A Tennessee vehicle registration connects residents of the Volunteer State with the mode of transportation they own or lease, such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, and boats.

To register a vehicle in Tennessee, residents need their title, proof of identity and residency, an odometer disclosure statement (if applicable), and payment for all applicable registration fees.

Residents can obtain a temporary operation permit, allowing time to gather their required paperwork. Some counties also require emissions inspections prior to registration.

Registering a Vehicle in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR) requires registration of all vehicles using the Tennessee roads and highways through the Vehicle Services Division. Getting a vehicle title and registration is the same process in Tennessee, so residents of this state may do both at once.

NOTE: For details on other vehicle types, such as custom-built cars and trailer registrations, please visit our section on “Other Vehicle Registrations.”

New to Tennessee?

Residents who live in a county that requires emissions testing will need to get that taken care of prior to applying for registration and titling. Tennessee residents must visit the local county clerk’s office in the county where they live to register and title the car or truck.

At the county clerk’s office provide:

  • A passed emissions test paperwork, if required (see Vehicle Emissions Inspections below).
  • Payment for the emissions test will be taken at the county clerk’s office.
  • Present the current or most recent out-of-state registration.
  • Submit the out-of-state title.
  • Have the name and address of the lienholder if residents have a loan out on the vehicle.
  • Provide proof of identification (U.S. driver’s license, birth certificate, military ID, etc.).
  • Provide proof of residency (rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, paycheck stub, etc.).
  • Pay all required fees.

TN Auto Insurance

Insurance from a Tennessee authorized insurance company is not required to register a vehicle for the first time. However, it is illegal to drive without insurance, and residents of this state can have their license suspended if they cannot provide proof of car insurance.

Tennessee residents who are pulled over or who are involved in an auto accident who don’t have car insurance can have a stop can be put on their driving record, which will keep them from registering a car or renewing their registration. Tennessee residents will need to visit their local county clerk to have the stop removed before they can apply for or renew their registration.

Registering a Vehicle in TN

Residents of Tennessee must visit the local county clerk’s office in person when they purchase a vehicle, whether it is from a dealership or a private party.

Register a New Vehicle

To register a new vehicle in Tennessee, residents of this state can visit their local county clerk’s office and:

  • Submit the Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin. Residents will get this from the dealership when they purchase the vehicle.
  • Provide the new vehicle invoice from the dealership.
  • Give the county clerk the current registration from the old vehicle, if residents are going to transfer their license plates to the new vehicle.
  • Provide proof of identification (U.S. driver’s license, birth certificate, military ID, etc.).
  • Submit proof of residency (rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, paycheck stub, etc.).
  • Pay all the applicable fees and taxes.

Register a Used Vehicle in Tennessee

Individuals who wish to register a used vehicle in Tennessee at a local county clerk’s office need to provide:

  • A complete and valid certificate of title filled out by the seller.
  • The odometer disclosure statement (Form RV-F1317001) for vehicles less than 10 years old.
  • The current registration, if individuals are transferring the license plates.
  • Proof of identification (U.S. driver’s license, birth certificate, military ID, etc.).
  • Proof of residency (rental or mortgage agreement, utility bill, paycheck stub, etc.).
  • Payment for all registration fees and taxes.

Temporary Operation Permits

If Tennessee residents are unable to produce any of the required registration or titling documents, they may be eligible to obtain a temporary vehicle permit. Temporary permits are valid for 30 days.

To apply for a temporary operation permit, residents of Tennessee need to present the following:

  • Ownership documents for the vehicle.
  • Proof of action being taken to fix the titling/registration issues.
  • A valid TN driver’s license.
  • A completed Application for Temporary Operation Permit (Form RV-F1314401)
  • Payment for the $10 fee.

Contact the local county clerk or DOR office for more information about where to complete the application.

If granted, Tennessee residents will be able to operate their vehicle while titling/registration issues are handled. Individuals who need a temporary permit, but their situation doesn’t have to do with titling or registration issues, contact the DOR at (615) 741-3101.

NOTE: Residents will not be eligible for a temporary operation permit due to a failed vehicle inspection. Permits are also not issued for salvaged vehicles.

Vehicle Registration Fees

Tennessee has standard titling and registration fees for registering a car or truck. In addition, residents of this state will be required to pay local taxes determined by the county they are registering in. Contact the local county clerk’s office to determine those costs.

Vehicle Emissions Inspections in Tennessee

Depending on the resident’s county of residence, individuals may be required to complete an emissions inspection before registering their vehicle. The counties in Tennessee that require emissions testing are:

  • Hamilton County.
  • Rutherford County.
  • Sumner County.
  • Williamson County.
  • Wilson County.
  • Davidson County.

Tennessee residents need to have the title or registration for their vehicle in order to have the test completed.

The test will cost $9. Payment must be in cash and bills larger than $20 will not be accepted.

