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Tennessee Auto Insurance

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Tennessee doesn’t require residents to show proof of financial responsibility when they register their vehicles or renew their registrations; however, having financial responsibility is still a legal requirement.

Ways to Establish Financial Responsibility

When establishing financial responsibility, the state allows vehicle owners to:

  • Purchase liability coverage from a carrier licensed to sell auto insurance in Tennessee.
  • Post a cash deposit or bond with the Department of Safety (DOS).

NOTE: The state also allows businesses and government agencies with 25 or more vehicles to apply to qualify as self-insurers.

Tennessee Liability Insurance Requirements for Private Passenger Vehicles

If you choose to purchase traditional liability insurance to satisfy the state’s financial responsibility requirements, your policy must meet these minimums:

  • $25,000 for one injury or death
  • $50,000 for all injuries or deaths
  • $15,000 for property damage for one accident

Keep in mind there are plenty of additional types of coverage that might suit your insurance needs better than simple liability insurance. If you’re doing business with a lienholder, for example, purchasing additional insurance such as comprehension or collision coverage might be a requirement until you’ve paid off your auto loan.

Proof of Insurance and Financial Responsibility

You can show proof of insurance when you:

  • Show the insurance card, binder, or declaration binder your insurance carrier issues you.
    Show the certificate from the DOS that state you’ve posted a cash deposit or bond in the amount required.

Because the most common circumstances in which you’ll need to show proof of financial responsibility are times when law enforcement pulls you over or you’re involved in an accident, it’s best to keep this proof in your vehicle at all times.

Penalties for Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility

The DOS outlines the penalties for failure to maintain financial responsibility. Simply put, a conviction of having no proof of insurance when a law enforcement officer stops you or you’re involved in an auto accident is a Class C misdemeanor and results in:

  • A fine of no more than $100.
  • License suspension.
  • A STOP against your vehicle file, which prevents you from renewing your registration.

Getting back on track generally means paying your fine, obtaining and showing proof of financial responsibility, and then reinstating your license. If you need further instructions specific to your situation, please contact the DOS at (866) 903-7357.

Factors that Affect Car Insurance Rates

If you are a driver in Tennessee or anywhere for that matter, you know how complicated and confusing it can be to file a car accident claim, switch car insurance companies or add a person on to your policy. To help make things easier when dealing with your auto insurance company, we have listed some helpful tips for Tennessee car insurance customers below. Understanding these items can not only save you a lot of time and money on your Tennessee auto insurance, but it will also help you be better prepared in the event of a car accident.

1. How your Tennessee car insurance company determines your car's value after it has been declared a "total loss"
When totaling your car, your insurance company's goal is to help you find a new car within the same market. To do this, car insurance companies use three different methods for determining the value of the car declared a total loss, such as:

If the car insurance company is unable to find a car from within your area, they may have to find a replacement car outside your zip code, which can dramatically affect your car's true value. For instance, if you reside in a big city within Tennessee, such as Nashville, Memphis or Chattanooga, then the cost of replacing your car will likely be more expensive then if you lived in a suburb or more rural part of Tennessee.

2. Making a car insurance claim could increase your rates
Typically, insurance companies raise your car insurance rate by 40 percent in the event of an accident. However, some insurance companies will only increase your personal rate as opposed to your entire rate, but that is at the discretion of the insurance company. If you are a good driver that does not have any driving violations, then you will want to consider going with a car insurance company that offers an "accident forgiveness" or "forgive the first accident" policy. This will help keep your insurance from fluctuating in the event that you file a car insurance claim.

3. Your credit history may determine your insurance premium
In the State of Tennessee, the use of your credit history to determine your insurance premium is permissible. It may be used to determine your payment options, be them monthly, quarterly, or having to pay the entire premium at once. Your history may also be used by insurance companies to create an "insurance risk score". This score is used as a factor in determining your auto insurance rates.

Pay your bills on time and try to improve your score if it is less than ideal. In doing so, you are helping to improve your credit history in the long run and you may save money on your car insurance premium.

4. When switching car insurance companies, you must cancel your insurance policy first
Though it is possible to cancel your coverage at anytime, it is important to note that many insurance companies require a written statement, including the date of termination, in order to officially close your car insurance policy. If you do not do this, and you receive and ignore the next bill, your policy will be canceled automatically by the insurance agency for delinquency of payment. The downside to this automatic cancellation is that it will show up on your credit record, which could potentially impact your credit score!

