If you are the owner of a new or used vehicle, you must register it with the state of Tennessee to legally drive it. Vehicle registration requires the filling out of forms along with other bureaucratic requirements. Let's look at how to register a vehicle in Tennessee.

TN Vehicle Registration: TN Tags and Registration

Registering a vehicle in Tennessee is not the bureaucratic nightmare many make it out to be. TN auto registration, TN trailer registration, motorcycle registration and so on is surprisingly easy. Industry improvements have made the experience much easier than it used to be. It is even possible to renew automobile registration online through the local DMV. You will need some documents to register the vehicle. These include:
  • The vehicle's title
  • Your proof of residence and identity
  • The odometer disclosure statement
If you need time to collect such paperwork, you should bridge the gap with a temporary operation permit. This must be performed before submitting the application for the registration. The actual registration of the vehicle takes place at the Vehicle Services Division. You can obtain your vehicle title and registration at the same time.

Registering a Vehicle in TN: Emissions Inspection

Certain counties in Tennessee require drivers to have an emissions inspection performed before the vehicle can be registered. These counties include Sumner, Wilson, Williamson, Davidson, Hamilton and Rutherford. The automobile owner must provide the TN car title or registration for the emissions test to be performed. If TN lost title, you must obtain a duplicate title TN. The emissions test requires the payment of a $9 fee. Payment must be made in cash. Bills greater than $20 will not be accepted.

How new Tennessee Residents Register a Vehicle

Be sure to bring:
  • Your out-of-state title
  • Out-of-state registration
  • Emissions test paperwork
  • Name and address of the vehicle's lien holder
  • Proof of identification (license, military ID, birth certificate)
  • Money for fees to the county clerk's office
Though auto insurance is unnecessary to register a vehicle in the state of Tennessee for the first time, it is illegal to drive without auto insurance.

Registering a Vehicle Purchased from a Private Party or Dealership

Regardless of how you purchased the vehicle, you must bring the following to the county clerk's office:
  • The Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin
  • New vehicle invoice showing car sales tax in TN
  • Proof of identification
  • Proof of residency
Documents that suffice for proof of residency include a utility bill, a mortgage or rental agreement and a paycheck stub. You must also bring the current registration from your old automobile if you plan on transferring TN license plates to your new vehicle.

Registering a Used Automobile

Bring a valid certificate of title property completed by the seller, an odometer disclosure statement if the vehicle is less than a decade old, proof of identification and proof of residency to the county clerk's office.

License Plates

Be sure to bring your current registration if you desire to transfer the license plates to the used automobile you purchased. TN vanity plates are available upon request and depending on availability. You can pick up your license plates when registering your automobile. If the TN specialty license plates you desire are not available, order it for delivery to your local county clerk's office for pickup.


If you can't provide the documentation described above, it might be possible to obtain a temporary operation permit. Such a permit is valid for a period of 30 days. This permit requires proof that you own the vehicle in question and prove you are taking action to remedy the registration/title issue. You must show your Tennessee driver's license and submit the Application for Temporary Operation Permit. Finally, there is a $10 fee to obtain the permit. Owners of salvaged vehicles and those that fail inspection will not qualify for the permit.