Tennessee

Tennessee Department of Safety (DOS)
1150 Foster Ave. 37243
Nashville, TN 37202
(615) 251-5166 | www.tn.gov/safety

Department of Transportation Commissioner’s Office
James K. Polk Building, Suite 700
Nashville, TN 37243-0349
(615) 741-2848 | www.tdot.state.tn.us

Title Application

An application for certificate of title is made to the county clerk of the county where the vehicle is to be registered.

The application must contain: the applicant’s full name; the applicant’s residential address; a description of the vehicle, including the odometer reading, the make, model, type of body, vehicle serial number, whether the vehicle is new or used, and a statement of the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating.

If the application refers to a new vehicle, the applicant must include a statement by the dealer or a bill of sale showing any lien retained by the dealer, a manufacturer’s certificate of origin, the new vehicle’s invoice, and a copy current registration if transferring a license plate.

If a certificate of title is lost, mutilated, or becomes illegible, the owner must make immediate application for a replacement title.


Title Transfer of Ownership

In order for a transfer to be effective, the owner must endorse an assignment and warranty of title upon the certificate of title with a statement of all liens and encumbrances on the vehicle and must deliver the certificate of title to the purchaser or transferee at the time of delivery of the vehicle.

The transferee must apply for and obtain a registration and a certificate of title before the vehicle may be operated on the highways.


Titles for Mobile Homes

A mobile home, when occupied, requires a certificate of title.

A mobile home or house trailer with a length exceeding 35 feet may not be moved upon the highways of the state unless the owner obtains a permit for such transportation.

A separate permit is required for each individual mobile home or house trailer.

A mobile home or house trailer that is assessed as real property or as an improvement upon land is not subject to registration requirements.

Registration Application

An application for registration must be made to the county clerk in the county of the residence of the owner, or where the vehicle is to be based or operated.

The owner must have proper title to a vehicle prior to registration.

The application for renewal is made to the county clerk of the county of the owner’s residence.

The application for renewal may be made via mail and must be postmarked no later than 20 days before the expiration date.

There is no grace period for late registration.

No registration or renewal of registration may be issued unless the application is accompanied by evidence of compliance with the state’s financial responsibility law.

Upon receipt of a registration certificate, the owner must sign the certificate and it must be carried at all times in the vehicle to which it refers or by the person driving. The use of a duplicate or facsimile, in order to ensure the preservation of the original, is acceptable.

Whenever the address of a vehicle owner changes from that named on a registration or title certificate, the owner must, within 10 days, notify the DOS of the change.

Homemade and materially reconstructed trailers may not be registered or titled unless the DOS certifies that such trailer complies with applicable safety standards.


Registration for Non-Residents

Non-resident owners of a vehicle registered in any state or territory of the United States, Canada, or Mexico may operate the vehicle in Tennessee for a period of 30 consecutive days without having to register the vehicle in Tennessee.

A non-resident owner of a mobile home or house trailer may operate the same in Tennessee for a period of 60 consecutive days.

Military personnel on active duty in Tennessee may maintain home state vehicle registration.


Registration Type

Registration is based on a staggered system and the registration period is valid for 12 months and expires on the last day of the last month of the registration period.

If ownership of a vehicle is transferred prior to the expiration of the registration period, the registration expires and the new owner must apply to have the vehicle registered. The previous owner may apply to the DOS, through the county clerk, for the registration of another vehicle under the old registration number.


Emissions Inspection

Residents of Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson counties in Middle Tennessee and residents of Memphis in West Tennessee must have their vehicles pass an emissions inspection prior to registration renewal. All Shelby County residents who have an address inside the city limits of Memphis must also have their vehicles inspected prior to title and registration.

Vehicles over 25 years old and antique vehicles are exempt from inspection.

A new vehicle which has never before been titled is not required to undergo emissions testing before application for the new title. You need only present the Manufacturers’ Certificate of Origin (MCO) when you title and register the new vehicle at your county clerk’s office. Each year thereafter, however, the vehicle must undergo emissions testing before registration can be renewed.

Visit the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for more information on the state emissions inspection requirement.


Safety Inspection

No statewide periodic vehicle safety inspection requirement.


Title and Registration Fees

AUTOMOBILE

Title Fee: $11.00

Registration Fee: $24.00

MOTORCYCLE

Title Fee: $11.00

Registration Fee: $11.75

DUPLICATES

Plate Fee: $10.00

Registration Fee: $3.50

Driver’s License Fee: $8.00 for initial duplicate; $12.00 for every subsequent one thereafter.

Title Fee: $5.50

Special Plates: $35.00

Plate Disbursement

The county clerk issues 1 reflectorized plate per motor vehicle upon successful application for registration.

