Charleston, SC Car Insurance

Experts break down auto insurance costs, coverages, companies, and more.

Written by Meg Stefanac
Written by Meg Stefanac

Financial blogger and business owner, Meg Stefanac, has more than 15 years experience working in the financial services industry and enjoys helping individuals make solid financial decisions. Meg has extensive experience writing about insurance and finances and is a key contributor to

Young smiling woman sitting in car on dirt road in nature. Find Charleston South Carolina car insurance.

Accidents happen, even to the most careful drivers. That is why vehicle owners in Charleston are required to carry car insurance. From fender-benders on Bay Street to multi-car collisions on I-26, a solid auto insurance policy can prevent you from facing large financial losses in the aftermath.

Finding the best and most affordable auto policy is easy when you work with an independent agent. These local professionals can help you obtain and compare customized car insurance quotes from some of the best car insurance companies in Charleston. Contact an insurance agent near you to get started.

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in Charleston, SC?

The average cost of car insurance in South Carolina is lower than the national average. This is great news for Charleston residents who are looking for an affordable policy. Comparing rates from a few different insurance companies lets you choose the policy that is offered at the best price.

  • National average annual car insurance cost: $1,311
  • South Carolina average annual car insurance cost: $1,210

Averages can only give you a general idea of what you might actually be expected to pay. Car insurance rates are calculated on a case-by-case basis according to several factors. Your costs can be affected by things like:

  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle(s) you are insuring
  • Your age, occupation, and driving history
  • Information about the other licensed drivers in your household
  • The accident rate in the vicinity of your home
  • Whether you own or rent your home
  • The amount of liability coverage you are purchasing.
  • The coverage options you want to include in your policy

You can usually qualify for rate reductions if you bundle your car insurance with other policies like homeowners insurance or renters insurance. Many insurance companies also offer other money-saving incentives like good student discounts and safe driver discounts.

When you take the time to compare rates from a few different insurance companies, you can be certain that the policy you are purchasing is offered at a competitive price.

What Are the Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in Charleston, SC?

In South Carolina, all car insurance policies must include:

  • Liability insurance: This is designed to cover other people’s medical bills and property damage if you cause an accident. Your policy must meet or exceed the 25/50/25 requirement, which means it must include at least:
    • Bodily injury liability insurance: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per incident
    • Property damage liability insurance: $25,000 per incident
  • Uninsured motorist insurance (UIM): This is designed to cover your medical bills and property damage if you are in an accident caused by an uninsured driver. Your policy must meet or exceed:
    • UIM bodily injury insurance: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per incident
    • UIM property damage insurance: $25,000 per incident

If you cause a serious accident that involves significant property damage, multiple injuries, or, in the worst case, fatalities, a minimum coverage policy is not likely to be able to fully cover your financial obligations. In that case, you would need to make up the difference out of pocket.

That is why many drivers in Charleston opt to purchase car insurance that has higher-than-required liability limits. If you have a lot to lose and want even more liability insurance than your policy can offer, you may want to boost your coverage with an umbrella insurance policy.

What Else Can Charleston Car Insurance Cover?

In addition to the mandatory liability and uninsured motorist coverage mentioned above, your car insurance provider will also offer a variety of coverage options that you may want to include in your Charleston auto insurance policy. These may include:

  • Physical damage coverage: Also called "full coverage," this refers to coverage against damage to your own vehicle. While optional by law, it is typically required by lenders if you are financing your car and by dealerships if you are leasing it. Physical damage coverage includes:
    • Collision insurance: This covers the cost to repair or replace your vehicle if is it damaged or totaled in a collision, regardless of fault.
    • Comprehensive insurance: This covers the cost to repair or replace your vehicle if it is damaged or totaled in a non-collision event.
  • Medical payments insurance: This covers medical treatments for you and your passengers if you are injured in a collision, regardless of fault.
  • Roadside assistance insurance: This covers the cost of assistance and/or towing services if your car becomes disabled while you are away from home, such as if you run out of gas or get a flat tire.
  • Gap insurance: This covers the gap between what your vehicle is worth and what you currently owe for it if it is totaled in a covered event. New vehicles depreciate quickly, so this coverage is usually quite valuable during the first couple years of new-car ownership.
  • Rental car reimbursement: This covers the cost to rent a vehicle while your own car is being repaired following a covered event.

By reviewing coverage features and costs, you can best determine which, if any, of these options is a good fit for you and your family.


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What Is the Penalty for Driving without Insurance in Charleston?

Operating an uninsured vehicle is illegal in South Carolina. You can face consequences even if the car you are driving isn't yours, so if you are borrowing someone's car, make sure it is properly insured first.

If you are caught driving an uninsured vehicle that you do not own, you can be penalized with:

  • The suspension of your driver’s license for 30 days
  • The need to pay a $100 reinstatement fee to get your license back

If you are found guilty of driving an uninsured vehicle that you do own, the penalties are more severe. You can face:

  • A $600 uninsured motorist fee
  • The suspension of your driver’s license and vehicle registration until all fees are paid in full
  • A $100 reinstatement fee to get your driver’s license back
  • A $100 reinstatement fee to get your vehicle registration back
  • The requirement to maintain an SR-22 Certificate of Insurance for three years
  • Higher car insurance rates

Despite these consequences, nearly one in ten drivers in this state is operating an uninsured vehicle. The good news is that this is lower than the national rate.

  • Percentage of US drivers who are uninsured: 13.0%
  • Percentage of South Carolina drivers who are uninsured: 9.4%

Because your car insurance includes mandatory uninsured motorist coverage, you can rest assured that you will have immediate access to the compensation you are due if you are injured or suffer property damage in a collision caused by an uninsured driver.

This saves you from needing to go through legal channels in an attempt to collect what is owed to you. After compensating you, your insurance company will take on the responsibility of trying to collect the money owed from the at-fault driver, and will absorb the losses if unsuccessful.

Does Charleston Car Insurance Cover against Auto Theft?

The auto theft rate in the state of South Carolina is higher than the national rate, and in Charleston, the risk is even higher. In one recent year, nearly 500 auto thefts were reported in this city. 

  • National auto theft rate per 1,000 people: 2.29
  • South Carolina auto theft rate per 1,000 people: 2.82
  • Charleston auto theft rate per 1,000 people: 3.60

Be aware that you can only get compensation for a stolen vehicle if your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage.

This “other than collision” insurance covers more than just auto thefts. It can also reimburse you for repair costs if your car is damaged by other hazards like hailstorms and floods.

If you are financing or leasing your vehicle, chances are good you have this coverage already. If not, you may want to look into how much it would cost you to add comprehensive coverage to your Charleston car insurance policy.

How Can an Independent Agent in Charleston Help You Find the Best Car Insurance?

You can turn to a local independent agent for help when you are looking for the best auto insurance policy for you and your family. These agents work for you, not for a particular insurance company, so they can shop around to find you the coverage you want at a price you can afford.

Contact an insurance agent in Charleston to get answers to your insurance-related questions and to start comparing customized car insurance quotes.

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