Buying a Car in South Carolina

South Carolina’s vehicle buying regulations are some of the simplest in the nation. We’ve brought together the most important information regarding these regulations for you here, so that your vehicle purchase in the state can be a breeze.

1. Title Information

South Carolina requires all vehicles to be titled and registered, regardless of age. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, the dealer will take care of the information and paperwork for you (but make certain they do). In South Carolina, the owner receives the title even if there is a “lien” (a loan) on the vehicle. When the lien is paid off, the state will remove the lien from the title and send you a new version.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle, you will need the original title, proof of liability insurance, proof that you have paid property and sales tax on the vehicle, proof of residency, a Bill of Sale (if not filled out on the back of the title), an application for a new title and all the necessary filing fees. All of this documentation can be mailed to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

In all cases, you have 45 days to title and register a vehicle from the date of purchase.

2. Insurance Information

South Carolina requires that all vehicle owners have liability insurance at all times on their vehicles. The minimum requirements are $25,000 liability per person bodily damage ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 liability property damage.

South Carolina maintains insurance information electronically, so if you cancel your policy or allow it to lapse, the state will be aware of it and send you a form requesting your new insurance policy. Also, by law, the police are required to check proof of insurance at the scene of any accident. The penalties for not having insurance include loss of license, registration, fines and potential jail time. As such, it is in your best interests to make certain you have insurance on your newly purchased vehicle before you ever drive it off the lot or away from a private owner’s home.

3. Emission Information

South Carolina has no emission testing or safety inspections required for vehicles.

4. Lemon Law Information

South Carolina’s Lemon Law is fairly standard in its design. It covers new and leased vehicles bought within the state for the manufacturer’s warranty period or for 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever is shorter. Used vehicles are not covered at all.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the vehicle must either have a serious defect that has not been successfully repaired after three attempts or have been out of service because of repairs for 30 cumulative days.

If either of these conditions exists, the owner may attempt to get a refund for or replacement of the vehicle. The owner must contact the manufacturer and go through any arbitration process the manufacturer has already set up. If the owner is not satisfied by the arbitration, they may then sue the manufacturer in court.

5. Special Information

South Carolina has no particularly unusual regulations when it comes to vehicle purchasing.