South Carolina Learner's Permit and Driver’s License

GDL requirements

Full Privilege Minimum Age
16, 6 months
Learner Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
Learner Stage: Minimum Duration (Months)
Intermediate Stage: Minimum Age (Years/Months)
15, 6 months
Intermediate Stage: Nighttime Driving Restriction
6 p.m.-6 a.m. EST; 8 p.m.-6 a.m.
Intermediate Stage: Passenger Restrictions (Except Family, Unless Noted)
No more than 2 passengers younger than 21 unless transporting students to and from school

How to Get a South Carolina Driver’s License

South Carolina has a Graduated Driver License program, or GDL, that will give you time to learn how to drive in a controlled way. There are three stages to this program, from no South Carolina license to a full license.

Completing the South Carolina GDL takes about a year and a half. First you’ll take a written test for your learner’s permit. Hold your permit for at least six months and complete a South Carolina DMV approved driver training course to move up to your South Carolina conditional license. Drive with it for a year, and you’ll receive your South Carolina full unrestricted license.

The steps below have the details you’ll need to know in order to get your full, unrestricted license.

Get Your South Carolina Learner Permit 

You can start the process to get your South Carolina driver’s license at 15 years old. To get ready for driving, you can visit the SCDMV Beginner’s Permit Portal. There you’ll find the State driver’s manual to study as well as a practice test.  At your local SVDMV location, you’ll need to fill out an application, bring in proof of identity, and pay a fee of $2.50 by debit card or check.

You will have to pass a written knowledge test as well as a vision exam so bring any needed vision correction with you.

You will be given an official paper which is your learner’s permit. You’ll need to have that with you every time you’re behind the wheel.

You need to have your South Carolina learner’s permit for at least 6 months before you can apply for a conditional license. During that time, you’ll need to have 40 driving practice with 10 of those being at night. There are also limits to your permit and they are:

  • You must be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older with one year of driving experience
  • To drive between midnight and 6:00 A.M. you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

This is the point also where you’ll need to get driving instruction. If you are under 17, you need to pass a driver’s education course to apply for your conditional license.

When you’re ready to enroll in driver education, find a driving school to get started.

Drivers’ education consists of 8 hours of classroom and instruction and 6 behind the wheel. Once you’ve completed the required amount of instruction, you can apply for your South Carolina conditional license.

Get Your South Carolina Conditional License 

Receiving your South Carolina conditional license requires that you’ve completed certain requirements. You have to be at least 15 and 6 months old. You must have completed your required 40 hours of supervised driving time. If you’re under 17 you also have to have completed driver’s education.

Driving Skills Test: You will be required to pass a driving test with an SCDMV evaluator who will make sure you can perform basic driving tasks safely.   Once you’re ready, you can schedule a driving skills exam at your nearest South Carolina DMV office.

Before you take the test, you should check out the Top 10 Automatic Fails on Driver Tests, so you’ll know what not to do on test day.

Vision Test: You will need to take a vision test. Again, be sure to bring corrective lenses you might need.

The application fee for your license is $25.

Your South Carolina conditional license will be mailed to you and will have your photograph on it. They take your picture the day you pass your driving skills test. This license does not allow you to have more than 2 passengers younger than 21, unless you’re transporting them to or from school, without being accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older.

As you continue to learn how to operate a motor vehicle in different conditions, there are certain hours when your driving will be restricted:

  • You cannot drive alone from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M.
  • You may drive from 6:00 P.M. to midnight with a license driver who is at least 21
  • You may drive from midnight to 6:00 A.M. with a parent or guardian.

You may apply for a South Carolina Special Restricted License if you need a waiver to drive during restricted hours for school, church, or work.

Get Your South Carolina Unrestricted Full License 

At a certain point, the state feels that you’ve been able to receive enough supervised driving experience that you can go out on your own. Therefore, once you reach 17 and have had your conditional license for 6 months, you can get your full South Carolina license.

You will need to go back to your local SCDMV for a final vision and road test. Pass them both and your South Carolina provisional license becomes a full unrestricted license.

This means that previous restrictions are lifted. However, you will not receive an updated South Carolina license until that one expires. After you renew your license, you will receive your full, unrestricted license in the mail.

However, honing your S.P.I.D.E.R. Senses™ defensive driving skills is a lifetime experience. Download the DriverZ Virtual Coach to keep practicing. It will also help you keep track of your practice hours when earning your South Carolina conditional license.