The license plate issued for passenger cars, including trucks with a manufacturer’s ton rating not exceeding 1/2 ton and having a pickup body style, motorcycles, trailers, and also those issued for motor homes, must be attached to the rear of the vehicle. License plates issued for all other vehicles must be attached to the front of the vehicle.

The color scheme for license plates is black on white.

License plates are validated with stickers.

Disabled license plates are available by application through the county clerk’s office with physician’s statement attesting to disability. Placards are available through county clerk or Department of Safety.

No tinted materials may be placed over a license plate even if the information on the license plate is not concealed.  On motor vehicles factory-equipped to illuminate license plates, the plates must be illuminated at all times that headlights are on.

Transfer of Plates

Whenever the owner of a vehicle transfers the vehicle, the registration expires and the plates must be removed from the vehicle.

The transferor of a vehicle may apply for reassignment of the plates to another vehicle owned by the transferor.

If the transferor of a vehicle applies for registration reassignment to a new vehicle of a different weight or classification which requires payment of a higher fee, the applicant must surrender both the certificate of registration and the plate or plates to the county clerk.

Driver’s License Examination

Every applicant for any type of license or learner’s permit must pass a written examination that tests the applicant’s ability to read and understand highway signs as well as the applicant’s knowledge of traffic laws and must demonstrate actual ability to exercise ordinary care in the operation of a motor vehicle. All applicants must also submit to an eye exam (20/40 visual acuity required).

The knowledge and skills tests may be waived for a non-resident who is licensed in another state and has established residency in Tennessee, or an applicant with a valid driver license from a approved foreign country.

An applicant who presents evidence that the applicant has completed a driver education and training course offered for Class D vehicles at a public school or commercial driver training school is deemed to have satisfactorily completed the licensing examinations required by the department.


Graduated Driver's Licensing

Tennessee has a system of graduated licensing for novice drivers.

At age 15, individuals are eligible for a learner’s permit.

  • Individuals with a learner’s permit are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.
  • A permit holder may only drive when supervised and may not drive between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Permit holders must accumulate 50 hours (10 at night) of parental/guardian supervised driving.

At age 16, after holding a permit for 6 months, drivers are eligible for an intermediate license as long as they do not accumulate 6 or more points on the permit.

  • Individuals who move to Tennessee are eligible for an intermediate license if they have held a valid learner’s permit for at least 180 days in another state.
  • Intermediate driver’s license holders may not operate a motor vehicle between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or by a licensed driver who is at least 21 and has been designated by the person’s parent or guardian.
  • Intermediate driver’s license holders may not operate a motor vehicle with more than 1 passenger unless: 1 or more passengers are 21 or older and possesses a valid unrestricted license; or the additional passengers are siblings of the driver.

At age 17, drivers who have held an intermediate license for at least a year, have maintained a safe driving record with no less than 6 points, and have not contributed to an accident are eligible for an unrestricted license.

Safety belt use is mandatory for all GDL license holders and passengers 4 to 17.


Driver’s License Issuance/Application

Every application for any type of license or instruction permit must be accompanied by a birth certificate or other proof of the applicant’s date of birth, and the applicant’s name, sex, county of residence, address, height, weight, hair and eye color, and social security number.

A license bears an assigned number, as well as the licensee’s date of birth, address, full name, signature, and a brief description and a color photograph of the licensee.

Whenever a licensee moves, the licensee must notify the DOS within 10 days of a change of address.

Licenses must be in a person’s immediate possession when in operation of a motor vehicle and must be displayed upon demand of a police officer.

Prohibits the issuance of driver licenses to anyone who is not legally in the United States.


Driver’s License Renewal

Every driver’s license is valid for 8 year, excluding Class P licenses which expire 1 year from the date of issuance.

Until January 1, 2016, if a licensee is under the age of 18, the license expires on the licensee’s 21st birthday.

Licenses are renewable on or before their expiration date upon application and payment of the appropriate fee.

An application for renewal that is filed more than 30 days carries a late renewal fee and if a license is expired for more than 5 years, the license holder must apply as for an original license.

Licenses may be renewed up to 12 months before the expiration date.

Licenses issued to people age 65 and older do not expire. Fees are reduced for drivers age 60 and older.

A driver’s license issued to someone who is on active military duty and stationed outside of Tennessee does not expire “so long as such person’s service continues and such person is stationed outside this state.” Military personnel (not military dependents) may have a “Code 30” added to their license which will give it a non-expiring status.


Types of Driver's Licenses

Class A: Valid for the operation of any combination of motor vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight (GCW) rating in excess of 26,000 lbs., provided the vehicles being pulled have a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) rating in excess of 10,000 lbs.; and for the operation of Class B, C, and D vehicles.

Class B: Valid for the operation of any vehicle with a GVW rating in excess of 26,000 lbs., or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 lbs. GVW; also valid for the operation of Class C and D vehicles.

