Tennessee DMV Handbook and Regulations FAQ

Those preparing to apply for their Tennessee driver’s privileges will be required to know all of the information contained in the Tennessee Driver’s Handbook. You’ll need to pick up a copy at your earliest convenience and study it thoroughly, as it contains all of the information that will be covered by your written knowledge test. However, you may find that the following FAQ overview is also helpful in anticipating what you can expect from the entire process of dealing with the Tennessee DMV.
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How old do I need to be before I’m eligible to apply for my Tennessee driver’s license?
In Tennessee, you need to be at least 15 years of age before you can apply for your learner’s permit and begin the process of driving under supervision.
What documents will I need to bring with me when I arrive to apply for my license or learner’s permit?
You will need to bring all of the following government recognised documents before you’ll be able to complete the application process successfully.
  • Proof of your status as a United States citizen
  • Both a primary and a secondary document proving your identity
  • Two documents proving your residency in the state of Tennessee (no older than 4 months old)
  • Your social security number
  • If you are under the age of 18, proof of your enrolment in school
Do I need to bring anyone else with me when I arrive to apply for my driver’s license?
If you are under the age of 18, then yes. You will need to bring a parent or legal guardian with you so that they can sign a minor affidavit, as well as a financial responsibility form at the time of your application.
Will I need to take a physical or pass a vision test in order to obtain my Tennessee state driving privileges?
In Tennessee, you are not required to take a general physical. However, you will be required to take and pass a vision test at the time of your application. If you fail the vision test, you will be asked to visit a DMV-certified eye physician and return at a later date with the doctor’s report.
Once I pass my written knowledge test and get my learner’s permit, what’s next?
Once you successfully pass your Tennessee DMV written knowledge test, you will need to fulfill certain requirements if you are under the age of 18. You must have held your permit for a minimum of 6 months (180 days). You must also successfully complete 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel training. However, if you are 18 years of age or older, there are no restrictions on when you can take your road test and get your license. Just make an appointment to take a road test whenever you feel ready.
What are the other restrictions and rules attached to driving under a learner’s permit in Tennessee?
If you’re only driving under a learner’s permit, you need to be accompanied by a licensed driver at all times when you’re behind the wheel. That driver must be 21 years of age or older. It’s also important to note that you are not allowed to drive between the hours of 10PM and 6AM under any circumstances.
Am I required to take driver’s ed in Tennessee in order to eventually get my license?
No. In Tennessee, driver’s education is not a required part of getting your license. However, a great many teen drivers still find it really helpful to take the course for a number of reasons. To begin with, it’s a great way to gain confidence behind the wheel and learn the ropes from an expert. Also, there are a variety of Tennessee car insurance companies that will give teen drivers and their families a break on insurance rates if they take driver’s ed. These days, driver’s ed students have the option of taking the course in a standard classroom or online.
What is a Tennessee hardship license and is it something I should consider if I’m too young for a standard license?
The state of Tennessee does grant special driver’s licenses to underage drivers if their family circumstances are determined to warrant the privilege. If you’re an underage driver with a family situation that could be greatly eased by your being able to drive, it might be something to look into. To apply, you must:
  • Be at least 14 years old.
  • Complete and submit a Hardship License Application form.
  • Have completed a state recognized driver’s ed program and have a certificate to prove it. (This requirement can be waived if you’ve held a learner’s permit for a minimum of 3 months.)
If your request for a hardship license is approved, you’ll receive a letter stating as much. At that point, you are to head back to the DMV field office with two proofs of your identity, proof of your social security number, and the letter of hardship approval you received in the mail.
I’m new to Tennessee. How long do I have to transfer my driver’s privileges from out of state and what is the protocol for doing so?
You are required by law to transfer your out-of-state driver’s license to the state of Tennessee within 30 days of becoming a resident. To do so, you must visit a Tennessee DMV field office and do the following.
  • Surrender your out-of-state license or state ID.
  • Take and pass a vision test.
  • Show proof of your legal status in the United States, proof of your legal name, and proof of your residency at a Tennessee address. (Popular documents to present include utility bills, pay stubs, and bank statements. However, they may be no older than 4 months.)
  • Supply your social security number (or a completed Social Security Number Affidavit if you do not have one).
  • Pay the required Tennessee licensing fee of $19.50.
  • Allow your photograph to be taken.
If you have an out of state driver’s license and it’s been expired in excess of 6 months, then you should also be prepared to pass a written knowledge test and a driving test before you can enjoy Tennessee state driver’s privileges.