Published: April 5, 2022Updated: August 16, 2022

Guide to Auto Insurance in Tennessee

Here’s everything you need to know about driving safely and legally in Tennessee.

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All 5,422,429 drivers in Tennessee must carry liability insurance on their vehicles. As a Tennessee driver, the cost of annual coverage is 24 percent lower than the national average. In Tennessee, you can expect to pay $863.39 per year on coverage.

If you are driving in Tennessee, awareness of the laws and requirements can save you from a ticket. Whether you are looking for Tennessee’s insurance minimums, teen driver laws, or something in between, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about driving safely and legally in Tennessee.

Required Car Insurance in Tennessee

In Tennessee, you need to hold both bodily injury and property damage liability. If you are looking for the cheapest option, here are the minimum requirements.

  • Property damage liability: The minimum limit for property damage liability is $15,000. If you are at fault in an accident, property damage liability covers any damage you cause to a third party’s property.
  • Bodily injury liability: You are required to carry $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident of bodily injury liability. Bodily injury liability covers any injuries or deaths of a third party if you are at fault in an accident.1

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

While minimums are the cheapest option, we recommend full coverage car insurance.

Liability

We recommend $500,000 total in property damage liability and bodily injury liability to ensure you don’t have to pay out of pocket in the event of a collision.

Comprehensive

Comprehensive coverage covers damages that are not due to crashes. Covered comprehensive damages include those arising from natural disasters, storms, fires, or theft. We recommend carrying the same amount of comprehensive coverage as the actual market value (AMV) of your car.

Collision

On average, 74 percent of drivers purchase collision coverage. Collision coverage covers the cost of repairs or replacement in the event of a crash, no matter who’s at fault. Our recommendation is that you purchase the same amount of insurance as the AMV of your car.

Uninsured Motorist

Uninsured motorist coverage covers property damage and medical expenses for you and your passengers if you are in a collision with an uninsured driver. We recommend carrying $500,000 of coverage.

Medical Payments

Medical payments coverage covers medical expenses for you and your passengers, no matter who was at fault. We recommend carrying $500,000 to make sure you don’t have to pay out of pocket for medical expenses in the event of a collision.2

The Average Cost of Car Insurance in Tennessee

According to National Association of Insurance Commissioners data collected in 2019, auto insurance in Tennessee is 24 percent cheaper than the national average of $1,070.47. As a driver in Tennessee, you can expect to pay $863.39 annually on auto insurance.3 However, rates can run from $717 to $7,926. Car insurance rates are higher for drivers with a DUI and for young drivers, leading to the wide range of rates.

Car Insurance Companies in Tennessee

If you are looking for providers in Tennessee, check out these companies:

  • Allstate
  • Direct Auto
  • East Tennessee Mutual
  • Esurance
  • Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee
  • Farmers
  • GAINSCO
  • GEICO
  • National General
  • Nationwide
  • Progressive
  • State Farm
  • The General
  • USAA

How to Lower Premiums in Tennessee

If you are looking to lower the cost of premiums in Tennessee, these are your options:

  1. Pay the annual premium upfront instead of 12 monthly payments.
  2. Lower your limits.
  3. Raise your deductible. The higher your deductible is, the lower your premium will be.
  4. See what insurance discounts your auto insurance provider offers. We have seen discounts for being a loyal customer, being a good driver, taking a driver’s education class, or being a good student.
  5. Drop unnecessary coverages, like comprehensive coverage on an old car.

Proof of Car Insurance in Tennessee

Tennessee accepts both digital and paper formats if you need to show proof of insurance. See if your provider offers a mobile app with a digital copy of your insurance. Otherwise, you can download a digital copy of your card from your provider’s website if it doesn’t.

If you are caught driving without insurance in Tennessee, you can expect fines as well as a license and registration suspension. You’ll pay up to a $100 fine, and your license will be suspended until you can provide proof of financial responsibility. You will also need to pass the driver’s license examination again. Your registration suspension will lift once you regain your license.

Tennessee Driving Laws

Now that you are familiar with some of Tennessee’s auto insurance requirements, review rules of the road. Driving laws vary from state to state, so if you are curious about other states’ laws, check out our state-by-state driving guide.

Fault System

Tennessee is an at-fault state, meaning that the at-fault party pays for both property damage and medical expenses. Tennessee’s modified comparative law states that an accident victim’s recovery is limited based on the percentage of their fault. If you are 50 percent or more at fault, you cannot obtain compensation.

Uninsured Motorists

Although you are not required to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in Tennessee, 24 percent of Tennessee’s drivers are uninsured. That accounts for an estimated 1,285,116 drivers.4

If you have more than one car on multiple policies, you can stack uninsured and underinsured coverage. To find your stacked coverage amount, multiply your selected limit by your number of vehicles. In Tennessee, stacking is allowed as long as it is across multiple policies.

DUI Laws

DUIs stay on your record for 10 years in Tennessee. The penalties for driving under the influence depend on whether you are a first offender or a repeat offender.

