Relocating to South Carolina
Considering a move to coastal South Carolina?
Living on the coast presents some unique challenges from an insurance perspective. The Charleston and surrounding areas are prone to flooding and wind-related events resulting from tropical weather systems and other significant weather events that Mother Nature throws our way. The City of Charleston also lies within approximately 40 miles of a fault line, so the area does experience earthquake activity from time to time. It is important to make sure your home is properly covered!
The State of South Carolina also has certain requirements and laws for registering and insuring your vehicle, boat, and golf cart.
We’ve gathered some helpful information on some important things to keep in mind when moving to the Lowcountry.
Registering and Insuring Your Vehicle in South Carolina
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles website – www.scdmvonline.com - is the source of all information you will need to Title and Register your vehicles in South Carolina.
How quickly do I need to register my vehicle with the SC DMV after moving to SC?
You must register your vehicles with SC DMV within 45 days of the date of purchase or the date of operation in South Carolina. Failure to do so will result in penalty fees as follows:
Do I need to buy new insurance in South Carolina?
Not necessarily. If your insurance company is licensed to do business in SC, you simply need to advise the company to change your mailing and garaging address.
If your company is not licensed to do business in SC, then, yes, you will need to purchase a new automobile insurance policy through an independent agent near you.
What is the next step in the process?
Visit the auditor’s office for the county in which you are residing. You will need your last registration card or title for the vehicle. The auditor will determine the property tax you will owe.
You must pay the property tax on your vehicle to the county treasurer before you can register your vehicle in SC. Be sure to get a receipt.
How do I find the county auditor’s office?
Google the county and visit the official county website. For example, you can just type in “Charleston County” or “Berkeley County” and be directed to the website. There you will be able to find the address and phone numbers of the auditor’s office.
I have paid the property tax. Now what?
Visit the SC DMV and take with you:
- Completed Title Application (SCDMV Form 400) found at www.SCDMVonline.com.
- Out-of-state vehicle title and/or most recent registration.
- If there is a lien on the vehicle, bring the name and address of the company holding the lien.
- Acceptable identification.
- Liability insurance company information.
- Original paid vehicle property tax receipt.
- $250 infrastructure maintenance fee (IMF)
- Title ($15) and registration ($40) payment.
Where are the SC DMV offices?
You can find the closest branch on www.scdmvonline.com under SCDMV branch.
Will I need to get a SC driver’s license?
Yes, unless you are military or a student.
To get the SC license, visit a SCDMV office. You will need to turn in your out-of-state license and pass a vision test. The eight-year driver’s license fee is $25. You will need to bring
- Proof of identity, US Citizenship, and date of birth. (valid passport)
- Proof of Social Security number
- Two proofs of current, physical SC address
SC does offer the Real ID that will be mandatory starting October 1, 2020.
Registering and Insuring Your Watercraft in South Carolina
How were South Carolina boat registration rules changed as of January 1, 2020?
There was a change in the boat registration procedure in South Carolina effective January 1, 2020. All boat registrations will be renewed every year instead of every 3 years. For currently registered boats, the numbers and decals will remain valid until they expire.
Beginning January 2021, the annual registration renewal fee of $10.00 will be billed by the county in which you live, along with your property taxes. Prior to that date, you can renew your boat registration by clicking the “Renew Boat Registration” link on the “Buy” page at www.scdnr.com or by calling 1-866-714-3611.
When do my boat decals expire?
The expiration month of your watercraft decals will be the month the personal property taxes on your boat are due to the county. If your boat registration expires in June, then both property taxes and annual registration fee ($10) for the coming year will be due in June.
How do I register a newly purchased boat or a boat coming from out of state?
New registrations (new boats or used boats coming from out-of-state) will be based on the date of sale. For example, a boat purchased in January will receive a registration decal valid thorough the following January, regardless of when the owner applies for the registration. The SC Boat Registration and Title fee for boats never registered in SC is $20.
How quickly do I have to register my boat in South Carolina?
A late fee ($15) is applied to registrations initiated more than 30 days after the purchase date.
Where do I find the necessary forms to register my boat?
All Boating forms are found at www.dnr.sc. Click on the “Buy” link, then “Boating Forms” link.
Where do I find South Carolina Boating Regulations?
SC Boating regulations are under the “Buy” link – click “Boating regulations” link.
Where do I find a DNR office?
