Tennessee is a land of diverse natural beauty, with the Mississippi River on its western border and the Appalachian Mountains running up its eastern side. And, of course, its two biggest cities—Memphis and Nashville—are known for great music and great southern food. All these attractions bring tourists into the state in droves, and that always increases the risks on the local roads.
Still, Tennessee’s typical car insurance rates are in the lower half of average state rates. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth shopping around and comparing quotes to make sure you’re paying as little as possible each month for optimal coverage. Our objective, carrier-neutral system analyzes various factors to connect you with the lowest premiums.
With well over a dozen carriers offering car insurance in Tennessee, where do you start? These are the three top-rated providers in the state (see the full list).
Plenty of factors come into play when you’re weighing the pros and cons of auto insurance companies. But pay particularly close attention to premium quotes, the carrier’s number of rejected claims, and overall customer satisfaction scores.
To start comparing rates in your area, choose your city from the list below. If your location isn’t there, just click here to get going now.
Tennessee sets minimum car insurance coverage requirements, and it’s illegal to drive without meeting them. While none of us like having to take on additional monthly costs, keep in mind that this is done to protect your financial well-being. In the event of an accident, your coverage keeps you from liability for vehicle repair costs, medical bills, and lost wages. Choosing to take on additional optional coverages offers greater protection and peace of mind.
Tennessee Driving Safety
Tennessee has a high number of traffic accidents and related deaths relative to its population size and density. While the urban/rural split isn’t greatly exaggerated, there are consistently more fatalities in rural areas of the state; higher speed limits, darker environments, and road fatigue all contribute to this. Also of note is that about 1 in 4 traffic deaths in the state involve a DUI.
When you’re surrounded by great rivers, majestic mountains, and beautiful farmland, it’s hard not to be thoughtful about the environment. Eco-minded drivers in Tennessee can do more than just help protect nature—they can also save some cash by making green decisions about their vehicles and driving habits.
Some incentives available to environmentally conscious Tennessee residents include:
While only certain Tennessee counties require emissions testing at registration, the requirement is waived for electric vehicles. The exemption doesn’t apply to hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) that can run on gasoline, though. Learn more about emissions testing requirements on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website.
Some (but not all) low-emission and energy-efficient hybrids qualify for a Smart Pass that allows you to drive in HOV lanes at any time of day, regardless of whether you have passengers. All you need to do is apply for the Smart Pass decal, which is provided free of charge if your vehicle qualifies, and affix it to the outside of your rear window on the passenger side. The application is available online at the Tennessee Department of Revenue website.
Drivers in Tennessee may be eligible for discounts on their car insurance for green driving habits and vehicles. Many carriers extend these offers if you have a small, hybrid, or alternative fuel vehicle, or if you keep your mileage low. This is something to discuss with your representative.
The state requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 of bodily injury liability per person and $50,000 per accident. You’re also required to have $15,000 of property damage liability insurance. These coverages protect you if you’re found at-fault in an accident.
Tennessee is a “fault” state, which means the at-fault driver in a car accident is responsible for paying for damages. This means you should carry as much liability insurance as you can afford to protect yourself should you be found at-fault in an accident.
Maximum payment for serious or permanent injury or death to a single person
Maximum payment for serious or permanent injury or death to multiple people
Maximum payment for all damaged property in an accident caused by you
Tennessee may set your minimum coverage requirements to drive legally, but the state isn’t the only party with a say in what you need. If you have or will be taking out an auto loan, the lender typically insists on a greater level of coverage to protect their financial interests. Remember to take this into account when figuring out your monthly car insurance expenses.
Optional coverages offer extra financial protection and peace of mind in the event of an accident. They are not required by law. Some exclusions will apply.
Be an informed consumer and don’t make these 11 Mistakes People Make When Shopping for Auto Insurance!
*The above list is based on ratings for the Southeast region in the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Auto Insurance Study. Billing, claims, interaction, policy offerings, are all factors when determining the ranking of each insurance company. USAA is a military-only option and is therefore not including in the above rankings.
Any child under 1 year of age or weighing less than 20 lbs. must be in an appropriate rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle (provided there is a back seat). Kids age 1 to 3 and over 20 lbs. have to be in a forward-facing, properly rated car seat in the back seat of the vehicle (again, as long as there is a back seat). However, if your infant car seat is rated for rear-facing use up to a higher weight limit—usually 30 or 35 lbs.—you may continue to use it that way until your child reaches the limit.
