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Green Driver State Incentives in South Carolina

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South Carolina's green drivers have plenty of opportunities to save time and money with eco-friendly incentives. These perks include auto insurance discounts, state and federal tax incentives, weight exemptions for having idle reduction technology, and more.

Keep in mind these green driver incentives and related vehicle laws might evolve as SC focuses even more energy on the environment. Also periodically consult your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) branch and the Alternative Fuels Data Center for the latest.

SC Auto Insurance Discounts for Eco-Friendly Driving and Green Vehicles

Certain South Carolina auto insurance providers offer insurance discounts for having green driving habits and/or driving a fuel-efficient vehicle. Check with your current provider on green vehicle discounts such as:

  • Hybrid auto discounts.
  • Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) discounts.
  • Economy car discounts.
  • Low-mileage discounts.
  • Pay as you drive discounts.

Of course, auto insurance discounts vary by provider and circumstances. For example, you might receive a 10% discount on car insurance for owning or leasing a hybrid car, while maintaining low mileage can earn you up to a 30% auto insurance discount.

Are you spending more because your SC auto insurance carrier doesn’t reward eco-friendly driving? Find one that does by comparing auto insurance rates online.

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Federal and State Tax Incentives

South Carolina and the federal government offer a few tax incentives to entice drivers to buy (or in some cases, lease) a new, alternative fuel vehicle such as hybrids and electric cars. Get the full scoop below.

Also be sure to consult your preferred tax preparer, the South Carolina Department of Revenue, or an agent from your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center if questions arise regarding how to take advantage of tax incentives.

Federal Tax Incentives for Buying a Fuel-Efficient Car

The government rewards going green with federal tax credits when you buy a fuel-efficient vehicle such as one of the following:

  • Electric car (EV).
  • Hybrid.
  • Plug-In hybrid (PEV).
  • Diesel.
  • Other Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV).

For full details on these tax breaks for eco-friendly vehicle owners, consult fueleconomy.gov's Tax Incentive Information Center.

South Carolina Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle Tax Credit

South Carolina taxpayers can take advantage of an income tax credit for buying or leasing a new plug-in hybrid within the state.

Specifically, the credit comes out to $667, plus an additional $111 for vehicles with at least five kilowatt-hours of battery capacity. For each additional kilowatt-hour of battery capacity beyond the first five, you get another $111. The credit maximum is $2,000.

To qualify for the credit, your PHEV must be manufactured primarily for public street use on roads and highways. This excludes low-speed and medium-speed vehicles which typically travel at maximum speeds between 20 and 25 miles per hour (mph) and 30 and 45 mph, respectively.

Furthermore, you must be able to provide the Department of Revenue with certification from the vehicle manufacturer* of your PHEV’s number of kilowatt hours of battery capacity, and that it meets the following qualifications:

  • Has four or more wheels.
  • Shares the same benefits as an internal combustion and electric engine with an all-electric range of at least nine miles.
  • Is propelled by a traction battery.
  • Has a battery capacity of at least four kilowatt hours.
  • Recharges its batteries using an external energy source.

*Certification from the domestic distributor will suffice if the vehicle manufacturer is foreign.

This tax credit is available during taxable years before 2017 on a first-come, first-served basis. Consult the South Carolina Code of Laws 12-6-3376 for full details.

Tax Credit for Hybrids, Fuel Cells, Alternative Fuel and Lean Burn Vehicles

South Carolina taxpaying residents who claim the following federal tax credits may also take advantage of a state income tax credit equal to 20% of that federal credit:

  • New, qualified fuel cell motor vehicle credit.
  • New, advanced lean-burn technology motor vehicle credit.
  • New, qualified hybrid motor vehicle credit (based on the combined city/highway metric or standard established by federal IRS Code Section 30B).
  • New, qualified alternative fuel motor vehicle (allowed pursuant to IRS Code Section 30B)

For specifics on phase-out period limits, unused credit carryovers, and more, refer to South Carolina Code of Laws 12-6-3377.

South Carolina Idle Reduction System Weight Exemption

If your vehicle is equipped with an idle reduction system, South Carolina allows it to exceed the maximum gross vehicle weight and axle weight limit by up to 400 pounds. This weight exemption covers the extra weight added by such idle reduction technology. However, if law enforcement requests proof that this technology is fully functional, and that the added weight can be attributed to your idle reduction system, you must comply.

For complete details on vehicle weights and loads, and the penalties attached to violating such laws, refer to South Carolina Code of Laws 56-5-4160.

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