South Carolina is blessed with balmy sub-tropical weather and miles of picturesque coastline. But depending on where you live and what kind of vehicle you’re driving, you may find that car insurance takes a bigger bite out of your wallet than you’d like. Fear not — we’ll help you comparison shop between the biggest auto insurance providers in the state.

South Carolina Minimum Liability

The state of South Carolina mandates certain minimum amounts of coverage you must have to be on the road legally:

  • $25,000 bodily injury coverage per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $25,000 property damage coverage per accident
  • $25,000 coverage per person for uninsured motorist

The first three, usually written as 25/50/25, are fairly common in most states. But South Carolina also wants you to have coverage for uninsured motorists. This is to protect you, in the event that you’re in an accident with someone who lacks any coverage.

There’s also insurance that covers you as needed if you’re hit by someone who doesn’t have enough insurance (called “underinsured motorist coverage”) but the state doesn’t require that.

If your finances allow it, we’d suggest that you beef up that coverage to at least 50/100/50.

Think of how quickly $25,000 will be gone if you total a luxury car. Or consider the cost of health care today — you know that $25,000 is likely to fall short if you are in an accident with serious injuries.

There are two other types of coverage that you may want to look at, although the state doesn’t mandate them: collision and comprehensive.

  • Collision covers your own car in the event of an accident. If you’re driving a 20-year-old junker, you probably don’t need it because the car (on paper anyway) isn’t worth much. But if your vehicle still retains much of its value, this is great coverage to have.
  • Comprehensive covers you in the event of a non-accident-related event, such as a tree falling on your car or a hale storm that leaves your car looking like metallic swiss cheese. It’s generally not too pricey to add these extra coverages to your policy, as you’ll see when you get some online quotes, and they can be lifesavers if the worst happens.

South Carolina Auto Insurance Reviews

State Farm

State Farm is by far the most popular writer of auto insurance policies in South Carolina, with more than 24 percent of the market. There are some good reasons for that. Consumers like the company, which earns a high 89 points in the Consumer Reports reader score. That score is made up with data collected from nearly 24,000 people — a great sample size that gives you a good indicator of customer satisfaction.

Consumer Reports also gives it a “very good” in the category of Simplicity of Claims Process, and an “excellent” in Timely Payment, so it should come through for you quickly and easily when you make a claim. It manages its own finances well, according to financial watchdogs like A.M. Best, S&P Global, and Moody’s, all of which rate it in the “A” range, which indicates long-term stability and the capability to pay out multiple claims with no problems.

We also love State Farm’s website. The quote tool is easy to use and fast. We had a quote in hand within seven minutes. If you’re new to the insurance world, we recommend checking out State Farm’s resources even if you don’t end up purchasing a policy with the company. The site’s Simple Insights blog features a wealth of information on insurance matters, vehicle safety, and car maintenance.

It was also at the top of the list in terms of possible discounts on offer, and one that we liked in particular is called Drive Safe and Save. This new program uses real-time data gleaned from a small beacon that you keep in the car. You earn an initial discount of five percent for signing up. Then, if you stay within speed limits, brake softly, and otherwise handle your car like a boss, you can earn up to an amazing 50 percent discount.

You may need that discount, because State Farm was not our cheapest quote, at $753 for six-months of coverage for our Ford F-150. Of course your quote will vary, and State Farm’s reputation for good coverage, extensive discounts, and timely claims payments makes it worth your while to request a quote from them and keep them in consideration even if they’re not the cheapest show in town.

Allstate

It’s hard not to compare Allstate and State Farm. The two companies have similar rankings with consumer organizations like J.D. Power, which gives both a three out of five for the claims experience, and Consumer Reports, which gives Allstate an 88 reader score — just one negligible point below State Farm.

Both companies boast easy-to-navigate websites with educational information for those who have questions. Allstate’s site, we found, was sometimes a bit glitchy, and it took us a few minutes longer to get a quote. But, like State Farm, there’s an informative blog and lots of basic functionalities that allow you to pay your bill, find an agent, and more.

Once we were up and running with the quote tool, we liked the ability to edit your quotes, adding and subtracting coverages to see how they will impact your premium. There are a good number of discounts available, including a real-time drive option that assesses your skill behind the wheel and gives you up to 32 percent off for safe driving — less than State Farm’s 50 percent, but still significant.

We liked our quote: $450 on a six month policy — which was considerably less than State Farm’s nearly $800 quote. But we didn’t like the fact that Allstate was the only company that required you to input your email and phone number to get a quote, thus setting you up for pesky sales calls, even if you’re just doing initial research and are not ready to purchase.