Replacing a Lost Tennessee Registration

If the vehicle registration has been lost or damaged, residents can request a duplicate by mail or in person at the local county clerk’s office.

To replace a lost Tennessee registration, residents of this state need to provide:

  • Their license plate number.
  • The vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Payment for the $3 fee.

If the registration requires certification, such as that for an antique or commercial vehicle, individuals need to add an extra $.50 to the $3 fee. Residents need to submit this to their local county clerk’s office in person, or use their mailing address to submit it by mail.

Motorcycle Registration in Tennessee

All Tennesseans must register their motorcycle with the Vehicle Services Division of the Department of Revenue (DOR) before riding on roadways is permitted. The DOR works in conjunction with local county clerk’s offices.

Use this guide to learn more about Tennessee motorcycle registration if individuals are a new TN resident or if they’re a current resident who recently bought a bike.

New Tennessee Residents

Before Tennessee residents can register their motorcycle, they’ll need to complete an emissions test if they live in a qualifying Tennessee county. Head over to our “Tennessee safety and emissions inspection” section for more information.

After having the motorcycle inspected (if needed), Tennessee residents can register their bike by bringing the following to their local county clerk’s office:

  • The motorcycle’s current out-of-state title and registration.
  • If there is a lien, provide the lienholder’s name and address.
  • An emissions certificate (if applicable).

Proof of:

  • Identity.
  • Residency.
  • Payment for the necessary motorcycle registration taxes and fees.

While proof of insurance is not required to register a motorcycle, residents must have Tennessee motorcycle insurance to legally ride on Tennessee roads.

Additionally, titling will usually be done when residents register their motorcycle. Tennessee residents need to make sure they have all necessary title transfer documents in addition to those listed above when they visit the county clerk.

Register Your Tennessee Motorcycle

The requirements for Tennessee motorcycle registration vary depending on whether it was purchased from a dealership or a private seller. Below are the steps Tennessee residents need to take for registration with the Tennessee Vehicle Services Division in both scenarios.

Motorcycles Purchased at a Dealership

When Tennessee residents buy a motorcycle from a dealership, the dealer will often register the bike. The applicable taxes and fees will be included in the purchase price; see our section below for a complete breakdown.

Double check to make sure the dealer has everything they need to register the motorcycle. Some dealerships may provide a temporary registration while Tennessee residents wait for their official plates and registration to arrive by mail. If the dealership does not register the motorcycle, follow the applicable registration instructions below.

Motorcycles Purchased in Private Sales

The registration process for motorcycles bought from private sellers differs depending on whether residents bought the bike new or used.

To register a new motorcycle, residents of Tennessee need to visit their local county clerk’s office with:

  • The Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin.
  • The motorcycle’s invoice.
  • A copy of the current registration if individuals want to transfer their previous license plates.
  • All appropriate fees and taxes.

To register a used motorcycle, bring the following items to the county clerk’s office:

  • The motorcycle’s current title signed by the buyer AND seller.
  • An Odometer Disclosure Statement (Form RV-F1317001).
  • Individuals who would like to transfer older license plates need a copy of your current registration.
  • Payment for the necessary taxes and fees.

Proof of insurance isn’t required to register a bike; however, residents will need the proper type of motorcycle insurance to ride on Tennessee roads.

Temporary Operation Permits

If Tennessee residents are having a problem obtaining any of the required documents necessary for titling and registration, they may apply for a temporary operation permit until the issue is resolved.

To apply for temporary operation, visit the local county clerk with:

  • A completed Application for Temporary Operation Permit (Form RV-F1314401).
  • An ownership document such as:
  • The current title for the motorcycle.
  • A manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO).
  • Proof of actions taken to fix your current titling/registration issues.
  • The Tennessee motorcycle license.
  • The $10 temporary operation permit fee.

Individuals who still have questions about temporary operation permits can give the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Vehicle Services Division a call at (888) 871-3171.

Tennessee Motorcycle Registration Fees & Taxes

Below are the fees and taxes associated with registering a motorcycle with the Tennessee DOR’s Vehicle Services Division:

Motorcycle plates:

  • Regular: $19.50.
  • Specialized: Varies. See the DOR’s license plate information pages for the cost specific to the type of specialized plate individuals would like.
  • Temporary-operation permit: $10.

Registration fees and taxes: Varies by county of residence. Call your county clerk’s office for details.

Tennessee Boat Registration & Licenses

Vessel registrations in Tennessee are overseen by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). On this page, we’ll outline the basics of boat registration and the qualifications needed to legally operate watercraft on The Volunteer State’s waters.

Boats to Register in Tennessee

To register a boat in Tennessee, The TWRA requires registration for all:

  • Mechanically-powered vessels.
  • Sailboats.

Individuals do NOT need to register:

Watercraft propelled by paddles or oars, like:

  • Canoes.
  • Kayaks.
  • Rowboats.
  • Boats registered out-of-state operating in TN for no more than 60 days.
  • Vessels from another country temporarily using Tennessee waters.
  • Lifeboats.