Penalty type First offense Second offense Third offense Fourth offense
Fines $350-$1,500 $600-$3,500 $1,100-$10,000 $3,000-$15,000
Jail time 48 hours to 11 months 45 days to 11 months 120 days to 11 months 150 days to 6 years
Driver’s license revocation period 1 year 2 years 6 years 8 years
Ignition interlock device period Up to 1 year Up to 1 year Up to 1 year Up to 1 year

Seat Belt Laws

The driver and any passengers must wear their seat belts at all times on Tennessee roads. Tennessee has primary enforcement for seat belts in the front seat and secondary enforcement for seat belts in the rear seats.

The primary seat belt law allows law enforcement to ticket those in the front seat for not wearing seat belts without any other traffic violations. However, officers can only ticket individuals without seat belts in the rear seats if another citable traffic violation occurs.

Distracted Driving Laws

Tennessee has both a handheld ban and a texting ban. You cannot use your cell phone in any capacity while driving. If you are caught using your phone while driving, you will pay a $50 fine for your first offense and $100 for your second or subsequent offenses. Not only will you be fined, but the offense will also count three points against your license, or six points against your license if you are under 18.

Teen Driver Laws

In Tennessee, you must be 15 years old and pass a vision screening and a Class D knowledge test to receive your learner’s permit. While driving with your learner’s permit, a licensed driver over the age of 21 must supervise you. You may not drive between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

To get your intermediate license, you must be 16 years old, have had a valid learner’s permit for at least 180 days, have 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, and pass a road skills test. While driving with an intermediate license, you are only allowed to have one passenger under 21. You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Statute of Limitations for Claims

Following a car accident, you have three years to make a property damage claim and one year to make a personal injury claim. If you do not make a claim within these time frames, there is no guarantee that your auto insurance will cover your losses.

Cancellation/Non-Renewal Notification Laws

Auto insurance providers cannot cancel policies that have been in place for over 60 days unless you have not paid the premium, you have committed fraud or misrepresentation on your application, or your driver’s license has been suspended. Tennessee providers have 10 days to notify you of a midterm cancellation if it is due to nonpayment, or 20 days for all other reasons.

Sometimes, providers decide not to renew your policy once it expires. Providers must give you notice and explain why they dropped your policy. Some of the most common reasons for non-renewal are that they no longer offer that type of insurance, they don’t want to write as many policies in your area, or you were caught driving under the influence. Tennessee providers have 30 days to notify you of non-renewal before your policy expires.

Self-Insurance

Tennessee allows self-insurance if you own more than 25 vehicles. The minimum collateral is at the discretion of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

Car Inspection Requirements

In certain counties of Tennessee, vehicles must go through emissions testing every year at your county’s emissions testing station. If you have an out-of-state vehicle, you can download and fill out a vehicle exemption form from your county’s website. These are the only counties in Tennessee that do not require testing:

  • Hamilton
  • Rutherford
  • Sumner
  • Williamson
  • Wilson

SR-22s

An SR-22 is a financial responsibility certificate that verifies you have the state’s required minimum insurance. If you have too many traffic violations, a DUI or a suspended license, or if you have violated Tennessee’s minimum state insurance requirements, you will need an SR-22.

Tennessee requires you to hold an SR-22 for five years from the date of your license suspension. An SR-22 is not required if five years pass from the date of your suspension before you can get your license back. This may occur in situations such as imprisonment.

Defensive Driving

If you have seven or more points on your license as a Tennessee driver, you can take a defensive driving course instead of a license suspension, or to get a reduction of suspension time. You can also take a defensive driving course for discounts on your auto insurance. Exact discounts vary by provider.

The state requires courses to be a minimum of four hours long. You are allowed to take the courses in person or online. To complete the course, you need to pass a 20-question final exam with a score of 80 percent or above. If you fail, you can retake the test as many times as you need.

TIP

To find out if the defensive driving course you want to take is state-approved, visit the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security website at https://www.tn.gov/safety/driver-services/driverimprovement/defensivedriving.html.

Serious Injury and Monetary Thresholds

If you are in an accident in Tennessee and want to sue, there is no serious injury or monetary threshold. Tennessee is an at-fault state, which means you can sue for economic and noneconomic damages.

Accident Reporting Requirements

In Tennessee, you must report an accident immediately if there is a death, injury, or property damage worth over $50. If a collision involves death, injury, or property damage worth over $400, you have 20 days to report it. If you fail to report an accident, your license and registration will be suspended.

Price Discrimination

Tennessee providers can use your credit score and gender when determining your auto insurance premiums. Men and those with low credit scores pay more in premiums than women and those with high credit scores.

When Is a Car Declared a Total Loss?

A total loss is when repairs for your car cost more than your vehicle’s estimated value, the vehicle cannot be safely repaired, or the damage meets the state’s total loss guidelines. In Tennessee, a vehicle is considered a total loss if the repairs cost more than 75 percent of the car’s AMV.

Contact Information

Now that you are familiar with Tennessee’s driving laws, you can take action.