USAA

We can’t say enough good things about USAA. It’s one of the few insurance companies that has “excellent” ratings from Consumer Reports across the board, and J.D. Power gives it five out of five points for claims process and overall customer experience. It is financially as sound as it could possibly be, with A.M. Best and the other financial watchdog organizations giving it their highest rankings possible.

So why isn’t it on top of our list? Well, there’s one small catch: USAA only serves active and retired military personnel and their families, so it’s out of reach for many South Carolinians. But there are nine military bases in the state and more than 55,000 active and reserve members of the military, and when you add on their families and retired military service persons, You’ve got enough of a base to merit including USAA on our list of the best in the state.

If you do have a military connection, we recommend that you start your search with USAA. You’ll need your military ID information to get a quote, but it may be worth it: the company estimates that those who switch to USAA save an average of $707 a year. The company offers the standard protection that you can find in most companies, but also includes options specific to its military members.

Your coverage will protect you, for example, no matter where on the planet your assignment takes you. And there’s an automatic 15 percent discount when you garage your vehicle on base. You’ll also get a significant discount (60 percent, in fact) if you are stationed overseas and put your car in storage.

Nationwide

Nationwide’s rankings are at the low end of the pool among our contenders. It earns a two out of five from J.D. Power for overall customer experience, and Consumer Reports gives it a reader score of 88 — not bad, but considerably lower than USAA’s 95. It also earned the lowest scores from Consumer Reports for “simplicity of process” and “timely payment,” though it still scored “very good.” But when your other companies are earning scores of “excellent,” “very good” doesn’t cut it.

Nationwide’s website is also solid. Its learning center offers tips on buying a car, understanding your policy, and vehicle safety. You can handle most of your basic insurance tasks, like paying a bill or starting a claim, online or through the company’s mobile app. But again, we had some trouble getting a quote.

Its online quote tool denied our request for a quote several times. When we tried to connect with the company through its online chat feature, it was down, though we were contacting them during regular business hours. Finally, we called the number listed on the site for further assistance, where we were promptly put on hold. Where we waited. And waited. We finally got a live agent after 20 minutes, and she was able to pull together a quote of $613.

Our frustrating experience may have been a one-time glitch or may be symptomatic of problems with Nationwide’s customer service in general. Although their quote was reasonable, you’ll want to pay attention to the quality of response you receive when you contact it for a quote, whether online or with an agent, as it might be an indicator of the service you’ll receive in the event of a claim.

More Tips for South Carolina Drivers

SC in Top Ten for Insurance Fraud

According to Insurance Journal, South Carolina ranks in the top ten for suspected fraud per 100K population, with the number of reported incidents tripling since 2010. One type of insurance fraud you should be aware of is the faked accident.

Worried about scammers?Consider a dash cam. These devices automatically record as you drive, so you have video evidence if you're ever in an insurance dispute.

Scammers cause “accidents” which result in fake injuries — and, they hope, big insurance payouts. Innocent drivers can easily get caught up in these scenarios.

South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson’s office claims that it costs the average household $1,030 per year to cover these fake claims.

If you think you’ve seen or gotten caught in an insurance scam, you can call the SC insurance fraud hotline number, 1-888-95-FRAUD or fill out an Insurance Fraud Complaint Form through the AG’s office.

One Company to Avoid

If being alert to insurance fraud isn’t enough for you, here’s something else to be aware of: a company called Access Insurance, which insures more than 15,000 South Carolina drivers, was declared insolvent in a recent court ruling. If you are one of those insured by the company, you will need to start looking for a new insurer as soon as possible, since the company is in the process of being liquified. Access’s website is still up as of April 2018, but it should no longer be offering services in South Carolina (or the 21 other states where it operates).

If you have an open claim with the company, the South Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association will work to cover all valid claims as soon as the ruling goes into effect.

Want More Insurance Info?

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom in the world of South Carolina car insurance. In addition to the educational resources you can find at the websites of companies like State Farm and Allstate, there are a few South Carolinian organizations that educate and advocate for you.

One place to find more info is the website of the South Carolina Insurance Association (SCIA), a non-profit organization that compiles statistics, news, and helpful tips for consumers.

The South Carolina Department of Insurance, meanwhile, offers an online complaint form, a handy price comparison tool, and other general information about auto insurance in the state. More generally, if you find the insurance world a fascinating place and want to explore it, the Insurance Information Institute is a great place to look for information on both the national level and pertaining specifically to South Carolina.