Individuals who aren’t sure if their vessel requires registration can call the Wildlife Resources Agency’s boat registration number, (615) 781-6585, for assistance.

Register Your Vessel in TN

The steps to register a boat with the TN Wildlife Resources Agency differ depending on whether it was purchased from a dealership OR a private seller.

Regardless of how TN residents bought the vessel, they can opt to register it for 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years.

Boats Bought from Dealers

Residents who bought a vessel from a dealer, most of the registration process will be completed at the dealership. Individuals will need:

  • A boat registration application, provided by the dealer.
  • The dealer will need to stamp your application as proof of sales tax paid.
  • The necessary vessel registration fees.

Then, individuals can submit the above items:

  • In person or by mail to the address on the boat registration application.
  • Online by uploading your application to the TWRA’s registration portal.

Vessels from Private Sellers

In general, to register a vessel bought from a private seller in Tennessee, residents of this state need to submit the following:

  • A completed boat registration application, available only at the local county clerk’s office.

After paying sales tax, the county clerk will stamp the application as proof.

The bill of sale, to include:

  • The boat’s make, model year, hull identification number, and building materials.
  • Signatures from the buyer and seller.
  • Payment for the applicable boat registration fees.

Then, individuals can turn in the required items above:

  • By mail or in person to the address on the application for boat registration.
  • Online by uploading the registration application on the TWRA’s registration system.

NOTE: Certain TN counties may require additional items to register boats bought from private sellers—Residents can call the county clerk’s office to confirm they have all the required materials.

Tennessee Boat Registration Fees

The costs of registering a boat with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are as follows:

Original and renewal vessel registration—Varies by validity period and boat length:

1 year for boats measuring:

  • 16 ft or less: $13.
  • 16 ft to 26 ft: $25.
  • 26 ft to 40 ft: $38.
  • 40 ft or more: $51.

2 years for vessels measuring:

  • 16 ft or fewer: $24.
  • 16 ft to 26 ft: $48.
  • 26 ft to 40 ft: $72.
  • 40 ft or greater: $97.

3 years for watercraft measuring:

  • 16 ft or under: $35.
  • 16 ft to 26 ft: $71.
  • 26 ft to 40 ft: $107.
  • 40 ft or longer: $142.

Duplicate registration card or decals: $6.

Sales tax:

  • State: 7% of the purchase price.
  • Local: Varies by TN county—call your county clerk’s office for specifics on what you may owe.

TN Boat Registration Renewals & Replacements

A Tennessee boat registration is valid for 1 year, 2 years, OR 3 years, depending on what residents choose. Before the registration expires, the TWRA will send a renewal notification.

Individuals can renew their vessel registration:

  • Online by submitting the required details about the boat AND the necessary renewal fees using the Wildlife Resources Agency’s automated renewal system (residents will need to make an account).
  • In person at any TN business selling TWRA fishing and hunting licenses, by providing:
    • Boat registration number.
    • TWRA identification number (if available).
    • Appropriate renewal fees.            

Replace Lost Vessel Registration

If individuals damage or lose their boat registration or decals, they can request duplicates by submitting information about the vessel and the $6 replacement fee:

  • Online using the TWRA’s online portal.
  • In person at any business that sells Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fishing and hunting licenses.

Tennessee Boater Requirements

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency requires all residents born after January 1, 1989, to complete a boater safety course AND pass a written boating exam before operating any vessels requiring registration. Upon passing the exam, residents will receive a boating safety education certificate.

Individuals must be at least 11 years old to earn a boating safety education certificate.

Additionally, the following age restrictions apply to TN boaters, regardless of boating education course completion. If individuals are:

  • Younger than 12 years old can drive motorboats with greater than 8.5 HP IF they’re supervised by an adult.
  • Younger than 12 years old, can use personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis and Sea-Doos) AS LONG AS a supervising adult is on board.

Residents can study for the written boating exam through any of the following:

  • Online—Check out the TWRA’s boating safety page for the approved online education providers.
  • Classroom—Refer to the TWRA’s boating education page for a list of courses provided by TWRA-affiliated education providers in TN.
  • Home study—Call (615) 781-6682 to have study materials sent by mail.

Once residents have studied enough, they need to purchase a Type 600 boating safety exam permit ($10) from any business that sells TWRA hunting and fishing licenses. The permit receipt acts as the admission to the written boating exam, which residents need to take at any TWRA testing location.

After passing the exam, hold onto the permit receipt—it acts as a temporary education certificate while they wait for their official boating safety education certificate to arrive.

Accepted Forms of Payment

The Tennessee DMV accepts these forms of payment:

  • E-check (Online)
  • Debit card
  • Credit card
  • VISA
  • MasterCard
  • Discover
  • Check

Individuals who are paying by check need to make the check payable to their local county clerk. Residents of Tennessee also need to make sure they have the proper form of payment handy before visiting a TN DMV office.

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