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Tennessee car insurance laws

Downtown Tennessee city with busy traffic
Jared Bartlett/Getty Images
Downtown Tennessee city with busy traffic
Jared Bartlett/Getty Images
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There are tons of fascinating places to explore in the state of Tennessee, from the Smoky Mountains to Graceland. But while you may be ready to set out and explore Tennessee, you can’t get behind the wheel without a car insurance policy in place. If you own a vehicle in Tennessee, you’re required by law to carry a car insurance policy that meets the minimum coverage requirements set by the state, whether you’re commuting to work or venturing out on a road trip.

But car insurance isn’t just a legal requirement in Tennessee; it’s also a smart financial choice.  Tennessee is ranked 9th overall for the most fatal crashes per year, and whether you’re involved in a serious accident or a minor fender bender, having the right car insurance policy in place can help protect your finances from disaster. And, it may cost you less than you’d think. According to Bankrate’s research, the average cost of car insurance in Tennessee is $1,383 per year for a full coverage policy and $372 per year for a minimum coverage policy, which is significantly lower than the average cost of car insurance nationwide.

Car insurance laws in Tennessee

Tennessee drivers must carry at least a liability insurance policy, which includes bodily injury and property damage coverage. Liability insurance only covers damages and medical bills for the other party if you cause an at-fault accident. It does not offer coverage for you or your vehicle if you cause an accident. In Tennessee, the minimum car insurance coverage limits include:

  • $25,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
  • $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
  • $15,000 of property damage liability coverage per accident

The only exception to this requirement is for parties who are able to demonstrate financial responsibility and file for exemption. To demonstrate this, you have to show you no longer own the car, your car is inoperable or you store your vehicle full-time.

Liability insurance in Tennessee

Liability insurance is extremely important since it provides payment for property damage or bodily injury if you are at fault in an accident. But the minimum liability coverage alone is not typically enough to cover all aspects of fiscal responsibility if you get into a car accident.

From a liability perspective, Tennessee’s minimum of $50,000 for total injuries or deaths per accident could leave you in serious financial jeopardy. If you cause a multi-vehicle accident and there are multiple serious injuries, then $50,000 would likely not cover the medical payments for several people.

Beyond liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage is strongly recommended for Tennesseans. Tennessee ranks as one of the states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers. If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage with your policy, you’re opening yourself up to even more financial risk.

Is Tennessee a no fault state?

No, Tennessee is not a no fault state. In this state, the driver who was at fault for the accident is responsible for compensating the other party for the associated losses, like vehicle damages and medical bills. If you cause an accident, your liability insurance policy is what typically pays for the other driver’s expenses. However, if your policy limits aren’t high enough to cover the expenses in full, the other party may have the option to sue you to recover the difference.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee

It’s against the law to drive without car insurance in Tennessee. If you get caught driving without at least the minimum amount of coverage, you may face a variety of consequences, including:

  • A fine of $300
  • Driver’s license and/or vehicle registration suspension
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • $65 restoration fee
  • $50 fee to commissioner of safety
  • SR-22 certificate for three years

Additional auto insurance coverage options in Tennessee

Drivers in Tennessee have plenty of options when it comes to adding enhanced coverage options to their policy. Here are several of the most popular add-ons drivers can purchase:

  • Collision insurance: Collision covers damage to your vehicle from an incident with another vehicle or an object— even if it is considered your fault. Examples of this are if you back into a pole or you drive over a pothole and it causes damage. In Tennessee, the average cost of collision coverage averages $381 per year.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage covers you when your car is damaged by something other than a crash. Examples of incidents covered by comprehensive include storms, natural disasters, theft, vandalism and damage from animals. In Tennessee, adding comprehensive coverage costs an average of $171 per year.
  • Roadside assistance: If you currently do not have roadside assistance from a third-party then adding it to your policy is an easy way to make sure you’re covered when your car isn’t driveable. Most policies offer assistance if you run out of gas, need towing, or your battery is dead.
  • Rental car reimbursement: If your car is in the shop due to a claimed accident, having rental car reimbursement makes it slightly less inconvenient. You’ll be reimbursed the cost of a rental car while your car is being fixed. Some policies automatically include this coverage, but if not, adding it on can save you additional headaches down the road.

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman is an insurance contributor at Bankrate. She has a couple of years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.
Edited by
Insurance Editor
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