Title and Registration Requirements
The State of Tennessee requires all motor driven vehicles, regardless of age, to be titled and registered upon purchase or transfer to a Tennessee resident. Every owner of a vehicle, except a licensed auto dealer, must obtain a title in his or her name. Tennessee does NOT allow for titling of motor vehicles with a bill of sale only.
Alterations, erasures or white out voids a title document and you will be required to get a replacement title. If you make a mistake or a signature is in the wrong spot do NOT mark through it or scribble it out. Bring the title in for the Title Clerk to review and often we can put an Affidavit of Correction with the title explaining the error and still be able to use that title.
Motor vehicles, motorized bicycles, and certain trailers, when driven or moved upon a highway, are subject to the registration and certificate of title provisions of TCA Chapters 1-6 or Title 55 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. Basically this means Tennessee is considered a “tag and title” state, meaning that all road worthy vehicles MUST have a license plate assigned to them at the time a Tennessee title is issued.
State law requires the owner(s) to visit the County Clerk’s office in person to title a vehicle, or transfer a title from another state, or apply for a license plate or transfer a plate from one vehicle to another. If an owner or co-owner cannot process their motor vehicle transaction themselves, they may designate someone else to process the title and/or registration for them. The designated party must be provided with a Power of Attorney in order to complete this transaction for the owner. The Power of Attorney form must identify the vehicle by make, model and identification number (VIN) and the individual presenting the Power of Attorney will need to come in with a drivers’ license for identification purposes.
NOTE: Power of Attorney designations cannot authorize a person to sign the odometer certification both as the seller and the buyer of a vehicle on 2011 or NEWER model vehicles.
There is no “minimum” age in Tennessee to be listed as an owner or co-owner on a title and registration. However, we encourage those seeking to title vehicles in the name of someone under the age or eighteen (18) to check with their insurance company first, as this can sometimes be cost prohibitive due to the high cost of insurance for minors.
Proof of Residency
Proof of Roane County residency is required to title and register your vehicle in Roane County whether it is a new vehicle purchase, a used vehicle purchase, a transfer of ownership from a relative or transfer of title and registration from another state.
Proof of residency must be a physical street/residence address and NOT just a Post Office or Private Mail Box service address. A PO Box or PMB Number is acceptable for mailing but there must be proof of actual residence in Roane County as well.
A valid photo identification or driver licenses with the Roane County address OR two (2) pieces of recent mail with your name and Roane County address will be acceptable as Proof of Residency.
- Recent mail would be something dated, issued or postmarked no longer than 4 months from the date of registering the vehicle.
- Remember the document must show the RESIDENCE address not just the PO Box or PMB Number.
In the case of a commercial vehicle if the main business is located outside of Roane County there must be proof of a physical presence for the business in Roane County. While a bona fide commercial business owner may use a mail service provider (post office box or private mail box service such as UPS Store, etc.) to receive incoming mail, they may not use this address as the sole basis for establishing a bona fide physical presence.
Titling Vehicles Purchased from Dealerships
To title and register a new or used vehicle purchased from a dealership, you will also need to submit to your county clerk the following:
- Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or Certificate of Origin for new vehicles or a properly transferred Certificate of Title and/or Title Reassignment document for used vehicles.
- The dealer invoice or bill of sale for the vehicle purchased showing the lienholder (if any) and the amount of sales tax collected.
NOTE: If the vehicle is purchased out of state the dealership may or may not collect sales tax. If sales tax is collected the dealership will usually provide a check either to the County Clerk or the customer transferring the amount collected or provide an affidavit confirming the amount of taxes kept in the dealer state so Tennessee can recognize that amount as tax credit. If the sales tax collected in the other state is lower than the Tennessee sales tax, the difference will be collected by the County Clerk Office at the time of title and registration.
- A properly signed Odometer Disclosure Statement. The odometer statement is required on all vehicle model years 2011 or newer.
- A copy of your current registration if transferring your license plate.
Titling Vehicles Purchased from an Individual
To title and register a used vehicle purchased from an individual, you will also need to submit to your county clerk the following:
- A valid certificate of title properly assigned to you by the registered owner shown on the front of the title. Do not purchase a vehicle if the seller’s signature does not match the name on the front of the title.
