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How to Start a Driving School in south carolina: A Step-by-Step Guide
Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in South Carolina
South Carolina’s process for opening and operating a driving school is straightforward. The regulations are easy to manage, and make sense from a business point of view.
This guide will walk you through what you need to do to start a driving school in South Carolina..
How to open your driving school in South Carolina
- South Carolina’s process for starting a driving school is straightforward.
- Driving schools and instructors must be licensed by the state, and your school must have at least one instructor on staff from the beginning.
- You may adopt a wide range of locations for your school and classroom.
- You must keep records and provide written contracts for your students.
- Your 8-hour classroom course and 6-hour behind-the-wheel course have pretty open curriculums.
- The regulations spell out more detail for starting a truck driving (CDL) school in South Carolina.
Driving School Licensing and Requirements
To operate a driving school in South Carolina, you will need to be licensed by the state. Licenses are valid for two years from the date of issue. Applications should be submitted online. In addition to a completed application form–which includes lists of your vehicles and instructors, your application packet should include the following:
- Samples of forms, receipts, and contracts your school will use.
- A copy of your certificate of insurance for each vehicle, as well as liability insurance for injury to a student.
- A list of all owners/stockholders who have more than a 10% interest in the business.
- List of all teaching manuals, course outlines, and other instructional material you play to use.
- A copy of the surety bond in the amount of $10,000.
- A copy of your fees for all services offered.
Submit the original of all forms, and keep a copy at your main place of business.
The current regulations for commercial Driver Training Schools in South Carolina are straightforward and clear. Driving school instructors and owners should know and comply with them–they allow a wide range of operation.
South Carolina requires the following minimum liability insurance coverage:
- $50,000 bodily injury to one person
- $100,000 bodily injury to more than one person
- $50,000 property damage
If you have employees, you must carry workers’ compensation insurance covering them–and potentially you–in the event of injury while on the job. You should, of course, consider higher coverages and/or an umbrella policy to cover your operations.
Driving School Owner’s License
South Carolina places few personal requirements on owners of driving schools. The main bar would be conviction for a number of crimes involving fraudulent behavior or moral turpitude. Your school also needs to have an instructor on staff from the beginning–that’s probably you!
Owners, operators, or officers must all be over 21 years old.
Each manager, owner-operator, or instructor must have a valid license.
You may not operate without a license for your program.
Driving Instructor’s License
While no specific requirements are set for driving school owners, instructors must demonstrate qualification before they receive a license from South Carolina. Submit the application form. Instructors must meet the following qualifications.
- Be at least 21 years old. and have at least a high school diploma (or the equivalent).
- Have at least 5 years driving experience in the license class you will be teaching.
- Not have a suspended or revoked license during the last 3 years.
- Pass the criminal background check.
In addition, all Professional Driving Instructors in South Carolina must demonstrate completion of an 34-hour-hour instructor training program. You’ll need also to pass written and road tests.
Instructor licenses must be renewed every year by the anniversary of the date of issuance.
You are generally free to establish your business anywhere you see fit–meeting the requirements outlined below. Your office must comply with local zoning requirements, and contain a sign visible to the public.
Your office must be in a permanent building, and it may not be within 1,500 feet of a building used by the DMV. You may not practice on any facilities used by the DMV between 830 am and 5pm. Your office must be at least 200 square feet in size.
Your classroom facility must be able to hold at least 10 students, and continue seats and writing surfaces for them. It must have adequate materials also.
Your school license, instructor lists, and regular office hours must be posted conspicuously at each location.
Records must be maintained at your main business office.
Your school name cannot be substantially similar to that of another driving school, and you may not use the words “State”, “Government”, “Municipal”, “City”, or “County” in the school name, and you must use your school’s name only in advertising and publicity.
Don’t ever give a student or parent the impression that your instruction guarantees receiving a driver’s license–you may mention your pass rate.
Your vehicles need to have dual controls for the brakes as well as two inside rearview mirror. They must have passed the most recent South Carolina safety and emissions inspections–and those inspections may be the most rigorous in the country. An airbag for the driver is expected.
Signage must be conspicuous, and visible from both sides. Signage must say “DRIVER TRAINING” and include the name of the school. Lettering must be at least 2” tall and 0.5” wide.
Records and Contracts
You will need to keep records of all students and instruction for at least two years after they finish their training with you. The records you need to keep are:
- Driving school name, student names, dates of birth, the students’ DL or permit numbers, and the dates and times of all instruction.
- Receipts, approved by the DMV, for all payments must be part of the records.
You must provide all students with written contracts. Each contract must include the following information:
- Total contract charges and payment terms
- The vehicle type
- An instruction record
- The schedule of lessons, including the rate for lessons, the schedule (which reflects the requirements noted in the next section)–both classroom and BTW sessions.