The safest thing to do when switching car insurance companies is to call your company and let them know that you are canceling your policy. The company will send you a cancellation request that needs to be filled out and sent back in.

5. Adding a teen to your car insurance policy
Most insurance companies do not require you to add your teen to your car insurance policy when they are a certain age, only when they receive their license. On the other hand, if you are in a high-risk pool, you may be required to add them when they receive their driver's permit. If you forget to add your licensed teen, and they are involved in a car accident, they will be covered; however, your insurance company may charge you back premiums from the date your teen received their license.

For your Tennessee teen to begin the process of receiving their license, they must complete the following steps:

  1. Obtain a permit packet from the DMV
  2. Pass the vision and written test
  3. Obtain a learner permit
  4. Practice driving with a licensed adult for at least 180 days
  5. Pass the Tennessee driver's test and complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training
  6. Obtain an intermediate restricted license
  7. Receive an intermediate unrestricted license at 17
  8. Apply for full graduated driver license at 18

This process is for first time drivers who are at least 15 years old. To ensure that the teen driver receives ample time to practice and to offset the number of accidents that involve teen drivers each year, Tennessee has different privileges for each license in their graduated license system:

Learner Permit
At 15 years old, a teen can apply for their learner permit. A parent or guardian must sign for the teen's driving permit after proof of residency and social security number have been verified by the DMV. The teen must take and pass a knowledge test in order to obtain their Learner's Permit. While driving under this type of permit, the teen must be accompanied by a licensed, adult driver over the age of 21 and is limited to driving between the hours of 6a.m. - 10p.m. Tennessee teens must have their Learner's Permit for at least 180 days before they can apply for their immediate restricted license.

Intermediate Restricted License
To receive an intermediate restricted license, the teen must be at least 16 years old, have had their Learner's Permit for 180 days, completed 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving, and passed a driving skills road test. Once they have met these requirements, they can drive unsupervised between the hours of 6a.m. - 11 p.m. with no more than one passenger in the car, unless otherwise accompanied by a licensed adult over the age of 21.

Intermediate Unrestricted License
When the teen is at least 17 years old and has had their intermediate restricted license for at least one year, they are able to apply for their intermediate unrestricted license.

Graduated Driver License
Once the teen has completed the requirements needed and are 18 years old, they are then able to apply for a Graduated Driver's License. The "intermediate" word will be removed from their license, but the license will still have the "under 21" indicator.

To learn more about Tennessee's teen driver laws and regulations, please visit the Tennessee DMV.

6. Paying in installments may increase your car insurance
"Fractional premium" fees are usually charged when you divide your car insurance annual premium into installments. Six month, quarterly or monthly are the typical breakdowns for most insurance companies. Generally, the more you break down your installments, the higher the administrative/fractional premium fees will be. Always ask when applying for a new car insurance policy, and see exactly what the fees are for each payment you break down. Make sure to also ask your insurance provider if they offer an alternative way to make payments, such as Automatic Clearing House (ACH) processing, which withdrawals the funds right from your checking account. This may help eliminate processing fees while helping you stick to your budget.

7. How much does your car model affect your premium
The auto insurance company premium rating system for cars is on a scale from three to 27. The ratings are established by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), and the higher the number of your model, the higher your premium will likely be. These numbers are only available to auto insurance companies - so, you're unable to try and find out your car's number before you purchase your car. But you can contact your car insurance company for a quote to gain an idea of how much it will cost to cover your new wheels.

8. Paying for someone else's bad driving
If you loan your car to someone and they end up crashing it, you will have to file a claim with your car insurance company. As a result, you will have to pay your deductible (or any that apply) and your rates could potentially increase your car insurance rate. If your car is taken without permission, you are typically not held liable. If the driver is uninsured and causes damages exceeding your policy limit, the injured party may come after you for medical or property-damage expenses and not your friend.

Even though most states typically have similar laws in place for car insurance, they do not typically have similar car insurance rates. That's because Tennessee car insurance rates are influenced by Tennessee's geographic location and its state laws. With that being said, it is always a good idea to shop around and compare the rates of various auto insurance companies. To assist you in the process offers an auto insurance comparison application. Here, you will be able to evaluate multiple rates from best-in-class insurance providers - helping you find the cheapest auto insurance coverage for your budget.

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