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Paperwork When Buying a Car in Tennessee

Paperwork Required to Buy a Car in Tennessee

Your paperwork requirements when buying a car vary depending on whom you're buying the car from.

Buying From TN Dealers

If you buy a vehicle from a dealership, you'll find that the dealer will take care of most or all of the paperwork for you, so you can just concentrate on finding the best car and the best deal.

Buying From Private Sellers in TN

While the forms may differ a bit according to your situation, you'll have to at least complete the vehicle title, including the seller's signature and your own signature. You'll find more information on our page, Title Transfers in Tennessee.

The state provides many other forms online that may apply to your situation.

Also make sure that the seller notifies you whether the vehicle has a salvage certificate. Do a thorough inspection of the vehicle, and ask questions if you have suspicions.

Some sellers will suggest that you have the vehicle professionally inspected. Take advantage of this, and if your seller doesn't offer an inspection, suggest one yourself.

Buying or Selling Without Paperwork

When a vehicle is bought or sold, the vehicle title must change hands.

Don't purchase a vehicle unless the seller can provide you with the title. Without it, you won't be able to transfer ownership. If the current owner cannot find the car's title, they will need to request a duplicate title.

Bill of Sale

Though not mandatory, it's always wise to keep a bill of sale on file. It serves as your proof of purchase and protects your stance should any questions arise over your vehicle's registration status. You can download a copy of this document from our Bill of Sale page.

Tennessee Title and Registration

Before you can title and register your vehicle with the Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR), both you and the seller need to make sure that the title has been properly filled out.

You will then take that title, along with an Odometer Disclosure Statement (Form RV-F1317001), to your local TN DOR office.

If you want to transfer the registration and license plates from your previous car, you will be able to do so. Make sure you also take your current registration with you. Without this information, you will be given new plates.

NOTE: You may also need an emissions test before you register the car IF you live in Hamilton, Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, or Wilson Counties and the car's emissions status is not up-to-date.

Vehicle History Reports

A vehicle history report will tell you important information about a car you are thinking about buying, such as whether or not it has ever been in an accident or a flood, and the damages that have resulted from such events.

Without this information, it is easy for a clean vehicle body to hide potential internal damage, which could cause you to overpay for the car, or buy a car that will require extensive future repair.

The report also allows you to verify the accuracy of the odometer reading, since it provides an odometer estimate, helping you avoid odometer fraud.

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