Children 4 to 8 years old and all children less than 4′ 9″ in height must use a seat belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat, assuming there is one. Those age 9 to 12 and over this height have to be secured with the vehicle’s built-in restraint system. While it’s not the law, it’s still recommended that these children ride in the rear seats; they’re better protected in the event of an accident, including from injuries that can be caused by airbag deployment. The state drops this recommendation at age 13.
It is against the law in Tennessee for a person to knowingly leave a child younger than 7 years unsupervised in a vehicle on public property. It doesn’t matter if the child is unattended for 5 minutes or 50 minutes if conditions pose a risk to the child’s safety, the engine is running, or the keys are inside the motor vehicle. Public property can include shopping centers, apartment complexes, or any other location frequented by the public at large.
A child is considered supervised if left in the company of a person at least 13 years of age. Leaving a child unattended and at risk is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $200 or $500 dollars, depending on the number of violations.
Leaving a young child unattended not only puts them in danger of accidental injury and violence by a stranger, but it also increases the risk of heat-related death. Temperatures in a parked car can reach dangerous levels within minutes, potentially causing brain damage, injury, and death. Cracking the windows will not help. Please do not leave your child unattended in a vehicle, and report an unattended child by calling 911. Also note that hot vehicle interiors pose the same threats to pets.
Auto insurance companies in Tennessee use your credit score and other financial information to determine your potential risk before calculating your insurance premiums. Your credit history and score can have a significant impact on how much you pay each month for car insurance.
Many auto insurance providers offer discounts on coverage to Tennessee drivers with good records. Inquire about this when getting a quote or when talking to your current representative. Ask about other relevant potential discounts too, such as:
Since mid-2013, drivers in Tennessee have been able to show proof of coverage on their smartphones, tablets, or other electronic mobile devices. Ask your carrier to provide an official digital card; most, but not all, do. A digital picture of your printed card does not have to be accepted.
You must always maintain at least the minimum coverage required by Tennessee law. Penalties for violations became steeper in 2017. If you drive without car insurance, including with a lapsed policy, you can be charged with a class C misdemeanor, face fines of up to $300, have your vehicle towed, and have your license and vehicle registration suspended.
It’s illegal to operate a vehicle in Tennessee with the following BAC percentages:
.08%+ for 21 years old or older
.04%+ for commercial vehicle drivers
.02%+ for under 21 years old
Tennessee has a no-tolerance policy regarding underage drinking and driving. If you’re under the age of 21 and register 0.02% or higher BAC, regardless of impairment, you can be convicted of a DUI and have your license revoked for 1 year, plus be fined up to $250 and sentenced to community service.
Like many states, Tennessee has an implied consent law that says all drivers have consented to a breath, blood, or urine chemical test; the type is at the law enforcement officer’s choosing. A first refusal is an automatic revocation of your driver’s license for 1 year and a second refusal is the same, but for 2 years. Penalties are higher with subsequent infractions or if you’ve previously been in a DUI-related crash that has caused injury or death.
Many variables affect punishment in the event of a DUI conviction, such as how many prior offenses you have, whether you’ve injured or killed someone, whether you had a minor in the vehicle while driving under the influence, and whether your BAC is at 0.20% or higher.
Even without any of these other circumstances, first-time offenders receive stiff penalties in Tennessee. They face mandatory jail time of at least 48 hours and up to 1 year, license revocation for 1 year, $350 to $1,500 in fines, mandatory participation in a drug and alcohol treatment program, up to several thousand dollars in related fees, and possible installation of an ignition interlock device at their own expense (which can run to $1,000 in a year).
For more comprehensive explanations of DUI penalties, including with mitigating circumstances and for repeat offenders, visit the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security website.
Tennessee drivers may be compelled to complete driver improvement programs once they accumulate 12 or more points on their driving record in a 1-year period (or 6 points if they’re under 18 years old), and they may take these courses to lower penalties in the event of some motor vehicle infractions. These courses can also be completed to qualify for car insurance discounts from many carriers in the state. Learn more about these programs and find state-approved providers at the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security website.
The first step to reducing your premium is determining the type and amount of coverage you have. Then, you can shop around, adjust your coverages, compare rates, and ask for discounts. Paying upfront, improving your credit score, and maintaining a clean driving record also help.
Tennessee requires that all insurance policies include uninsured motorist coverage in an amount equal to the limits for BIL and PDL. However, drivers in Tennessee can reject uninsured motorist coverage in writing or choose lower uninsured motorist limits. It’s a recommended type of coverage, though, protecting against costs incurred in an accident with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run crash.
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