Drivers Permits in South Carolina

Getting Your South Carolina Beginner Permit

Are you aware that car accidents are the number one killer of South Carolina teens? This alarming statistic has led to the implementation of a Graduated Driver License (GDL) program, regulated by the SC Department of Motor Vehicles. Under the GDL, teens must reach certain age- and experience-related milestones on their path to a full driver's license.

One of the first milestones on your path to your South Carolina driver's license is to obtain your beginner's permit, which is more commonly referred to as a learner's permit in other states.

South Carolina REAL ID Driver's License

The South Carolina DMV issues federally-compliant REAL ID driver’s licenses in addition to non-compliant licenses. As of October 1, 2020, only the REAL ID will function as federal identification for domestic travel and entry into federal and military buildings—a standard license will not after this date.

You have the choice to apply for a non-compliant license or upgrade to a REAL ID license. For more detail, visit SCDMV's guide to REAL IDs.

New to South Carolina?

If you're new to South Carolina and you have a valid learner's permit from your previous state, you may exchange your out-of-state permit for a South Carolina beginner's permit. You must have this permit for a minimum of 180 days before you apply for your driver's license.

Any time you spent holding your out-of-state permit will be applied to your beginner permit, but if your permit has expired, you'll be required to pass a vision and knowledge test.

The fee for the knowledge test is $2. The fee for a beginner permit is $2.50.

How to Get a South Carolina Beginner's Permit

In order to apply for your beginner's permit, you must be at least 15 years old. If you're under 18 years old, your parents must accompany you to a DMV office, and they must be listed on the Consent for Minor (Form 447-CM).

You'll need to provide the following documents:

  • A completed:
  • Proof of:
    • Identity/citizenship/date of birth (birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization).
    • Social Security number (Social Security card, 1099 form, W-2 form).
    • Residency (student ID, report card, letter or contract from home-schooling).
      • If you would like to apply for a REAL ID-compliant permit, you must bring 2 documents.
    • Any and all name changes.
  • Payment for the $2.50 permit fee.

For more information about these documents, please refer to this list of accepted forms.

Taking the Knowledge Exam in South Carolina

Once you have all the required documents gathered, it's time to head to a DMV office for your knowledge test. It's always a good idea to make an appointment and save yourself some time.

The exam is based on information about state-specific traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving techniques that are discussed in the South Carolina Driver Handbook. You'll learn things like safe stopping distances and who has the right of way.

If you want to ensure that you'll pass your test on the first attempt, try an online practice test.

Beginner's Permit Driving Restrictions

With your South Carolina beginner's permit in your possession, you are allowed to practice driving, but there are a couple restrictions that you must always adhere to:

  • You may drive between 6 a.m. and midnight if accompanied by a person 21 years old or older with a minimum of 1 year of licensed driving experience.
  • From midnight and 6 a.m., you may drive with the licensed driver listed on your 447-CM form.
  • Your supervising driver must always be in the front seat next to you.

Any person with a beginner's permit must hold it for a minimum of 180 days before applying for an initial driver's license.

Driver's Education Requirements

While you don't need proof of Driver's Ed completion to obtain your permit, if you're under 17 years old, you WILL need to complete a course in order to obtain your conditional driver's license.

Your Driver's Ed course must include 8 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. For more information, please refer to our Drivers Ed in South Carolina page.

Behind-the-Wheel Driving Requirements

All first-time driver's under 18 years old must complete 40 hours of behind-the-wheel driving practice with your parent or legal guardian supervising you. It's important to also note that 10 hours of the required 40 hours must be driven at night.

Replacing Your South Carolina Driver's Permit

If you need to replace your South Carolina beginner's permit, you'll need to head to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and bring the required documents mentioned below:

To replace due to a name or address change:

To replace due to a loss or theft:

Your Next Step: Get Your Conditional License

Now that you have your South Carolina beginner's permit, it's time to embrace the open road. Keep in mind that while you're in this initial phase of driving, you're very much a beginner. Pay attention to your surroundings and your supervising driver so the roads can be safer for us all.

Your next step in the South Carolina GDL process is to get your conditional license. For more information, please refer to our Applying for a New License page.

Forms

447-NC
Application for a Beginner's Permit, Driver's License, or Identification Card (Non-Commercial Credential)
Use this DMV form to apply for a South Carolina learner's permit, driver's license, identification card, OR moped/motorcycle license. Can be used to request an original, renewal, duplicate, or correction.
DL-49
Affidavit for Lost/Surrendered Drivers License
Submit to the SC Department of Motor Vehicles if you lost OR must surrender your driver's license, learner's permit, or ID card.