NOTE: When purchasing from a private individual, a vehicle can only be legally sold to you by the person shown on the front of the title. If the registered owner had previously sold the vehicle to someone else that buyer can NOT reassign the title to you. They must first title and register the vehicle in their name. Only legally licensed vehicle dealers can transfer a vehicle more than one time on the back of a title.
- If there is a lien shown on the front of the title be sure it has been released with a signature and date from the lienholder and/or a letter on the lienholder’s letterhead stationery stating the lien has been satisfied and properly signed and dated by an authorized agent of the lienholder.
- If you have a lien that needs to be noted when the vehicle is titled in your name make sure the full name and address of the lienholder is filled out in the proper space on the back of the title.
- The current mileage of the vehicle must be shown in the appropriate box on the back of the title if the vehicle is model year 2011 or newer.
- You will pay Tennessee sales tax on the amount you paid the previous owner for the vehicle as shown on the back of the title unless you provide the properly completed and signed Gift or Even-Trade affidavit signed by you and the seller.
- A copy of the current registration if transferring your license plate.
Transferring Titles from Another State
To transfer a vehicle already titled and registered in your name from another state, you will also need to submit to your county clerk the following:
- Leased Vehicles: you will need to contact your Lessor to obtain either a letter of approval and Power of Attorney authorizing you to transfer the leased vehicle to Tennessee and/or the properly signed Tennessee form Leased Vehicle – Owners Authorization to Lessee. There is a $2.00 lease fee applied to leased vehicles making the fee for a lease with a lien $58.00 and the fee for a lease with no lien $47.00. Both of these totals are with standard license plates.
- Title from the previous state if you own the vehicle and there is no active lien on the vehicle. You will need to provide the paper title as Tennessee does not process electronic titles. The cost for transferring a vehicle with no lien is currently $45.00 when obtaining the standard license plate.
- Valid Registration with name and address of Lienholder. If you have an active lien on the vehicle the most current registration from the previous state is required along with the name and address of your lienholder so Nashville can request the title for transfer to Tennessee.
NOTE: When providing the lienholder address it is advisable to actually contact your lienholder and explain you are moving to a new state. Ask the lienholder to provide the address from where the new state should request your current title. Sometimes people provide the address where they send their payments but this is not normally the same agency or place that handles the actual title requests and this could delay the approval of your Tennessee title application.
The cost for transferring a vehicle with an active lien is currently $56.00 when obtaining the standard license plate.
If your car is financed and titled in one of the following states, you must have your title:
- New York
- South Dakota
The above states are not title holding states; the titles are mailed to the owner rather than the lien holder.
Transfer of Title for Vehicles Awarded by Divorce Decree
If you are to be awarded a vehicle by divorce decree and you need to transfer the title registration, please bring a certified copy of the final marital dissolution agreement and final divorce decree signed by the presiding judge. Your attorney should present the Court with the year, make, model and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the vehicle you are to receive in order to get it properly entered onto your marital dissolution agreement. If you do not have a copy of your Divorce Decree and marital dissolution agreement, the court where you received your divorce will be able to furnish you with a certified copy.
- You will also need to bring the vehicle tags, and title. If there is aa active lien on the vehicle, the title is held by the financial institution and you may have to coordinate the title transfer through their office as they will be required to surrender the title to the Clerk’s Office.
- You may also need to provide an odometer reading if the vehicle is a 2011 or newer model year.
- You will exchange your old plate in both names for new vehicle plates in your name only.
Transfer of Ownership Due To Inheritance
If you are involved in the transfer of a vehicle due to inheritance, please call the County Clerk’s office to discuss the matter with one of our deputy clerks. These situations vary and require individual attention based on how the estate is being processed.
- If a will is NOT being probated through the court system you will be asked to complete an Affidavit of Inheritance Form from the surviving spouse or all immediate family heirs to complete the transfer of ownership.
- If a will is PROBATED by the court system there will be a Letter of Testamentary or Letter of Administration, which is a document granted to the Executor of an estate by the probate court. This document gives the Executor the authority he or she will need to formally act on behalf of the decedent in signing and transferring ownership of the vehicles.
