Registration Overview

Tenn. Code Ann. Title 55 Chapter 4, Parts 1 — 5


  • Any vehicle operating on the streets or highways in the State of Tennessee is required to be registered.
  • A “registration” is a document that identifies the vehicle, its use, owner/operator expiration date and fees provided, which constitutes a privilege tax of motor vehicles.
  • A “Registration Period” is the time frame a registration remains valid, below are some examples. Full descriptions are provided later in this document.
    • staggered” (starting at any time, expiring at the end of the same month a year later), i.e., regular auto, personalized, etc.
    • non-staggered” (starting at any time but expires at the end of a specific month outlined by statute or procedure), i.e., National Guard, Commercial Vehicle Fleets, Dealer plates.
    • permanent” (starting at any time, but remains valid as long as the owner retains the vehicle), Disabled Confined to Wheelchair, Antique Auto, Gold Star Family, etc.
    • apportionable vehicle” Any power unit that is used or intended for use in two or more Member Jurisdictions and that is used for the transportation of persons for hire or designed, used or maintained primarily for the transportation of property and: (a) has two axles and a gross vehicle weight or registered gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds, or (b) has three or more axles, regardless of weight, or (c) is used in combination, when the gross vehicle weight of such combination exceeds 26,000 pounds.
  • Application for registration shall be made on forms provided or approved by the Department and submitted to the clerks in the county of the owner’s residence or the county wherein the vehicle is based or is to be operated. The Certificate of Registration should be carried in the vehicle at all times as evidence of current registration.
  • Certain counties and cities are authorized to levy a wheel tax/privilege tax. In most instances, the county clerk collects the wheel tax/privilege tax in conjunction with the registration or renewal. However in some cases, the registrant must be directed to a city office to make the appropriate payment of wheel tax/privilege tax. Additionally, some counties or cities require an emissions test before issuance of registration of plates or renewal of the registration.

Address Changes:

  • Whenever any person or business, after applying for or receiving a title or registration, moves from the address named on the application or title or registration, the person or business shall within ten (10) days thereafter, notify the department of the change.

General information:

  • ATVs, snowmobiles, off road vehicles, dirt bikes, dune buggies, are not required to be registered. Some vehicles such as scooters and mopeds may be voluntarily registered by the owner or lessee.


  • A staggered registration is valid for 12 months from the date of issuance, with the date of expiration being the last day of the month of the registration period. If a person is renewing a staggered plate after the registration has expired, but before ninety-one (91) days, the proper type of transaction to use is the regular renewal transaction. This will maintain the previous expiration month for that registration.
    • Example: if a registration expires in September, but the person does not renew until October or November, clerks should use the regular renewal procedures, charge the full fees and issue a new registration that will expire the following September.


  • As of February, 2022 emissions testing is no longer required in Tennessee.


  • The payment of applicable fees
    • General information: Technically, late renewals apply to registrations for staggered plates occurring ninety-one (91) days after the expiration date.


  • After ninety-one (91) or more days from the expiration date, the staggered registration renewal date is then re-calculated to be twelve months from the new date of issuance if the individual has not been using the vehicle.


  • Affidavit of non-operation
  • Applicable fees


  • Registrations issued under this method are valid for 12 months with the date of expiration being the last day of the month of the specified registration period. There are no statutory provisions to prorate.

National Guard Plates:

  • Special license plates are available for active members of the Tennessee National Guard. New plate is produced annually. These plates expire in September. There are no statutory provisions to prorate. (Exception; retired members, plates are issued under staggered expiration provisions)


  • The Division provides counties with a list broken down by enlisted members and officers.
  • If the applicant is not on the list they must go to their commanding officer for approval.
  • Registration fee required for National Guard Officers.

Dealer Plates:

  • Beginning May, 2022 dealer plates will be renewed every May instead of new metal being issued. They are designated for licensed motor vehicle dealers, based on a valid Motor Vehicle Commission Dealer’s license and evidence of filing an annual sales report. They may be used by:
    • The dealer’s duly authorized agent or employee
    • The dealership’s customers, for a period not to exceed 72 hours.
  • NOTE: Eligibility for dealer plates is based on a valid MVC dealer license and evidence of filing of their annual sales report. 


  • Application for dealer plates
  • Fee for master plate
  • Fee for additional plates, up to 225 maximum

Trailer ‘E’ Ten Year Plates:

  • Each person engaged in the business of renting trailers of any description to others for a consideration may register each trailer, for a period of ten (10) years, with an annual registration fee in March. The decal will print the year value entered in the transaction. County Clerks will process the renewal, set the expiration to 2032, and then process a 17 transaction each year to collect fees.

