State Regulations in Tennessee

Buying a vehicle is a major purchase, whether you're buying from a dealer or an individual, or new or used. Not only does it usually take a big chunk of change out of your pocket, but it's also the catapult that's going to get you from Point A to Point B (those two very important points usually being home and work) and back.


Although it can often be more expensive, doing business with a dealer is sometimes the safest, and easiest, way to go. Whether you're buying, selling, or trading, the dealer can handle all procedures and paperwork for you, as well as collect all applicable registration and title fees.

Before you visit the dealership, take some time to decide what kind of vehicle you're interested in, whether you want to trade or buy, and how much money you're willing to spend. Too many times buyers fall victim to what seem like "good deals" simply because they just want to "look around" on their way home from work.

Enter with a plan. Consider visiting the websites of your local dealerships to get an idea of the inventory they have in stock. Call the dealerships and speak with salespeople about what kind of vehicle you're looking for, what you're able to pay, and when you'd like to look at their vehicles. This begins a relationship with the salesperson, and lets him or her know that when you show up, you already know what you want.

Used Car Rule

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided rules for sellers and buyers of used cars, the used car rule. It requires disclosure of certain information in a "buyers guide" displayed on vehicles for sale. The guide must include information about the dealer, the vehicle, and the warranty. The FTC site also gives information about penalties for violating the used car rule.

Note that dealers are also required by law to inform you of any salvaged status vehicles, lemon law returns, and any major repairs made on a new vehicle. If you want to make sure the vehicle you're considering purchasing doesn't fall into any of these categories―just ask!


Buying a vehicle from an individual can help you save money, and selling a vehicle to an individual allows you to make a little extra cash without having to trade in or go to a dealership.

Whether you're buying or selling, these are just a few of the forms you'll need to obtain:

(You will need the free Adobe Reader to read PDF files.)

For more online forms, including those that cover liens, visit Tennessee's Title and Registration Forms section.

Buying From an Individual

If you're buying a vehicle from an individual, you'll probably want to do some research. Our Vehicle History Reports section will get you started. You may also want to check out the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) to find out if the vehicle you wish to purchase has been seriously damaged.

Also make sure that the individual 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.

Selling to an Individual

If you're selling a vehicle to another individual, you might also want to protect yourself by going to your county clerk's office with the buyer and completing the transaction right there. This ensures that the vehicle is taken out of your name and that your title is transferred right away, and prevents the system from generating additional taxes for you to pay.

Buying or Selling Without Paperwork

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

If you're the buyer, 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 you're the seller and you've lost the title, plan ahead―obtain a duplicate title before initiating a sale.

The title is mandatory. The registration, however, is not. Since the buyer only needs the registration if transferring the license plates, that document is not absolutely required for a sale.


Vehicle Information Request
Use this form to request TN vehicle records for purposes allowed by law.
Odometer Discrepancy Certification
Complete this form if an incorrect odometer reading was used on documents while transferring ownership of a vehicle in TN. Must be completed by the buyer AND the seller.
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