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How to Obtain a New Car Registration in Tennessee

Motorists must apply for car registration in Tennessee after acquiring a new or used vehicle from a dealership or private party. To get a new car registration certificate, car owners must complete the application process in person through the Tennessee Department of Revenue. Residents cannot apply for an initial car registration online or by mail. When getting car registration materials, applicants must submit evidence of vehicle ownership and a current DMV car registration certificate if transferring license plates. To learn more about how to get car registration credentials, review the information provided below.

Tennessee Motor Vehicle Registration Requirements

Drivers must obtain Tennessee registration of vehicle certificates as soon as possible after purchasing a new or used vehicle from a dealership or third-party seller, or after inheriting an automobile from a family member. Under state law, motorists must get car registration materials for all motor vehicles, motorized bicycles, trailers, semi-trailers and pole trailers that are driven on a state highway, as motorists cannot drive an automobile on public roadways until they register it in Tennessee. After applying for a DMV vehicle registration card and obtaining a new title certificate, motorists may obtain license plates for their newly-acquired automobile. When applying for an auto registration certificate, motorists may title their vehicle at the same time if they wish, but residents cannot title their automobiles without first obtaining a new auto registration card.

Note: In most cases, motorists must get new TN car registration materials on their own, even if they purchase a vehicle from a licensed dealership. However, car registration applicants may verify this with the dealership before leaving, as some dealers may submit the vehicle’s title and registration of vehicle application on their behalf.

Furthermore, motorists cannot apply for Tennessee DMV auto registration materials until they submit their vehicle for an emissions inspection if they live in counties such as Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Williamson, Wilson and Sumner. Prior to getting a new car registration certificate, applicants must perform a vehicle inspection through the state Department of Environment and Conservation. New DMV registration certificate applicants can visit any one of the several vehicle emissions testing stations located throughout the state in order to meet this requirement. During the motor vehicle registration inspection, the examiner will perform a two-point tampering check, a catalytic converter test and a fuel gas cap examination. If an automobile fails the emissions inspection, a mechanic will provide car owners with free diagnostic information to help them determine the reason for their vehicle’s failing score. If a vehicle passes the Tennessee auto registration emissions inspection, car owners may visit a county clerk’s office to register and/or title the automobile. After completing the vehicle registration emissions inspection, however, motorists must register their automobile through a local county clerk’s office within 90 days. To learn more about emissions inspections in Tennessee, applicants may contact the Department of Environment and Conservation at 1-866-329-9632.

How to Apply for a Tennessee Car Registration as a State Resident

“How do I register my car if I am a current Tennessee resident?”, drivers may ask. When motorists get car registration materials they must visit their local county clerk’s office to complete the vehicle registration process in person. If applying for new car registration documents after purchasing a vehicle from a dealership, however, motorists must visit the clerk’s office for the county in which the dealership is located. As such, DMV vehicle registration applications can only be processed through county clerk offices in the state. Additionally, the motor vehicle registration process varies slightly depending on whether applicants wish to register a new or used automobile. When completing the registration of a new vehicle in TN, applicants must submit the following documents:

  • Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin
  • New vehicle invoice (motorists must obtain this from the dealership)
  • Copy of the applicant’s current TN auto registration certificate, if transferring previous license plates to the newly-acquired vehicle
  • Proof of completing an emissions inspection (if applicable)
  • One proof of primary identification and two proofs of secondary identification
  • Two proofs of state residency, such as a utility bill, current bank statement or a mortgage contract, OR one proof of state residency if the document includes an I-94 form, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITTN), an I-551 or an Employment Authorization Document
  • A completed Power of Attorney for Vehicle Transactions form, if applicable (RV-F1311401)

If getting TN car registration materials for a used vehicle, applicants must visit their local county clerk’s office to submit the following documents:

  • The vehicle’s current certificate of title (signed over to the new owner)
  • An Odometer Disclosure Statement (RV-F1317001) – for vehicles younger than 10 years of age
  • A copy of the vehicle’s current TN car registration certificate, if the applicant wishes to transfer their previous license plates to the new automobile
  • Proof of completing a vehicle emissions inspection (if applicable)
  • One proof of primary identification, two proofs of secondary identification and evidence of state residency
  • A completed Power of Attorney for Vehicle Transactions form, if applicable (RV-F1311401)
  • An Affidavit of Non-Dealer Transfers (RV-F1301201) – if registering and titling an inherited vehicle

“When registering my car, do I need to pay DMV auto registration taxes and fees?”, applicants may wonder. During the new auto registration application process, applicants must submit payment for state and county registration fees. If applying for specialized license plates, additional fees will apply. However, Tennessee car registration fees vary depending on whether the automobile is a passenger car, commercial vehicle (such as a taxi or bus) or a freight motor vehicle (such as a semi).

How to Get Car Registration in Tennessee as a New Resident

When getting car registration materials as a new state resident, motorists must visit the clerk’s office in the county in which they live to submit all required documentation. To obtain new car registration documents, applicants must submit the vehicle’s emissions inspection certificate (if applicable), a current out-of-state car registration card and payment for all applicable fees. Additionally, Tennessee DMV auto registration applicants must submit proof of identification and evidence of state residency. Furthermore, vehicle registration applicants must submit the vehicle’s out-of-state title certificate, or they may provide the name and address of the car’s lienholder if they are making payments on the automobile. When submitting proof of identification, applicants must submit one proof of primary documentation and two proofs of secondary ID.


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