Register Car in Tennessee
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Because this page only deals with initial registrations, you'll need to visit our renewals page for information on that subject.
You must register your vehicle if you recently:
- Bought it
- Received it as a gift
- Moved to the state
The registration and titling processes are closely related, and both transactions occur at your local County Clerk's office. You must register your car within 30 days of moving to the state.
Even though you don't need to provide proof of financial responsibility when you register your car, you can't legally drive without having it. Most drivers obtain auto liability insurance to handle this requirement. You can find a list of providers―and hunt for the lowest rates―when you visit our Insurance Center.
Did you buy your car from a dealer? If so, the dealer should have handled the registration for you.
However, if you bought a vehicle from a private seller, you're transferring vehicle ownership, or you're registering an out-of-state vehicle, you'll need to handle the matter on your own. As such, gather the following paperwork to begin the process:
Private Party Purchases
- Properly assigned title (see our duplicate title article if you can't locate the title).
- Odometer Disclosure Statement.
- Your current registration (only required if you're transferring your plate).
- Emission inspection certification (if your county requires the testing).
- Current registration.
- Properly assigned title (or name and address of the lienholder).
- Acceptable proof of identification.
- Acceptable proof of residency.
In case you haven't bought your car yet, think about obtaining a vehicle history report. Doing so gives you a better look into the vehicle's past, and can help you determine if the car is worth the price.
Registration fees vary by situation. Call your local County Clerk's office to see what your fee will be.
Replacing a registration, decal, or plate means extra fees.
After you've gathered the necessary paperwork, make a trip to your local County Clerk's office to complete the registration process.
You'll get your license plate at the office, provided that you're content with a non-personalized, standard plate. If you want a specialty plate or wish to personalize your plate, you'll receive your plate later. See License Plates & Placards for more information, as well as to see the styles available. You may also set off your plate by surrounding it with an attractive frame.
To place the decals on the appropriate spot on your plate, follow the instructions provided.
In some states, you can deduct some or all of your registration renewal fees on your federal taxes, due to the fees being at least partially based on the estimated value of the vehicle. Because the state doesn't figure its registration renewal fees in that manner, you can't take this deduction.
You may want to consult a tax attorney) for more information on this matter.
It's a relief to have your car registered, but there's still more work to be done if you want to make your driving experience as safe and pleasant as possible.
Also, you're required to protect your child passengers with approved safety seats, so don't overlook this important aspect. If you're a cell phone user, think about buying a hands-free headset to allow you to keep your hands on the steering wheel.
Of course, you'll need to pay attention to the car itself. Investing in an after-market warranty may initially seem like a costly move, but doing so often pays for itself many times over, and allows you to keep your car in its best shape. Likewise, finding a quality, reliable mechanic who can detect and fix problems at an early stage helps to ensure your safety and extend the life of your vehicle.
Other Topics in This Section
- Register Car
- Registration Renewal
- Registration & Insurance
- Replacing a Lost Registration
- RV & Motorhome Registration
- Custom Built Car Registration
- Boat Registration and Licenses
- Title Transfers
- Replacing a Lost Title
- Salvaged Vehicles
- Special Vehicles
- Drivers with Disabilities
- License Plates & Placards
- Smog & Emission Checks
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