Tennessee Car Registration: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Driving in the state of Tennessee requires car registration whether you’ve purchased the vehicle through a dealership or private sale, inherited it, or received it as a gift. Auto insurance is not a requirement in the state of Tennessee during registration but is needed if you take to the roads.

Registration is handled by the Tennessee Department of Revenue and Vehicle Services Division.

Tennessee only allows in-person registration after purchasing a vehicle. This guide shares the full process – including paperwork you’ll file and fees you’ll pay.

How to Register a Car in Tennessee

Registration is quick and easy when you have the necessary documents prepared.

Certain counties require all vehicles to undergo an emissions test before registration and titling. Your car may also need an odometer disclosure if it’s less than 10 years old. Check with your county office for information regarding this test.

Gather your driver’s license, insurance, and follow along with the steps detailed below.

Vehicle Purchased from an Individual

Purchasing or transferring ownership through a private sale/swap? The process doesn’t take long if both parties are present at your local DMV. Else, complete the paperwork then do the following:

  1. Go to a TN DMV office
  2. Show your proof of ID & residency
  3. Provide the vehicle title
    1. Provide a copy of the current registration if transferring a plate
  4. Provide an Affidavit of Non-Dealer Transfers if:
    1. Gifting
    2. Low-selling
    3. Lineal relative transfer
  5. Provide an applicable odometer disclosure
    1. Vehicles less than 10 years old
  6. Provide an emissions inspection*
    1. Applicable in: Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, Wilson, and Davidson counties
  7. Payment for the registration fee*
    1. Varies by county, call for specifics

You may also need to pay applicable taxes during this registration which vary by county. Complete these steps and you’ll receive your plates and registration.

Vehicle Purchased New or from a Dealership

Dealerships typically process the car’s registration on your behalf. If the dealership doesn’t provide this service, or you prefer to handle the new vehicle registration, then you can do the following:

  1. Provide proof of ownership/leasing
    1. Manufacturer’s Certificate
    2. New vehicle invoice
  2. Provide proof of identification
  3. Provide proof of residency
  4. Pay any registration and taxes

Those transferring a title from an older vehicle will provide their current registration during the process.

Registering a Car in Tennessee without a Title

A temporary vehicle permit is available if you do not have all the necessary items, like the title. This permit is applicable for 30 days – you’re expected to complete registration before this expires.

You will provide ownership documents, license, a form RV-F1314401 (Application for Temporary Operation Permit), reason for the issues, and a $10 payment for the application. Complete this at your local DOR or county clerk office.

Registration Renewal

The registration renewal process is very similar to what you’ve just learned minus a few different forms and fees. You’ll complete this process whenever transferring ownership, moving out-of-state, or simply wanting to remain legal to drive in the state.