Buying a Car in Tennessee

Tennessee’s regulations relating to vehicle purchasing are fairly straightforward. We have gathered the most important information regarding those regulations here to help make your vehicle purchase in the state go as smoothly as possible.

1. Title Information

The regulations for titling a vehicle in Tennessee are very simple. If you are purchasing a new vehicle from a dealer, they may take care of the paperwork for you. If they do not, you need to take the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO, or MCO if the form says “Certificate of Origin”), the dealer invoice, current registration (if you are transferring license plates) and proof of residency to your local county clerk’s office. In Tennessee, the owner gets the title even if there is a “lien” (a loan) on the title.

If you are purchasing a previously owned vehicle, you will need to bring to the county clerk the current title properly assigned over to you as the new owner, an odometer disclosure statement (if the vehicle is less than 10 years old), current registration and proof of residency.

In all cases, you have 30 days from the date of purchase to title and register your vehicle.

2. Insurance Information

Tennessee requires proof of financial responsibility for all drivers and vehicles within the state. For most people, this proof will come in the form of liability insurance. The current minimum requirements in Tennessee are $25,000 liability per person bodily damage ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 liability property damage.

Tennessee citizens can also prove financial responsibility by posting a bond from a financial institution or a certificate of deposit from the State Treasurer. In both cases, the amount must be $50,000.

Failure to have insurance can have serious consequences, including fines and suspension of your driving license. So make certain you don’t end up having to go through that hassle, and get your insurance before you drive off in your newly purchased vehicle.

3. Emission Information

Certain counties in Tennessee require emission testing. These counties are Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson. Also, the city of Memphis requires testing. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, you will be exempt from testing only for the first year; to make sure you receive this exemption, bring in your MCO when you register the vehicle. After that, you will be required to be tested every year. All other vehicles registered in the aforementioned areas of the state must be tested every year before they can be registered.

Testing is done at specific locations in each applicable county.

4. Lemon Law Information

Tennessee’s Lemon Law covers new and leased vehicles bought in the state. It covers these vehicles for one year or the manufacturer’s warranty period, whichever is shorter. Under the law, a particular problem with a covered vehicle must first be reported to the manufacturer within this timeframe, but legal action can be taken as late as one year after delivery of your vehicle or six months after the warranty expires, whichever is later.

In order for the law to apply to a particular vehicle, the vehicle must either have a defect that has not been repaired after three attempts or have been out of service for repairs for at least 30 cumulative days. If either of these conditions exists, the vehicle owner must then send a certified letter to the manufacturer informing it of the problem. The manufacturer has 10 days to attempt one final repair.

If that last repair attempt is unsuccessful, the owner can then pursue a replacement of or refund for the vehicle. If the manufacturer has an arbitration process, the owner must go through that before filing legal action.

5. Special Information

Tennessee has no particularly unusual vehicle purchasing regulations that potential car buyers need to be aware of.