In order to drive in the United States, you will need to have a valid driver’s license.
To get a new license, transfer an existing license, or renew your current license,
you must go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (the DMV). You may visit any of the DMV’s offices, which are listed online.
Transferring a Driver’s License: If you have a license from another state in the U.S, you will need to replace it with
a South Carolina license within 90 days.
International Driver’s Licenses: If you have a driver’s license from your home country, you will be permitted to drive
in the U.S. for only 90 days after your arrival in Columbia. At that point you must
get a SC license. If you do not, you may receive a ticket from the police.
Obtaining a Driver’s License
A list of documents needed to apply for a South Carolina Driver's License can be found
You must pass two exams in order to get a license:
- Written Exam: There is a written test of the traffic laws of South Carolina. You can get a free
copy of the South Carolina Driver’s Manual from the South Carolina Highway Department
at 955 Park Street. The manual can also be accessed online.
- Driving Test: You must provide your own car to take this test. Most students will ask a friend
to drive them to the South Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, located at 1630 Shop
Road, for the test. You can take the test more than once if necessary.
While living in the United States, you may decide to purchase a car. There are advantages
to owning a car but many responsibilities, as well. Insurance, taxes, repairs, and
gas prices all add to the cost of owning a car. In addition, you must pay to park
on campus. All of this must be considered before you decide to buy a car.
Buying a New or Used Car
To buy a new car, you must go a car dealership. Sometimes people buy used cars, which
that have already been owned by other people. Buying a used car is often less expensive
than buying a new car. If you find a car you like, look over it carefully to make
sure there are no problems, and have it looked at by a mechanic. Car dealerships often
also sell used cars. Other places to find used cars for sale include the classified
section of the local newspapers and bulletin boards. Before you visit a car dealer,
find out about the features and costs of various cars. You can look online as well
as in magazines such as Consumer Reports or Motor Trend which review the features and costs of different cars.
South Carolina law requires that all drivers immediately purchase automobile insurance
when you buy a car. There are many insurance companies in Columbia. Each one will
have different rates. Insurance agents can give you an estimate of your insurance
costs over the telephone. Be prepared to answer several questions about your car and
other personal details since insurance rates depend on many factors such as your age,
where you live and your driving record. Ask your insurance agent how each of these
types of insurance work and what your responsibilities are if you have an accident.
Automobile Registration and Taxes
If you buy a car in South Carolina, you must register the car with the state of South
Carolina. In addition, you must pay property tax on your automobile. This property
tax depends on the value and condition of the automobile and must be paid each year
you own the car.
- If you live in Richland County, go to the Richland County Auditor’s office at 2020
Hampton Street (803-748-4955). You must show proof that you have automobile insurance
in order to register the car.
- If you live in Lexington county, go to the Lexington County Administration Building,
which is located at South Lake Drive to register your automobile and to pay property
taxes on your automobile.
South Carolina License Plate
If you buy a car in South Carolina, you must get a South Carolina license plate to
put on the rear of the car. Each year you are required to renew your license plate
and registration. Go to any DMV location to register your car.
In the United States, children under the age of six who are in any vehicle (car, truck,
etc.) need to be properly restrained by an approved child safety seat. The type of
car seat you have for your children is based on their age and weight:
- Children under the age of one year or weighing less than 20 pounds (9.09 kilos) must
be in a rear-facing child (infant) seat.
- Children between the ages of one and five, weighing between 20 and 40 pounds (9.09
to 18.18 kilos), must be in a forward-facing child safety seat.
- Children between the ages of one and five, weighing 40 to 80 pounds (18.18 to 36.36
kilos), must be in a belt-positioning booster seat.
- Regardless of age, children weighing over 80 pounds (36.36 kilos) or those who can
sit erect against the car seat and bend their legs over the seat's edge are not required
to be in a booster seat.
- In general, children under six years old cannot ride in the front seat. But, this
law is not enforced if the vehicle doesn't have a back seat, or if the back seat is
occupied by other children under the age of six.
If you have any questions about buying a car seat for your children, come speak to Julia Ferillo in International Student Services. She can help you to select the proper child seat.
For more information, you can visit the Children's Trust of South Carolina's website.