Class C: Valid for the operation of any single vehicle with a GVW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less or any combination of vehicles with a GCW rating of 26,000 lbs. or less and includes vehicles requiring a placard for carrying hazardous materials and vehicles designed to transport more than 15 passengers; and for the operation of Class D vehicles.

Class D: Valid for the operation of vehicles with a GVW rating of less than 26,000 lbs. or any combination of vehicles with a GCW rating less than 26,001 lbs. except vehicles in Class A, B, or C.

Class H: Issued to a minor between 14 and 16 years of age and restricts the holder to operation of a passenger car, Class M motorcycle, or both, during the hours of daylight and only for travel to and from authorized destinations.

Class M: Valid for all motorcycles for drivers age 16 and older.

Class P: Issued as an instruction permit in conjunction with another class and is valid only for operation of that class of vehicle; the holder of a class P permit must be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian or certified instructor, who is at least 21 years of age and has been licensed in the state for at least 1 year.

Distracted Driving

Text messaging is prohibited for all drivers. Learner’s permit or intermediate driver’s license holders are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. School bus drivers are prohibited from talking on a cell phone and driving, except in emergencies.


Emergency Radio/Cellular

Citizen band radio channel 9 is monitored for emergency calls. Emergency cell number is *THP (847).


Headsets

No prohibition on wearing of headsets while driving.


Impaired Driving

All 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating beverages, with the illegal per se limit set at 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (.08 BAC). All 50 states and the District of Columbia set the legal drinking age at 21.

Every state’s chemical test law has ‘‘an implied consent’’ provision providing that any person operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, who is suspected of driving while intoxicated, consents to a chemical test to determine if he or she is inebriated. Failure to submit or pass such a test may cause the driver’s license to be suspended or revoked regardless of any court action finding the person innocent of the charge.

The most comprehensive resource on U.S. impaired driving laws is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Digest of Impaired Driving and Selected Beverage Control Laws.  NHTSA’s Digest is updated annually.

Tennessee requires the use of ignition interlocks for all impaired driving offenders.


Move Over Law

State law requires drivers approaching a stationary authorized emergency or utility vehicle, including a tow truck or recovery vehicle, giving a signal by use of flashing lights and traveling in the same direction, to reduce speed and, if safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to the vehicles, or reduce to a speed safe for road conditions.


Seat Belts

Seat belts are required for the driver and all front seat passengers age 16 and older.

Violation of seat belt law is a standard offense.

Riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck is not permitted for persons under age 12; some other exceptions apply.


Child Passenger Safety

Children ages 9 until 16 must be properly restrained in a seat belt.

Children under age 9 are required to be seated in the rear seat of the vehicle, if available and children ages 9 until 13 are encouraged to be seated in the rear seat of the vehicle, if available.

Children ages 4 until 9 and less than 4 feet 9 inches must be properly restrained in a booster seat.

Children ages 1 until 4 weighing more than 20 lbs. must be properly restrained in a child seat.

Children less than 1 year, or children under 20 lbs., must be properly restrained in a rear-facing child seat.

Violation of the child restraint laws is a standard offense.


Railroad Crossing

At railroad crossings that have been deemed particularly dangerous and marked with stop signs, all vehicles must stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad, and may proceed only upon exercising due care.

The driver of any vehicle carrying passengers for hire, or of any school bus, or of any vehicle carrying hazardous materials, must stop such vehicle within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of the railroad, and must not proceed until it is safe to do so.

Failure to obey these provisions may result in a fine of at least $250 but not more than $1,000.


School Buses

The driver of any vehicle must, upon meeting or overtaking from either direction, any school bus which has stopped on the highway for purpose of receiving or discharging any school children, must stop and may not proceed until the bus resumes motion or is signaled by the bus driver to proceed, or the school bus has deactivated its stop signals.

When driving on a highway with separate roadways for traffic in opposite directions, divided by median space or barrier not suitable for vehicular traffic, the driver need not stop but should proceed with caution.

Bumper Height

Modification of original vehicle bumper height is legal with restrictions.  Maximum bumper height is 22 inches on passenger vehicles, and between 14 and 31 inches on 4-wheel drive recreational vehicles.


Headlight Use

Headlights are required 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, during fog, smoke, or rain and when visibility is less than 200 feet.


Hazard Light Use

Hazard light use is not permitted while driving except in emergency situations.


Tire Chains

Tire chain usage is permitted for hazardous weather or other related incidents only, but may not damage the highway surface.


Studded Tires

Studded tires are permitted October 1 through April 15.


Glass/Window Tinting

It is unlawful to operate a vehicle with window tinting that has a visible light transmittance of less than 35% or reduces the visible light transmittance in the windshield below 70%.


Telematics

No television screen or other device of a similar nature shall be installed or used when in any position in a motor vehicle where it may be visible to the driver.


