Tennessee Car Insurance Guide

Tennessee state motto

Wondering how much car insurance you need in Tennessee? Curious whether your current coverage meets Tennessee's insurance requirements? All drivers must carry auto insurance to drive legally in the Volunteer State. This car insurance guide reviews things you need to know about Tennessee driving laws, car insurance coverages, and minimum insurance requirements.

Personal Auto Insurance

Personal auto insurance protects you from financial loss in the event of a car accident. It's a contract between you and your auto insurance company. You agree to pay the premium amount, and your insurer agrees to pay your losses, as defined in your policy.

You cannot register your vehicle in the State of Tennessee without proof of automobile insurance. Most Tennessee drivers are required to carry, at minimum, bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage.

Tennessee Driving Laws

Tennessee passed new laws in 2015 that create harsher penalties for uninsured Tennessee drivers. Effective July 1, 2015, the fine for getting caught driving without insurance increased from $100 to $300. The new Tennessee driving laws also give law enforcement the authority to tow your vehicle if you are unable to provide proof of insurance – also known as proof of financial responsibility – at the time of the traffic stop.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the Department of Revenue launched an online insurance verification system that matches vehicle registration information against auto insurance policy information in real-time. If the system cannot confirm coverage for a vehicle, the owner will receive a notice from the Tennessee Department of Revenue and must provide proof of insurance via the Drive Insured Tennessee website.

Drivers who fail to respond to notices face fines, registration suspension, and other penalties. Read more under Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Tennessee.

Tennessee Car Insurance Laws

If you're a Tennessee driver, there are specific minimum auto insurance requirements – also referred to as minimum motor vehicle financial responsibility requirements – you must meet. Each state has its own minimum financial responsibility requirements. If you're driving in the Volunteer State, you'll want to make sure your auto insurance coverage abides with Tennessee car insurance laws.

Tennessee Minimum Car Insurance Requirements

Tennessee car insurance laws require drivers to carry liability insurance on all registered vehicles and to carry proof of insurance at all times. The minimum car insurance requirements in Tennessee include:

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage to cover injury or death per person per accident
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage to cover injuries or death to any two or more persons per accident
  • $15,000 property damage liability coverage to cover damage to the property of others caused by an auto accident

Tennessee law also requires auto insurers to offer drivers uninsured motorist bodily coverage (UM) at the same limits as their bodily injury liability coverage. UM coverage is automatically included in a Tennessee auto insurance policy. However, you have the right to reject UM coverage, which must be done in writing.

UM offers financial protection if you're involved in a hit-and-run or an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn't have liability insurance (or enough of it) to cover your losses. Choosing to reject UM coverage will result in a lower premium. However, without this coverage, you’ll likely bear the financial burden if you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver. (Read more about UM below.)

Keep in mind that these are only the minimum requirements for the above coverages. While insuring your personal vehicle with the minimum amount of insurance required by Tennessee law will save you money, it could also leave you more financially vulnerable in the event of an accident. Many drivers who can afford it will opt for additional coverages or increased limits because of this.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Tennessee

The Volunteer State takes a pretty strict stance on uninsured drivers. The fines and other penalties for driving without insurance vary depending on the nature of the violation. 

If the State's online insurance verification system cannot verify a vehicle's insurance coverage, a letter is sent to the vehicle registrant, notifying them that they have 30 days to provide proof of auto liability insurance coverage. Failure to verify insurance within 30 days will result in additional notices and penalties, including up to $125 in coverage failure fees and possible vehicle registration suspension. You can verify your insurance status and view sample notification letters online at Drive Insured Tennessee.

If you're pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic violation and cannot provide proof of insurance, you will be issued a citation that carries a $300 fine. Law enforcement officials also reserve the right to tow your vehicle if you cannot provide proof of insurance. Failure to obtain insurance in time can result in additional fines, loss of driving privileges, vehicle registration suspension, and other penalties.

Penalties for Driving with a Suspended License in Tennessee

Driving with a suspended license is a Class B misdemeanor in Tennessee. Driving with a suspended, revoked, or canceled license is punishable by a maximum $500 fine and/or six months in jail. A second offense within 10 years is a Class A misdemeanor, and the penalty is a maximum $2,500 fine and/or a maximum of 11 months and 29 days in jail.

Car Insurance Coverages Required in Tennessee 

Tennessee car insurance laws require drivers to purchase, at minimum, two types of coverage: bodily injury liability and property damage liability. You must purchase at least the minimum limits of these two types of coverage.

The "limit" for these coverages refers to the maximum amount your insurance company will pay in the event of a covered auto accident. Purchasing the minimum amount of insurance required to drive legally in Tennessee will save you money on your insurance premium. However, many drivers choose to increase their limits or add on coverages for increased protection.

Here is a closer look at the auto insurance coverages required to drive legally in Tennessee:

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage

Bodily injury liability coverage (BIL) Subject to the terms and conditions of your policy, this coverage can cover you and any insured drivers on your policy if you cause bodily injury to another person while operating your vehicle. BIL will pay for their medical expenses and, if necessary, legal expenses you incur as a result.

Tennessee requires minimum BIL limits of $25,000 to cover injury or death to any one person per accident and a minimum of $50,000 to cover injuries or death to any two or more persons per accident. Click here for more information about BIL.

