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Tennessee Buying a Vehicle

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If you purchase a vehicle from a car dealership in Tennessee, the dealership will typically handle all the paperwork on your behalf. The county clerk will notify the buyer that they’ve received the title application or will process it if all the fees are provided.

However, if the dealer does not process the title application, they will give the application to you to file. In that case, you will have to take the title or manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO), your driver’s license, and your fee to the county clerk’s office.

Obtaining a Title and Registration For a Vehicle Bought from a Private Party

Purchasing a vehicle from a private party means that you have to complete all the paperwork yourself. You’ll need to be sure the seller has signed and filled out the Assignment of Title by the Registered Owner and the odometer disclosure. The name listed on the Assignment of Title must exactly match the owner’s name on the title. If the vehicle is titled in two names separated by “AND,” then both owners must sign the Assignment of Title.

You must apply for the title and registration at the same time. To do so, you’ll also need to pay state sales tax on the vehicle unless you bought it from a relative. Unless you are transferring license plates from another vehicle, you’ll also need an emissions test. You’ll take the properly filled out title, your fees and state sales tax money, driver’s license, proof of residency, and emissions test, if relevant to the county clerk’s office.

Filling Out The Title

You have to sign to accept the title and fill in the VIN, model year, make body style, model, major and minor color, and the vehicle location address.

You have to complete the form noting the lienholder if the vehicle is financed.

Registering the Purchased Vehicle

The county clerk will register your vehicle when they title it.

Your vehicle registration expires on the last day of the month on the sticker, so a sticker showing ‘02/22’ expires on the final day of February 2022. You can renew this registration online, in person, or at a kiosk, but the vehicle must pass an emissions inspection each year.

Submitting Payment

The fee for obtaining a new license plate and title vary depending upon the county. In Davidson County, for example, the cost is $95. An additional fee of $11 is required to register a lien. In Knox County, the fee is $77. Sales tax is the same statewide and is 7 percent of the sales price less the value of the trade-in. For example, if you bought a vehicle for $15,000 and received $1,000 for your trade-in, the state sales tax would be $980 or 7 percent of $14,000. You’ll also have to pay local taxes, which vary by locality.

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Last Verified:
Sep 9, 2022