Signature Requirements for Individuals and Co-Owners of Vehicles
Multiple Owners: The signature of ALL owners is required on a title if titled to two or more owners regardless of whether the names are joined by the conjunction “OR” or “AND”.
- If the names are joined by “AND” ALL parties must also be present at time of processing the title application at the Clerk’s Office or you must provide a properly completed Power of Attorney (POA) for the absent owner.
- If joined by “OR” only ONE of the parties must be present to complete the title application as long as ALL parties have already signed the title properly.
Selling of Vehicle: Registered owner(s) of the vehicle signs his/her name as signature of seller/transferor. Individual(s) obtaining ownership of the vehicle signs their name(s) as buyer/transferee with complete address.
- If the vehicle being sold has 2 or more co-owners and the names are joined by AND all of the co-owners must sign as seller on the title. If the names are joined by OR only one of the owners is required to sign as seller.
- Tennessee titles do not require notarization of signatures when selling a vehicle titled in Tennessee.
- Some States (such as North Carolina) DO REQUIRE the signature of the SELLER to be notarized. You must ensure these titles are properly notarized even if you will be titling the vehicle in Tennessee, as we are required to honor the requirement of the State where the current title was issued. Current States requiring title notarization include:
- North Carolina
- Sellers should never sign off of title without completing buyer potion; this is known as an open title. This could result in penalties to seller.
- Since a vehicle remains in the state records as being titled to the current owner until such time as the new owner completes the transfer of ownership at a Clerk’s Office, it is also advisable to make a copy/photo of the front and back of the title when selling a vehicle. This provides you with some form of proof of when you sold the vehicle in case the new owner were to have an accident before completing the transfer or doesn’t transfer the title in a timely manner.
Gift or Even-Trade Affidavits: The State of Tennessee Sales Tax Office now requires the signature of BOTH parties on gift or even-trade affidavits. If you are obtaining a vehicle from an INDIVIDUAL as a gift; or if you are even-trading your vehicle for their vehicle both of you will have to sign this affidavit.
Title Only and Certificate of Ownership/Surety Bond Exceptions
Title Only Applications: County Clerks are allowed to issue “title-only” for trailers that are not required to be registered (pop-up campers, boat trailers and utility trailers under 8′ X 20′) and other types of vehicles that are not required to be registered, such as
- all-terrain vehicles,
- golf carts,
- mobile homes,
- commercial vehicles that will receive an IRP/apportioned plate, or
- hobby/project vehicles that are NOT driven on the roads,
provided the applicant can supply the requisite proof of ownership of the vehicle. Eligibility determination is made on a case by case basis and may require approval from Nashville if Title-Only is requested for any reason not listed above.
Certificate of Ownership Applications: A notarized bill of sale is not sufficient proof of ownership. A properly endorsed title showing the chain of title is needed to show requisite ownership of a vehicle. In cases where a title does not exist, depending on the age of the vehicle, the owner may need to furnish a certificate of ownership and/or surety bond application.
If no title is available, depending on the vehicle’s age or value, the registrant would have to go through a surety bond or certification of ownership process. This is true even if a signed and notarized bill of sale exists. As a general overview the qualifications for:
- Certificate of Ownership process includes vehicles OVER 30 years old (regardless of Fair Market Value) or LESS THAN $3,000 Fair Market Value (regardless of age of vehicle). This process is handled through the local County Clerk Office and includes at minimum:
- Completing the Certificate of Ownership form
- VIN verification statement from a law enforcement agent or license automobile dealer
- Notification to prior owner either by certified letters with return receipt requested (if prior owners known) OR advertisement ran in local newspaper. Both types of notification must include make, model, year and VIN of vehicle and a request that any and all parties holding an interest in vehicle contact the person within 10 business days of letter receipt or date of publication for newspaper notice.
- Notarized bill of sale from last registered owner or a notarized statement from the SELLER stating why the vehicle was not titled or registered in the seller’s name.
- In absence of the above notarized bill or sale/statement, when the vehicle is less than 30 years old a licensed automobile dealer appraisal of the value of the vehicle.
