Are ATVs Street Legal in South Carolina? (ATV + UTV Law To Know!)

Are ATVs Street Legal in south carolina

You must be asking; are ATVs street legal in South Carolina? Well, read on because we have all the answers you’re looking for. ATVs’ street legality in this state is a bit of a gray area, but we have all the proper information.

According to South Carolina State Statutes, ATVs are neither explicitly allowed nor explicitly banned from streets and highways. But local governments have a right to regulate their use.

But this is only part of the answer because in many situations you can’t drive an ATV on the streets, and in many other areas. And also, there is some other information you should know.

Are ATVs street legal in South Carolina?

Per the letter of the law, it is illegal to drive unregistered vehicles if they require registration to be allowed on highways. And highways are defined as any “way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel”.

Because ATVs are not required to be registered, they are technically allowed on all streets and highways.

Law also set certain technical requirements for these vehicles to be operated on public lands. They must have an effective muffler, USDA Forest Service approved spark arrestor, and functional brakes, and between 0.5 hours after sunset and 0.5 hours before sunrise, you are required to have headlights turned on.

Local municipalities have a right to impose stricter regulations, and to even completely ban ATVs from the streets and roads in their jurisdictions.

So, you should properly inform yourself about the local ordinance, and whether it exists.

Read also: Are ATVs Street Legal In CT (ATV + UTV Laws To Know)

Can I ride an ATV on public lands in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, it is completely legal to drive an ATV on all public lands that are open to the public. Some lands that are owned by the state and its agencies are protected or have limited access. Natural preserves, military bases, and so on.

Riding ATVs on them is prohibited either by not allowing public access or not allowing motorized vehicles of any kind.

Also, stricter regulations on riding ATVs on public lands can be imposed by local governments or state agencies that these lands are under their management. So, in reality, you are allowed to ride ATVs more or less only on posted trails. But, regulations differ from location to location.

By state law, on these public lands, you are not allowed to cross any waterway, except on a designated crossing, fords, and bridges.

The vehicle must have operational brakes, a muffler, and a spark arrestor. And during the night headlights must be used. Also, riders younger than 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

When it comes to the age of a rider, there are further restrictions that are also enforced on private properties.

Can I ride an ATV on private lands in South Carolina?

It is legal to ride an ATV on private property if you have the leaseholder or owner’s permission of that property. But certain age-related restrictions exist when riding either on public or private lands.

Depending on the age of the rider, certain things are illegal for their legal guardians and parents to allow them knowingly.

If they do so, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined between $50 and $200.

It is illegal for parents and legal guardians to knowingly permit:

  • child younger than 6 to ride an ATV,
  • a person who is16 years or younger without a driver’s license to carry a passenger on an ATV,
  • a person younger than 16 to drive an ATV contrary to the manufacturer’s Age Restriction Warning Label,
  • to ride an ATV without supervision by an adult.

These regulations also have several exceptions. When the operator is directly involved in ranching, farming, or wildlife habitat management activities. If an ATV operator is lawfully engaged in hunting and trapping activities.

If the operator old between 6 and 15 is under direct visual supervision by a parent or legal guardian. And also when riding on beaches.

Read also: Are ATVs Street Legal in Texas? (ATV + UTV Law To Know!)

Do I have to register or title an ATV in South Carolina?

It is not possible to register an ATV, but they can be titled, which is a good way to ensure proof of ownership and also potentially a recovery in the case it gets stolen.

To title an ATV you need to visit the appropriate local South Carolina DMV office and submit:

  • filled out Application for Tittle,
  • the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin, or existing title assigned to you,
  • $15 titling fee
  • 6% state sales tax, and 1% county sales tax if existing.

Do I need a driver’s license to operate an ATV in South Carolina?

It is not required to have a driver’s license per the state law to drive an ATV, except for a person younger than 16 to be able to drive a passenger on their vehicle.

Also, persons younger than 16 must have a safety certificate from a “hands-on” course that is approved by the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute.

Counties, municipalities, and agencies in charge of the management of the public lands; have a right to impose stricter requirements, and in some areas, a driver’s license is required to operate an ATV.

Are helmets mandatory in South Carolina?

Per the state law, goggles and helmets are mandatory only for riders younger than 16 and must be in comply with FMVSS#218 standard.

But, just like with other rules, stricter requirements can be imposed by the county and municipal agencies.


You should know that ATVs are not banned from the streets of South Carolina and are also not explicitly allowed.

Certain age-related restrictions for their use exist, and parents or legal guardians can face charges if they are not respected. Counties and municipalities also have the right to regulate ATV use.



Jeff is an automotive technician, technical writer, and Managing Editor. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in cars like the Buick Reatta. Jeff has been creating written and video content about transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used for more than 18 years. Jeff is based in Boulder, Colorado.

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