State Car Registration Information

In Tennessee, you do not need auto insurance to register your vehicle, but you do need it to drive the vehicle on the state’s roads. Here are the steps to register a new vehicle:

  1. Gather the following information:
    • Manufacturer’s statement of origin
    • New vehicle invoice
    • Copy of your current registration if you’re transferring your license plate
  2. Check your local county clerk’s website to find out whether you should submit your documents online or drop them off in person. If it’s in person, find your local county clerk at https://www.tn.gov/revenue/title-and-registration/county-clerks-locations.html.
  3. Submit your documents.

To register a used vehicle, submit these documents to your local county clerk:

  • Valid certificate of title
  • Odometer disclosure statement, if applicable
  • Copy of your current registration if you’re transferring your license plate

How to Get a Copy of Your Car Title in Tennessee

  1. Go to https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/revenue/documents
    /forms/titlereg/f1315201Fill-in.pdf.
  2. Print out the form.
  3. Fill it out.
  4. Get it notarized if you aren’t the vehicle owner.
  5. Include a $10 payment in the envelope.
  6. Send it to or drop it off at your local county clerk’s office.

How to Contact the Tennessee Insurance Department

If you want to know more about Tennessee’s insurance laws, contact its insurance department.

  • Phone number: 615-741-2241
  • Mailing address:
    • Tennessee Insurance Department
      500 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 660
      Nashville, TN 37243-0565
  • URL: https://www.tn.gov/commerce/insurance-division.html

Cost of Car Repairs in Tennessee

If you need vehicle repairs in Tennessee, costs for repair and labor are 4 percent higher than the national average of $383.37.

  • Parts: $245.12
  • Labor: $153.96
  • Parts and labor: $399.08

Crime and Fatalities in Tennessee

Traffic fatalities and crime rates in your area can raise your insurance rates. If you are moving to Tennessee, check out the state’s motor vehicle theft and traffic fatality rates.

Motor Vehicle Theft

The rate of motor vehicle theft in Tennessee is 20 percent higher than the national average. For every 100,000 inhabitants, there were 306 motor vehicle thefts in 2020.6 Memphis and Chattanooga are two of the worst cities in Tennessee for auto theft, with rates higher than the state average.

City in Tennessee Motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020
Memphis 460
Chattanooga 4367

Fatalities

Tennessee’s traffic fatality rates are 38 percent higher than the national average. In 2019, it had 1,135 fatalities for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.8

Conclusion

Knowing your state’s driving laws and insurance requirements is essential for you to be a good driver. Every state’s driving laws and insurance requirements are different, so make sure you’re familiar with the rules of the road no matter where you’re driving.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have more questions about insurance in Tennessee, read on.

In Tennessee, auto insurance follows the car, not the driver. If you let someone else drive your car and they get into a collision, your policy would likely cover them, depending on whether it has a permissive or non-permissive use clause.

  • Permissive use: Your policy will cover the drivers listed on your policy or anyone you permit to drive your car.
  • Non-permissive use: Your insurance policy will not cover a collision if an excluded driver (anyone specifically excluded from your policy) or a car thief crashes your car.

If you purchase a new car, you have a grace period of two to 30 days to transfer your insurance to your new vehicle in Tennessee. Ask your insurance provider how long its grace period is.

Here’s how to get car insurance quotes in Tennessee:

  1. Gather your information. You will need to provide your date of birth, sex, marital status, mobile phone number, email address, and driver’s license number to get an accurate quote.
  2. Visit an insurance provider’s website. Most providers have a link to get a quote on their homepages.
  3. Call providers or use an aggregator. You can call a provider directly, or use an aggregate site like AutoInsurance.com to shop the entire market at once.

You should know that insurance providers in Tennessee will check your credit when giving you a quote, but this will not affect your credit score.

Your teenage child needs to be on your auto insurance policy as soon as they get their license. Although adding your child will raise your premiums, adequate insurance is crucial in case of an accident.

Citations

  1. Why You Should Have Auto Insurance. Tennessee Department of Revenue. (2022).
    https://www.tn.gov/revenue/title-and-registration/drive-insured-tennessee/for-drivers/why-you-should-have-auto-insurance.html#:~:text=The%20required%20minimum%20limits%20of,for%20property%20damage%20per%20accident

  2. How Much Car Insurance Do I Need? Ramsey Solutions. (2022, Jan 18).
    https://www.ramseysolutions.com/insurance/how-much-car-insurance

  3. 2018/2019 Auto Insurance Database Report. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2022).
    https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/publication-aut-pb-auto-insurance-database.pdf

  4. One in Eight Drivers Uninsured. Insurance Research Council. (2021, Mar 22).
    https://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/UM%20NR%20032221.pdf

  5. 2020 State Repair Cost Rankings. CarMD. (2020, July 2020).
    https://www.carmd.com/wp/vehicle-health-index-introduction/2020-carmd-state-index/

  6. 2019 Crime in the United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2019).
    https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/tables/table-4

  7. NICB Releases Annual ‘Hot Wheels’ Report: America’s Top Ten Most Stolen Vehicles. National Insurance Crime Bureau. (2021, Oct 12).
    https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/nicb-releases-annual-hot-wheels-report-americas-top-ten-most-stolen-vehicles

  8. Fatality Facts 2019. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute. (2021).
    https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state