Property Damage Liability Coverage

If you or an insured driver on your policy damage another person's property while operating your vehicle, property damage liability coverage (PDL) can help cover it. PDL can help pay for damage to another person's car, as well as other types of property, such as fences, mailboxes, and poles.

Under Tennessee car insurance laws, drivers must carry minimum PDL limits of $15,000 per accident. Learn more about PDL here.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

When you purchase an auto insurance policy in Tennessee, your insurance company is legally required to offer you uninsured motorist bodily coverage (UM) at the same limits as your BIL coverage. UM can protect you and other insured drivers on your policy if you are injured in a hit-and-run accident or a car accident with an at-fault driver who does not have adequate insurance coverage to pay for your medical expenses.

In Tennessee, UM will be automatically included in your auto insurance policy unless you reject the coverage in writing. Rejecting UM could save you money on your insurance premium, but it puts you at higher financial risk if you're in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Read more about UM here.

SR-22 Insurance in Tennessee

Drivers who have been convicted of a DUI or DWI, committed serious driving violations, or failed to comply with Tennessee car insurance laws in the past may be required to file an SR-22 certificate with the state's department of motor vehicles.

An SR-22 is a record that your auto insurance company files with the state, often electronically, that certifies you have insurance coverage that satisfies Tennessee's minimum liability auto insurance requirements.

Tennessee Non-Standard Car Insurance

Some auto insurers consider drivers who have a history of traffic citations, accidents, or DUI/DWI convictions "high risk." High-risk auto insurance, or non-standard auto insurance, is an option that helps protect these drivers.

Where to Find Affordable Car Insurance in Tennessee

How much should you be paying for car insurance? Your premium amount depends on several different factors, including:

  • Your vehicle
  • Your age
  • Your driving record
  • Your ZIP code
  • How often you use your car
  • How much coverage you select

Direct Auto offers affordable auto insurance, as well as customizable payment options. Pick your down payment amount, your monthly amount, and your payment due date. We also offer auto insurance discounts, including:*

  • Multi-car discount
  • Mileage discount
  • Good student discount
  • Safe driver discount

Commercial Auto Insurance in Tennessee

Tennessee car insurance laws mandate that all business-owned vehicles be covered by a commercial auto insurance policy that meets minimum financial responsibility requirements. Commercial auto insurance is available to drivers who use their car or truck to perform duties related to their occupation or business, other than commute.

Tennessee Minimum Commercial Auto Insurance Requirements

The minimum commercial auto insurance requirements in Tennessee vary depending on a few factors, including the vehicle's size, type, and weight, how the vehicle is used, and whether it carries passengers, hazardous materials, or is a for-hire taxi, among others.

For example, a company car can usually be covered by the same minimum liability requirements as passenger cars. Bigger commercial vehicles, however, tend to have significantly higher liability requirements.

Commercial Auto Insurance Coverages

Commercial car insurance policies aren't one-size-fits-all, and there is a variety of commercial coverages available. Here's a sample of some of the commercial auto insurance coverages offered by Direct:

  • Hired auto and employer's non-ownership liability coverage
  • Fire and theft with combined additional coverage
  • Medical payments coverage
  • Loss of use coverage
  • Towing and labor reimbursement coverage

Direct Auto offers competitively priced commercial auto insurance policies for up to 20 vehicles, plus flexible payment options, discounts, and policy terms for 6 and 12 months.** Read more about commercial auto insurance here.

To learn more or get a free quote for commercial car insurance in Tennessee, call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or visit a Direct Auto location near you.

Tennessee Motorcycle Insurance Laws

Motorcyclists are required by Tennessee law to be covered by motorcycle insurance. The minimum motorcycle insurance requirements in Tennessee are the same as the minimum car insurance requirements:

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage to cover injury or death per person per accident
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage to cover injuries or death to any two or more persons per accident
  • $15,000 property damage liability coverage to cover damage to the property of others caused by an auto accident

Under Tennessee insurance laws, auto insurers are required to offer motorcyclists uninsured motorist bodily coverage at the same limits as their bodily injury liability coverage. UM will automatically be included in a Tennessee motorcycle insurance policy, but you have the right to reject it in writing.

Not all motorcycle insurance policies in all states cover passengers. Never assume that motorcycle guest passengers are automatically covered by motorcycle liability insurance. In fact, motorcycle passengers are not covered by default under most motorcycle liability insurance policies. You must purchase motorcycle guest passenger liability coverage (GPL) to cover your passengers. GPL can cover passengers if you are found to be liable or legally at fault.

Practice safety precautions when riding a motorcycle. Safety gear and safe driving are essential. For more, read these motorcycle safety tips.

More Information

For a free quote on affordable auto insurance or to learn more about Tennessee car insurance laws and coverages, contact us online, call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732), or meet with one of our friendly, knowledgeable agents at a Tennessee Direct location near you.

More Insurance Resources

*Rates and savings vary. Pay plans and discounts subject to terms and conditions. ** Commercial and motorcycle insurance are produced by Direct Auto Insurance agents for related and unrelated carriers. Availability, qualifications, rates, terms and conditions vary by state

Related Articles to Explore