- A statement indicating that the written contract is the entire contract–the specific language is on page 11 of the regulations
You may not say “no refund” but you may indicate that no refund will be given if services have been provided. Do not guarantee that the student will receive a driver’s license.
You must file your contract form with the DMV before using it–with your application.
Driving School Curriculum in South Carolina
Driving schools in South Carolina may offer classroom and/or behind-the-wheel instruction. You must submit your driver training courses of instruction to the DMV.
Your classroom course must last for 8 hours, and your behind-the-wheel component is 6 hours long.
Commercial Driver’s License Instruction
Providing instruction for students pursuing a CDL in South Carolina generally follow those for the regular driver’s license. The regulations are available online, and you should be familiar with them.
Most of the requirements are pretty straightforward and parallel those for regular driving schools. Some differences are worth noting here.
Your CDL A course should meet the following:
- Your CDL A course must provide 50 hours of classroom work, 50 of field instruction, 16 of BTW highway training, and 32 hours of on the road observation.
- The classroom instruction must include a wide variety of appropriate skills for CDL A holders.
- You must include at least 3 hours of night-time BTW instruction.
- You must have 1 vehicle for every 3 students.
- Drivers must log their field work and BTW instruction.
Your CDL B course must provide:
- 50 hours of classroom
- 10 hours on the range
- 10 hours behind-the-wheel including 2 at night
Starting a Small Business in South Carolina
Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in South Carolina. You also need to establish your Driving School as a small business, and have to consider a number of factors. The form of business you take up, as well as the procedures, are appropriate topics of conversation with your lawyer and accountant. The considerations we offer here are not legal advice, but should provide you with things to think about as you set up your business.
All businesses need to register in South Carolina, especially the business name—the “doing business as” certificate. Banks may not be willing to set up your account until you have that DBA form. We’ll include where to register in the business structures below.
You will also need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number. Banks may need it for your business accounts, and you may be wanting to employ people. To obtain an EIN, go to the IRS website and complete the application form you find linked there.
Before you get going, you’ll want to check to see if the business name you want is in fact available in South Carolina. You can search the South Carolina database, as well as visit the office of the county recorder.
Owning your own business is the easiest one to set up, but also may open you to liability concerns. As a sole proprietor, your business is simply part of your life. You keep a separate set of books, and complete a Schedule C for your 1040 form every April.
Sole proprietorships can expose the proprietor for full liability, even with insurance. That may mean that if you are sued, you may lose your home and property, as well as your personal bank accounts and other assets. This risk may not be worth the ease and independence.
In South Carolina, the big step you have to take is to register your business with the county or town clerk in which you have a place of business.
Corporations and LLCs
You may set up a full corporation (“Inc.”) as your business structure. Corporations limit your liability for loss to your investment in it, as a general rule (although banks may require you to be obligated personally if you take out a loan to get your business going). This form of business keeps your personal assets safe.
As an owner of a corporation, you’ll have to set up your driving school consistently with the rules for corporations in South Carolina. You’ll also have to decide whether to be an S Corporation or a C Corporation. Generally, the S Corporation form is set up for small businesses. It allows income and taxes to pass through to the owners. You will want to discuss these forms with your attorney and accountant.
You may be able to set your driving school up as an LLC in South Carolina. The LLC form provides the same limited liability as a Corporation, but do not have to comply with the corporate formalities most states require, including items like bylaws, required stockholder meetings, and minutes (although minutes of meetings are probably a good idea).
You’ll have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages for the LLC with your attorney and accountant.
Both Corporations and LLCs file with the Secretary of State. You’ll have to search for the name first, and then file the documents as directed at the Secretary of State’s website.
Once you’ve complied with all the legal requirements to be both a driving school and a small business in South Carolina, you need to get students.
Getting students requires marketing—largely on the internet. You will need the following systems set up to obtain students:
- A website—focused on the types of students you want to attract, and aimed at your locality.
- The website should also include a blog, which allows you write about a variety topics and engage in Search Engine Optimization—which will drive traffic to your site.
- A Facebook page, linked to your website, to become noticed and drive traffic.
- Getting testimonials from successful students.
Marketing is something you will have to devote time to. DrivingSchool.Marketing can help you get the best bang for your marketing buck.
Your driving school in South Carolina will be up and running very quickly in South Carolina’s regulatory system. You will have to get everything ready to go before you apply–including your lesson plans and curriculum.
But that’s just good business sense–you want to be ready to market your business as soon as you’re ready to go.
Disclaimer: This page is part of DrivingSchool.Marketing’s series of state and provincial pages designed to help entrepreneurs like you start driving schools. States change their regulations, or the web pages they host their forms. While we believe these rules are accurate as of the date of publication, we cannot guarantee full accuracy. Please let us know if you spot any problems.
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