Selling a Car in Tennessee

When you’re selling a vehicle in Tennessee, there are some state-specific requirements that you have to meet. We’ve collected the appropriate information here regarding these requirements so you can know exactly what it is going to take for you to have a hassle-free vehicle sale.

1. Title Information

You can only sell a vehicle in Tennessee if you have absolute ownership of it. In other words, any “lien” (loan) on the vehicle must be paid off before you can sell the vehicle. If you have paid off a lien, the lienholder must send you a lien release and the title. You need to then take the release to a County Clerk’s office. You will not be able to sell the vehicle until the lien release has been accepted by the state.

You should also make certain that you have the actual title. If you cannot find the title, you’ll need to request a replacement title from the Tennessee Department of Revenue (DOR) offices. You will need the physical title so that you can fill out the necessary information for the buyer as proof of the transfer of the vehicle. Both your signature and the buyer’s signature will be necessary.

2. Bill of Sale Requirements

Tennessee does not require a Bill of Sale for any vehicle sale. If you want to make one for your records, however, you need to include the following elements:

  • The new owner’s name
  • The full address of the new owner, which cannot be a P.O. box
  • The seller’s name
  • The full address of the seller, which cannot be a P.O. box
  • The date of the sale
  • The sale price
  • A full and detailed vehicle description, including the vehicle’s make, model, year, series number (if applicable) and body type (2-door, 4-door, sedan, etc.), as well as the vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • The vehicle odometer reading at the time of sale
  • The signature of the seller
  • The signature of the buyer

3. Inspections

Certain counties in Tennessee require vehicle emissions testing. These include Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties. The city of Memphis also requires such testing. If you are in one of these areas and selling a vehicle that is older than one year old, you will be required to make certain that the emissions test certificate is current before completing the vehicle sale.

Testing is done at specific locations in every applicable county.

4. License Plates

In Tennessee, when you sell a vehicle, the license plates stay with you and not with the vehicle. Transferring the plates is entirely legal within the state as long as the new vehicle is registered in the same name as the plates. If you are not going to transfer the plates to a new vehicle, make sure you return them to a County Clerk’s office before you cancel your insurance or you could face unintended fines or liability for the vehicle after you’ve sold it.

5. Odometer Disclosure Requirements

Tennessee requires you to formally disclose the vehicle odometer reading when you sell a vehicle that is 10 years old or newer. You should use the official form for this and fill it out in the buyer’s presence.

6. Other Information

If you have questions or want more details regarding vehicle selling, check out the Tennessee Department of Revenue website.