Radar Detectors

Radar detectors are permitted for passenger vehicles but prohibited for use by commercial vehicles.


Windshield Stickers

Stickers are permitted, but cannot interfere with visibility.


Other Equipment Rules

N/A.

Motorcycle Equipment

Any motor-driven cycle, which produces not more than 5 horsepower, may not be driven at a speed of more than 35 mph unless the cycle is equipped with a headlamp which is adequate to reveal a person or vehicle at a distance of 300 feet ahead.

Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least 1 and not more than 2 headlamps, which must be on at all times during operation.

It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle unless the person is seated upon the permanent and regular seat with one leg on each side and with the headlamp illuminated.

It is unlawful to carry a passenger on a motorcycle unless a proper seat for the passenger is installed on the motorcycle.

All motorcycle operators and passengers on a motorcycle must wear a safety helmet, unless the person is over age 21 and in an enclosed cab. Riders age 21 and older may ride without a helmet while riding a motorcycle in a parade, funeral procession or memorial ride.

Every motorcycle must be equipped with a windshield, or the operator and any passenger must wear safety goggles, face shields, or glasses containing impact resistant lenses.

All motorcycles must be equipped with a rearview mirror mounted on the left handlebar in an upright position and securely attached footrests for the driver and passenger.


Motorcycle Licenses

A person who is at least 16 years of age and a legal resident of Tennessee may apply for a motorcycle license.

Minors who are 15 years of age and legal residents of Tennessee may apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit. Permit holders may only operate during daylight hours, are limited to a 20 mile radius of the permit holder’s home, may not operate a motorcycle on the Interstate system, may not operate a motorcycle with an engine size greater than 650cc, and may not carry any passengers.

Applicants who have successfully completed a motorcycle rider training course may be exempted from taking the licensing skills test and/or the knowledge test.


Motorcycle Noise Limits

No statewide noise limit restriction.


Mopeds & Other

Registration is required.

License plate required if used on roadway.

If operator is 14 or 15, must have motorized bicycle license; if 16 or older, valid operator’s license required.

The following safety equipment is required: safety helmet, headlamp, tail lamp, stop lamp, brakes, mirror, horn, muffler, and windshield or eye protection devices required. Headlights are required to be on during operation at all times.

Trailer Dimensions

Length: not stated; width: 8 feet (excluding safety equipment, appurtenances, and retracted RV awnings up to 6 inches); height: 13 feet 6 inches.


Trailer Brakes

Every trailer or semitrailer of a gross weight of 3,000 lbs. or more must be equipped with brakes that may be applied by the driver of the towing vehicle from the cab and must be of a design such that in case of an accidental breakaway of the towed vehicle, the brakes will be automatically applied.


Trailer Hitch/Signals

Any vehicle being towed by another vehicle must be connected to the towing vehicle with a chain that is reasonably capable of maintaining the attachment of the 2 vehicles in case of failure of any other attachment device.


Trailer Lighting

Every vehicle being towed by another vehicle must carry at the rear a lamp of type which exhibits a yellow or red light plainly visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.


Trailer Mirrors

Required if vision from inside mirror is obstructed.


Trailer Speed Limits

Rural interstate, 70 mph or as otherwise posted.


Trailer Towing

N/A.


Trailer Other Provisions

Riding in towed trailers is permitted.

Accident Reporting

Crashes are required to be immediately reported in case of death, injury, or when property damage is in excess of $50.00.

Crashes involving death, injury, or when property damage is in excess of $400.00, are required to be reported in writing within 20 days.


Bail Bonds

Mandatory recognition of AAA arrest bond certificates up to $1,000, with specified exceptions.


Liability Laws

The Commissioner of Safety must revoke the license and registration of all operators of motor vehicles involved in an accident unless proof of financial responsibility in the amount of no less than $500 is presented to the Commissioner. Acceptable forms of proof include the filing of written proof of insurance coverage, a cash deposit, or the filing of a bond.

A driver need not provide proof of financial responsibility to the Commissioner after an accident if the person had in effect at the time of the accident an automobile liability policy or bond with respect to the vehicle involved in the accident.

Minimum permissible insurance coverage consists of either: single-limit coverage of $60,000 for any 1 accident; split-limit coverage of $25,000 for injury or death of any 1 person and $50,000 for injury or death of any 2 persons and not less than $10,000 for damage to property in any 1 accident; a deposit of cash with the Commissioner in the amount of $40,000; or the filing of a bond in the amount of $40,000 with the Commissioner.

State has non-resident service of process law; does not have guest suit law.


Weigh Stations

Placed statewide, checking federal and state restrictions related to size and weight, safety, and drivers regulations.


Bicycles

Bicycle helmets are required for riders under age 16.

Drivers passing a bicycle must pass with a space of 3 feet between the motor vehicle and the bicycle.


Other

Tennessee is party to the Non-Resident Violator Compact.