General Information:

  • New plate produced every ten years


  • Electronic file of all vehicles being registered from the business
  • The payment of applicable fees

Commercial Vehicle Fleet:

  • Means one thousand (1,000) or more vehicles owned or long- term leased by a corporation or other legal entity.
    • BellSouth Fleet Registration renewal of this fleet is on an annual basis and expires in the month of February.
    • UPS Fleet Registration renewal of this fleet is on an annual basis and expires in the month of March


  • Electronic file/spreadsheet of all vehicles being registered
  • Applicable fees


  • A forced registration is used to register and obtain a Tennessee Certificate of Registration for vehicles as described below:
    • A nonresident owner of a foreign licensed private passenger automobile, or a pickup or panel truck, who operates the vehicle in this state solely as a means of transportation to and from a place of temporary employment having a valid foreign Certificate of Title and/or Certificate of Registration for the vehicle.
    • For the transportation of persons or property for compensation
    • For the transportation of merchandise, is eligible to register and obtain a Tennessee Certificate of Registration for the vehicle
  • Fees are required with reference to like vehicles owned by residents of this state, but are not required to surrender the foreign Certificate of Title, Certificate of Registration, or license plate or plate(s).
  • The exception to this is when the vehicle is to continue to remain registered in a foreign state as well as in Tennessee; provided, that the nonresident owner of a foreign vehicle operated within the state for the transportation of persons or property for compensation; or for the transportation of merchandise shall be permitted to operate the vehicle over the highways of Tennessee without obtaining a Certificate of Registration or license plate or plates or paying registration fees. Under similar circumstances residents of Tennessee shall be permitted to operate a vehicle over the highways of the foreign jurisdiction by reciprocity agreement.


  • Copy of foreign Certificate of Title or valid Certificate of Registration
  • The payment of applicable fees


  • A Registration Only is a transaction (not a renewal) where the registration (plate and/or expiration date) is being changed.
  • Registration Only’s require a Registration Only Number be assigned to the transaction.
  • Legacy will not allow the entry of these transactions without a registration only number (except a transaction type 17).
  • RO Numbers are used as an index to locate the application in FileNet.

The following are Registration Only Transactions:

  • 03 – Transaction where the plate class is being changed, resulting in a new plate being issued.
  • 04 – Transaction where a lost or stolen plate and/or decal is being replaced, resulting in a new plate and/or decal being issued.
  • 17 – Transaction where an applicant registers a vehicle where the registration has been expired for more than 90 days (non-standard renewal) or when the system contains erroneous registration information (incorrect plate, decal or expiration date) requires correcting. A new plate is issued in some cases. The expiration date may also be changed in some cases.
  • 28 – Transaction where a plate is transferred from a vehicle titled to an owner to another vehicle already titled to the owner.


  • After a plate is initially issued, it may be validated yearly. The renewal notice is mailed to the registrant prior to the registration expiration date for staggered registrations. Counties and cities are authorized to levy a wheel tax/privilege tax in conjunction with registration renewal. Commercial renewals may be made through the county clerk of the owner's principal place of business or in any county where the owner maintains an office or place of business. Every effort is made to ensure that all registrants due a renewal notice receive one.


  • The applicant surrenders either the old Certificate of Registration OR
  • The renewal notice received in the mail to the county clerk of the owner's resident county
  • Applicable fees


  • A replacement may be issued in the event any Certificate of Registration is lost, stolen, mutilated or becomes illegible. All damaged, illegible or retained plates shall be surrendered to the county clerk at time of application for replacement.


  • Application for replacement is to be completed under oath on a form to be provided by the county clerk.
  • The current Certificate of Registration is given to the clerk in order to ensure replacement on the proper vehicle.
  • A lost or stolen plate will not be issued until the holder affirms that proper law enforcement notification has been made.
  • Applicable fees

Duplicate Registration:

  • A request for a duplicate certificate of registration can be mailed to the customer's local County Clerk.


  • license plate number.
  • vehicle identification number.
  • $3 fee (plus additional $0.50 if the request requires certification.)
  • Mailing fees may apply.



  • A reassignment is used when:
    • The transfer of a valid registration from one vehicle to another vehicle owned by the same person or to add a spouse's name on a vehicle registration that is solely owned by the other spouse.
    • A valid registration issued for a vehicle to a lessee/registrant, and lease agreement pertaining to the vehicle is terminated, the lessee-registrant may transfer the license issued to a replacement vehicle in the same manner and under the same conditions.
    • General information: to reassign a registration from joint to single ownership is not considered a reassignment; it is however considered a change in ownership and would require a new title and license plate to be issued.


  • Provide the valid/current Certificate of Registration to the clerk in order to ensure ownership of the license plate and vehicle
  • Provide the new Certificate of Registration for the vehicle the license plate is being transferred
  • Applicable fees


  • This is a change in the class or type of an outstanding registration by some change in the design or use of the vehicle registered by its same owner prior to the annual expiration.
    • Some examples of re-registration; registering from a standard passenger plate to a specialty or a cultural plate
    • When re-registering a vehicle, credit shall be given for a non-staggered (standard) plate at regular cost of the plate
    • For staggered registrations, credit shall be given for the months remaining in the outstanding registration period
    • General information; the expiration date for the new registration will remain the same as the old one



  • The applicant must surrender both the certificate and the plate or plates to the clerk, and,
  • Payment of the amount being the difference between the fees required for the two (2) registrations
  • Credit is given on any unexpired time on the surrendered plate
  • Applicable fees will apply


  • A customer obtaining a permanent registration shall pay a one-time registration fee, and the registration is not required to be renewed on an annual basis. The plate is to remain on the vehicle for the duration of the owner’s interest.
  • General information: government service license plates may be transferred to other government vehicles owned by the same entity. For more information click here


  • Applicable fees

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