- Surety Bond process is required for vehicles LESS THAN 30 years old AND valued at MORE THAN $3,000 Fair Market Value. (Additionally previously owned and untitled, ATV’s, golf carts, trailers could qualify for a surety bond if FMV is over $3,000.) This process is handled through the Dept. of Revenue, Special Investigations Unit in Nashville and includes the following:
- A completed Surety Bond Application with either of the following types of Bonds included:
- Personal Surety Bond requires the names of two sureties (other than the principal) who own land in the State of Tennessee and who are willing to sign the surety bond with the principal. The two sureties must not share the same address or live at the same address as the principal. The “principal” cannot be their own surety.
- Corporate Bond is a surety bond written or backed by a bonding or insurance company that charges a premium fee to write and back the bond for the principal. A corporate surety bond does not require the signature of two sureties but requires State of Tennessee approval. Corporate surety may be obtained through many insurance providers.
- The application and bonds must be mailed to: Tennessee Dept. of Revenue, Special Investigations (Attn: Surety Bonds), Andrew Jackson Building, 11th Floor, 500 Deaderick St, Suite 11.125, Nashville, TN 37242 (Email Address: Suretybond.firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The Special Investigations Unit will check the VIN to make sure the vehicle has not been reported as stolen.
- After application has been processed and approved by the Special Investigations Unit an approval letter and supporting documentation will be sent to the applicant advising him/her to take all the paperwork to their local County Clerk office and apply for title and pay the appropriate title and registration fees as well as sales and use tax on purchase price of vehicle.
- The surety bond approval letter and ALL supporting documentation from the state is required in order to process the application for title at the County Clerk’s Office.
The surety bond process is meant for individuals who do not have a motor vehicle title or proper proof of ownership. The surety bond obtained through this process will allow an applicant to apply for a title. This protects the State of Tennessee in issuing the title and protects previous parties listed on the title who may still have an interest in the vehicle.
Click here to see if you qualify for Certificate of Ownership or Surety Bond processing.
These situations vary greatly, so please call County Clerk’s Office to speak with one of our deputy clerks.
Vehicle Sales Tax
Procedures to pay Sales Tax on a vehicle purchase:
- Customer can bring in a bill of sale from a licensed dealership, along with the title or MSO. Credit will be given for any taxes shown on the bill of sale that was collected by the dealership. If the dealership is from another state and they did not collect the proper amount of taxes required by Tennessee the customer will be responsible for paying the balance due.
- Customer can submit it as a gift transfer with gift affidavit properly signed by BOTH the Seller/Gift Giver and Buyer/Gift Receiver.
- All taxes can be waived on a gift from an IMMEDIATE LINEAL FAMILY MEMBER (such as Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Grandparent) even if some cash is exchanged between the family members.
- Taxes MUST BE PAID on transfers from other family members (such as Aunt, Uncle, Cousins) or friends IF ANY CASH is exchanged. The gift affidavit can only be used in these cases if NO MONEY was exchanged.
- For Even-Trades the vehicle you are trading must be registered in YOUR name and you must provide a registration as proof along with the properly signed even-trade affidavit.
- Pay taxes on the market value based on 75% of NADA book value for vehicles less than 10 years old. The Clerk’s Office will not be able to assign the title number because the Tennessee Department of Revenue will review the price and decide on if the selling price is Fair Market Value.
- Customers can fill out a “low selling price affidavit”. This is the same form used for gift or even-trade transfers and does required the signature of both the seller AND buyer to be acceptable. This is usually required with a very new model vehicle where the sales price is extremely lower than Fair Market Value.
Sales Tax Calculation:
- State Sales Tax is 7% of purchase price less total value of trade in vehicle, if applicable.
- Local Sales Tax is 2.75% of the first $1,600. This amount will never exceed $40.00, UNLESS a warranty or service plan is purchased in which case the 2.75% local tax is calculated on the full amount of those plans as well.
- State Single Article Tax is 2.75% and it applies to the second $1,600 value of the vehicle (i.e. $1,601 to $3,200). This amount will never exceed $44.00 and will less if the price is below $3200.
- County Clerk sales tax collection fee is $1.