low for a reason. Some might speculate that the reason is because of the stiff penalties that are assessed to drivers who are caught without active coverage. Driving uninsured is not an offense that comes with a mere slap on the wrist.

Here's what you could face:

What other components can you add to your policy?

It's not just medical bills you need to worry about when you're discussing the financial repercussions of an auto loss. If you want a more comprehensive policy, you should consider building a policy with full coverage.

One problem that people run into when defining full coverage is that there's not a specific definition. Full coverage typically refers to a policy that includes physical damage protection for the car listed on the policy. Your idea of a policy that offers full protection might include more components.

Here's a list of the options:

  • Comprehensive – Pays for repairs after a fire, theft, vandalism or other-than-collision loss
  • Collision – Pays for repairs or replacement after a collision or overturn
  • Medical Payments – Pays for immediate medical bills for all occupants and for household pedestrians injured in an auto crash
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage – Pays to repair your vehicle if you're hit by another party with no insurance
  • GAP insurance – Pay off your auto loan when the value of your car is lower than the balance on your loan

How much will you pay for South Carolina car insurance?

If insurance is going to become a regular expenditure, it'll be helpful to find out how much you might pay for coverage. While rates can vary dramatically, statistics show that the average cost for a full coverage policy with $500 deductibles is around $795 per year.

Compared to other states, South Carolina ranks in at 20th for auto insurance expenditures.

How are auto insurance rates calculated?

Auto insurance rates in every state are personalized. That's why using the averages to determine how much to budget isn't very effective. Your demographics, your habits, and your history can all have an impact on your rates.

Here are some of the rating factors underwriters use:

  • Age and driving experience
  • Gender and marital status
  • Vehicle type
  • Garaging zip code
  • Credit history
  • Moving violations
  • Accident history
  • Annual mileage and usage
  • Coverage options and the limits you choose

As you can see, it takes more than a guesstimate to give you a quote. If you're looking for affordable auto insurance quotes, the best thing to do is to comparison shop.

While it is possible to get quotes directly from carriers, you can also use comparison tools. If convenience is your priority, use an internet tool to get dozens of instant quotes.

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