Tennessee car registration laws and regulations require the titling and registration of every motor vehicle, motorcycle and trailer housed in the state. Vehicle registration is managed by the Tennessee Department of Revenue through a network of county clerk offices located across the state. New residents should promptly apply for new car registration and titles, and current residents must obtain new registration documents whenever a vehicle changes ownership. For more information about auto registration services in TN, review the sections provided below.
Tennessee Vehicle Registration Information Required
Car registration applicants wondering, "What do I need to bring to register my car at a Tennessee county clerk's office?" need to know that the required documentation is determined by whether the registration is for a new or used vehicle. Car registration, like most government transactions, begins by providing proof of identification in the form of a driver's license or state-issued photo identification card.
Before issuing registration of vehicle documents, the Air Pollution Control Division of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requires residents of Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties to have emissions testing on most vehicles. Gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles with a model year of 1975 and newer must have their emissions tested if they have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rate (GVWR) of 10,500 pounds or less. DMV car registration regulations exempt motorcycles from emissions testing, even if the owners reside in these counties. These heavily-populated areas offer multiple inspection stations and some even have mobile vans to make the emissions testing process more convenient.
To get car registration applications processed, Tennessee drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. Auto registration insurance compliance is monitored through the Department of Revenue through the state's automobile insurance verification program. Car registration applicants with questions about this program can use the auto insurance verification contact number provided at the end of this page.
Where to Register a Car in Tennessee for the First Time
Getting car registration for the first time in Tennessee is a process that takes place at one of nearly 100 local Tennessee county clerk's offices. Most motor vehicle registration locations are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with some locations offering extended hours on certain days of the week and on Saturdays.
How to Register a New Car in Tennessee
Applicants wondering how to get car registration in TN on a used car must submit several additional documents to your county clerk. These car registration documents must include the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO), the new vehicle invoice and a copy of your current registration, if you plan to transfer your current license plate to your new car.
Auto registration taxes and fees will vary according to the county of residence, the car's value and other factors. Be prepared to pay the car registry clerk with cash, a money order or a personal or cashier's check.
How to Register a Used Car in Tennessee
To obtain auto registration services for a used car, you need to bring two documents to the county clerk's office. Show the vehicle registration clerk a valid Certificate of Title that has been properly assigned to the vehicle, and an Odometer Disclosure Statement, if applicable. As with a new car registration, if you plan to transfer your current license plate to your newly acquired vehicle, bring a copy of the current registration.
New Tennessee resident vehicle owners can get car registration on their current vehicles by bringing specific documents to the county clerk. Car registry documents must include an acceptable form of identification, such as a driver's license or birth certificate and proof of residency. This proof of address can be verified by providing two documents such as a current utility bill, bank statement or rent agreement. The TN DMV car registration website provides an extensive list of documents acceptable for this purpose. If applicable, the vehicle must pass emissions testing as outlined above. The applicant must also show the most current out-of-state car registration and the out-of-state title. If there is a lien on the vehicle, the applicant must provide the name and address of the person or entity to whom they are making payments.
Temporary Tennessee Vehicle Registration
Temporary TN car registry documents, called "Red Tags" or Temporary Operation Permits, can be ordered by drivers experiencing problems with obtaining a proper title and registration. Temporary car registration cannot be issued to cover vehicles that have failed inspections or to drive salvaged vehicles. To apply for a Red Tag, visit the local county clerk and bring your car ownership papers, driver's license, proof that you are working to resolve the problem and payment for the applicable fee.
Car registration applicants with questions about forms or other vehicle registration information can call (888) 871-3171 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. Questions about the TN state automobile insurance verification program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or the call center at (615) 741-3101, option 2.