Applying for a New License (Teen Drivers) in South Carolina
Although the process of getting your South Carolina driver's license may seem daunting, we make it easier to understand by explaining each step in an easy-to-follow manner.
New to South Carolina?
If you're new to South Carolina, you can exchange a valid permit from another state by surrendering your old permit at a local SC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office and paying the $2.50 permit fee. You can count the amount of time you've held your permit in another state towards the 180 days needed to apply for a license.
You have 90 days after establishing residency to obtain as SC driver's license. To do so, visit your local DMV office and:
- Surrender your driver's license from your former state.
- Show proof of legal residency in the U.S. and South Carolina.
- Show proof of citizenship.
- Bring your Social Security card.
- Pay the driver's license fee:
―License valid for 5 years: $12.50
―License valid for 8 years: $25
About the South Carolina Graduated Driver's License (GDL) Program
Recent research has shown that GDL programs have reduced teen crashes in the states that use them. Because of this, many states, including South Carolina, have implemented a GDL program that requires teens to go through specific steps prior to obtaining their driver's licenses. Many of these milestones are age and experience related, and the first is getting your Beginner's Permit.
- 15 years old: eligible for a learner's permit.
- 15 years old and 180 days: eligible for provisional license.
- 16 years old: eligible for special restricted license, or unrestricted license (with conditional license).
- 17 years old: eligible for regular driver license (without conditional license).
Driver's Education in South Carolina
If you're younger than 17 years old, a driver's education course is required before getting any type of driver's license (it is not required in order to obtain a learner's permit).
Once you reach the age of 17 years old, you can obtain a conditional or unrestricted driver's license as long as you have held your learner's permit for 180 days.
An approved South Carolina driver's education course requires:
- 8 hours of classroom time.
- 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training.
SC Beginner's Permit
To obtain a learner's permit, you'll need to be at least 15 years old, parental consent, and bring that parent/guardian with you to apply (make sure they're listed as a qualified person on the Consent for Minor form). You'll also need to:
- Provide a completed:
- Application for a Beginners Permit/Drivers License/Identification Card Form Download (Form 447-NC) and have your parent or guardian sign it (this must be the same person that signs your consent form).
- Consent for Minor (Form 447-CM). This must be signed at the DMV by the parent/guardian who brings you there and who's also listed as qualified on that form.
- Provide proof of:
- Your Social Security card.
- U.S. citizenship.
- Proof of South Carolina residency.
- Pass the vision test.
- Pass a DMV written test (fee for the knowledge test is $2).
- Pay the $2.50 permit fee.
Pass the Written Test on Your First Try
If you want to pass the written test, you have the option of studying the South Carolina Driver Manual, but that involves a whole lot of reading. We suggest preparing for the exam with an industry-leading online practice test from our approved partner.
With your learner's permit in hand, you're allowed to drive between 6 a.m. and midnight as long as a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and has at least one year of driving experience accompanies you.
You will need to complete 40 hours of supervised driving, with 10 hours being driven at night, before you can apply for your conditional driver's license.
South Carolina Provisional License
If you're at least 15 years old and 180 days, and you've also had your beginner's permit for 180 days, you can apply for your conditional provisional license as soon as the 181st day:
- Submit a Certification of School Attendance, Drivers Education and Driving Practice (Form PDLA) confirming your completion of Driver's Ed, satisfactory school attendance, and minimum hours of behind-the-wheel driving practice (40 hours, 10 hours at night).
- Provide proof of:
- Have parental or legal guardian signature on your application.
- Pass the vision test.
- Pass a driving test.
- Pay the South Carolina driver's license fee:
- 5 years license: $12.50 (online only).
- 8 years license: $25.
With your conditional license in hand, you're allowed to drive without supervision, but there are a few restrictions:
- You may only drive alone during daylight hours, defined as 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time).
- From 6 p.m. (or 8 p.m. during DST) until midnight, you may drive if a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old is with you.
- Between midnight and 6 a.m., you may drive if your licensed parent or legal guardian rides with you.
- You cannot transport more than 2 passengers under 21 years old unless you're accompanied by a licensed adult who is at least 21 years old. The only exception is if you are transporting family members or students to and from school.
SC Special Restricted License
The difference between a special restricted license and a provisional license is that a special restricted license allows the opportunity to waive the restricted driving times, provided that you can show proof of interference with either work or school. To do so, you will need to submit a statement from your parent or guardian, along with a statement from your school or your employer, both confirming that the restricted driving times are interfering with your necessary activities.
To obtain your provisional license, you must be at least 16 years old and have held your learner's permit for 180 days. You will follow all of the same steps listed above for your conditional license. You will also still be held to the same driving restrictions until you reach 17 years old and qualify for your unrestricted driver's license, unless you choose to submit the aforementioned statements and have the restrictions waived.
SC Unrestricted Regular Driver's License
You will be eligible for your unrestricted driver's license once you turn 16 years old and either:
- Have held your provisional license for 1 year.
- Have held your special restricted license for 1 year.
The DMV will mail you a special driver's license sleeve to keep with you while driving.
If you did not obtain a special restricted or provisional license, you must be at least 17 years old and have had a valid beginner's permit for at least 180 days. To obtain, visit your local DMV office and:
- Bring your parent or legal guardian with you to sign your application.
- Turn in your learner's permit.
- Pass the vision and DMV road tests.
- Pay the driver's license fee:
― 5 years license: $12.50 (online only).
― 8 years license: $25.
Follow our new license checklist to keep track of the major steps towards your first driver's license in South Carolina.
Car Insurance in South Carolina
Having insurance is required by law and is important in protecting yourself financially if there is an accident. Adding a teen driver may significantly increase the cost of a family's auto insurance premiums, so it is a good idea to check with multiple auto insurance companies to find the best coverage.
Learner's Permit Insurance
Teens with permits may be covered under the insurance of the adult licensed driver who is riding with them. It is important to contact your insurance company to verify that your teen driver is covered when driving with an adult. If not, purchase an insurance policy that covers your teen driver.
Provisional License and Regular License Insurance
Teen drivers applying for a special restricted driver's license and regular unrestricted license are required to show proof of insurance to get their license. Teens may be added to an existing family policy, a parent's policy, or they may get their own policy.
There may be opportunities for teens and their families to qualify for discounts from insurance companies. For more information about discounts, rates, and coverage, visit the following pages:
- Teen Guide to Car Insurance
- Buying Car Insurance for Teens
- Saving Money on Teen Car Insurance
- Adding Teens to Your Car Insurance Policy
- South Carolina Insurance Center
Other South Carolina Driver's Licenses
You can get a moped license at 15 years old. You must follow the same procedures for obtaining a learner's permit.
You can get a motorcycle permit at 15 years old, which allows you to practice riding a motorcycle under supervision. Getting a motorcycle permit involves the same process for getting a learner's permit.
If you have a conditional license, you can get a motorcycle conditional license by taking the motorcycle knowledge test and the motorcycle driving test.
- Certification of School Attendance, Drivers Education and Driving Practice
- Use this South Carolina DMV form to certify your teen driver is enrolled in school and has received the proper driving instruction. Must be completed by a school employee (or legal guardian if home schooled) AND a driving instructor.
- 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.