There is a full service SCDNR office at 217 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston SC 29422. 843-953-9301. Another full service office is located at SCDNR at the Market, 326 Little Brooke Lane, West Columbia, SC 29172. 803-734-3833.
What should I know about insuring my watercraft?
Be sure to discuss insuring your boat with an independent agent. Policy terms vary and it is important to make sure the policy you purchase fits your needs. For example, different policies define territorial or navigational limits differently. You need to know these restrictions.
Do you need coverage for towing in the event your boat breaks down?
Be sure to let your agent know if you will use the boat for commercial purposes, such as fishing charters, tours, etc.
Watercraft policies can provide coverage for the boat, motors, trailer and other equipment.
Policies will include liability insurance. This is perhaps the most important coverage and you should be sure to purchase liability coverage with the highest limit offered.
Other Helpful Information
The SCDNR website is: www.dnr.sc.gov.
If you are buying a boat that is registered in SC, be sure to check the SCDNR buyer’s aid. Click on the “Get the facts before you buy” link on the Buy page.
SC law requires the SCDNR be notified within 30 days if you sell your boat.
Be sure you notify SCDNR if you change your mailing address.
Owning and Insuring a Golf Cart in South Carolina
South Carolina has laws that specifically apply to golf carts and owners of golf carts should be aware of these laws as stated in Section 56 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. Let us look at some of the rules that apply to golf cart usage.
Should I register my golf cart with the SC DMV?
Yes, you need to register the golf cart with the Department of Motor Vehicles. To obtain a permit, you will need proof of ownership of the golf cart, proof of liability insurance on the cart, and $5 for the permit fee. The Golf Cart Permit Registration (SCDMV Form GC-2) is found at www.scdmvonline. Click on the “Vehicles” tab and then the “Golf Cart” link.
The permit is valid for 5 years but must be replaced if your address changes.
The decal permit should be displayed on the cart.
How do I insure a golf cart and is the insurance expensive?
Your insurance agent can insure the golf cart, most frequently under a motorcycle insurance policy. A liability only policy will cost about $100 -$150 annually depending on the limits you choose. Comprehensive and collision insurance is also available. Keep in mind that comprehensive coverage includes loss due to flooding.
Does my homeowners policy provide liability coverage for my golf cart? Why do I need a separate policy?
A typical homeowners policy usually excludes liability coverage on a “motor vehicle” “registered for use on public roads”. Do not depend on your homeowners policy for coverage!
Are there restrictions on where I can use my permitted golf cart?
Yes. There are several rules:
- The golf cart must be used within 4 miles of the address on the registration card, or within 4 miles of the “point of ingress and egress to the gated community” where you live.
- The golf cart can only be used on a “secondary highway or street for which the posted speed limit is thirty-five miles an hour or less”.
- As long as you are within the four-mile limitation, you may cross a highway or street with a posted speed limit of more than 35 MPH.
- A golf cart may be used on “an island not accessible by a bridge designed for use by automobiles”.
Are there restrictions on when I can use my permitted golf cart?
Definitely! Only during daylight hours! (Note the code of Laws does not define “daylight hours”.)
Who may drive my golf cart?
Anyone at least 16 years of age may drive the golf cart as long as the person has a valid driver’s license.
When the golf cart is being used on a secondary highway or street, the operator must have in his/her possession:
- The DMV registration card
- Proof of Liability Insurance (insurance ID card)
- The operator’s valid driver’s license.
Do not let youngster under 16 drive your golf cart on a public road! This is illegal! In case of an accident, you the parent could be liable for endangering your child!
Does my golf cart need any special equipment to be used on a street?
Nothing special, just headlights, brakes, taillights, and blinkers like any motor vehicle.
There is nothing in the Code of Laws that requires a golf cart to have seat belts and many golf carts do not have seat belts. It is highly recommended that you do have seat belts installed for your safety and the safety of passengers, particularly children.
Are there consequences for violating these golf cart rules?
Effective November 18, 2018, the Code of laws was amended to make breaking a golf cart law a misdemeanor. A person may be punished with a fine of up to $100 or up to 30 days in jail.
Why are all these rules necessary?
There is no question that golf cart accidents can result in serious injury or death. About 40% of golf cart accidents involve a person falling out of a golf cart, and a large portion of these are children or young teenagers.
Golf carts are prone to turning over and rollovers account for about 10% of all accidents.
Golf carts were not designed for use on public roads. What chance do you think you have in a golf cart versus automobile accident?