Need to learn about car insurance in Tennessee? Keep reading for information about required coverage, penalties for driving uninsured, electronic proof of insurance, important coverage considerations, which Tennessee city has some of the lowest prices in the U.S., and more.
Tennessee is a “tort” state where all drivers must have car insurance.
State law sets certain standards for auto insurance policies. Those standards require every policy sold in the state to include a minimum amount of liability coverage. The following table breaks down the requirements.
|Required coverage types||Minimum amount of coverage|
|Bodily injury liability||$25,000 for each person’s injuries in an accident
$50,000 total for all injuries in an accident
|Property damage liability||$15,000 total per accident|
When someone driving your car causes an accident, liability coverage pays for victims’ medical and repair bills. However, it only pays up to a certain amount. Minimum Tennessee car insurance policies include $50,000 worth of coverage for all medical bills and $15,000 for all property damages. If you get the minimum amount of liability insurance, you may see it referred to as 25/50/15 coverage. You can buy more than the minimums to be better protected.
Remember, liability doesn’t cover the driver’s medical bills or car repairs. They only cover those expenses for accident victims.
If you break the law and don’t buy coverage, it could cost you. If someone gets into an accident while driving your uninsured car, you could get stuck having to pay other people’s medical and repair bills. You could also have your license and registration suspended. On top of that, there are additional fines and fees.
|No. of offenses||Fine||License & registration suspension|
|Any||$100 maximum||License suspended until proof of coverage is provided & $65 restoration fee is paid
Registration suspended until license is reinstated
State officials have tried to deal with the problem of uninsured drivers with stricter laws. One law, called the Ricky Otts Act, was approved in 2012. It requires that police arrest drivers involved in a serious accident if they can’t provide proof of insurance and a driver’s license.
You’ll have to prove that you’re insured during traffic stops and after an accident in Tennessee. You can provide this proof with your smartphone or other electronic device thanks to the electronic proof law, which went into effect in May 2013.
For the electronic document to be valid proof of insurance, it should clearly state at least the following:
Even if you have an electronic insurance ID, it may be best to keep a hard copy with you in the car. If you can’t prove you’re insured, it could result in a $100 fine, according to state law.
In addition to liability coverage, there are optional coverages you can add to your policy. They’ll raise the cost of your insurance, but they’ll also provide greater protection. The following are the most widely available coverage add-ons in the state.
It pays for repairing or replacing the insured car if it’s damaged by something other than a collision. Some examples of this type of damage are vandalism, hail damage, and theft. Nearly three-fourths of Tennessee drivers bought this coverage in 2011.
It pays for repairing or replacing the insured vehicle after an accident. Just over two-thirds of Tennessee drivers bought this coverage in 2011.
It pays your medical bills and the medical bills of your family and passengers after an accident. It does so if the person who caused the accident either:
It pays for the cost of renting a car after an accident.
It pays for towing and labor due to a mechanical breakdown.
It pays the difference between an insurance company’s payment for a totaled car and the remaining balance on the car’s loan or lease.
A lot of Volunteer State drivers don’t have car insurance. According to industry research, nearly 25% of drivers in the state lack the required coverage. The state has the 3rd-highest rate of uninsured drivers in the U.S. With an estimated 1 out of 4 Tennessee drivers on the road without insurance, you should consider buying coverage to protect yourself.
If you’re involved in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, UM/UIM coverage will pay for your medical bills, while collision will pay for your car repairs. Those coverages are optional, so if you don’t have them you might end up having to pay those bills yourself.
Tennessee uses a “tort” system for car insurance claims. That means if someone injures you or wrecks your car, their liability insurance pays your medical and repair bills.
But in some cases, the other driver won’t be 100% responsible for the accident. Your actions could have contributed to the accident, and you could be partially responsible. This makes things a little more complicated.
If you’re partially responsible, it changes how much you can get from the other driver’s insurer. Tennessee uses “modified comparative fault” to determine payment. Here are the details:
If you’re at least 50% responsible for the accident: The other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay any of your bills. You have to completely rely on your own policy.
If you’re less than 50% responsible for the accident: The other driver’s insurer will pay your bills, but the amount they pay will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you’re 20% responsible for an accident, the other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay 100% of your bills. Instead, it pays only 80%, since you were 20% responsible. So in this example, if you have $10,000 in bills from an accident, the other driver’s insurer has to pay only $8,000.
So what if the other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay your bills? You use your own policy. Medical payments coverage will help pay your medical bills. Collision will help pay your repair bills. But both of those coverages are optional. You’ll be on your own if you didn’t add them to your policy.
Tennessee car insurance premiums are much cheaper than the national average. The average cost of a policy in the state was 15.8% below the 2011 national average. Only 12 states had cheaper auto insurance than Tennessee.
The city of Chattanooga has a big name, but low premiums. Southeastern Tennessee’s Chattanooga has some of the lowest premiums in the country, according to a Runzheimer International study. The study said Chattanooga had the 9th-cheapest premiums of any city in the U.S.
If you drive safely, infrequently, or both, you may want to look into a usage-based discount program. These programs use a device you install in your car to track how far it’s driven and/or if it’s driven safely. Depending on how you drive, you could potentially get a discount of up to 30%.
The following major insurers offer usage-based discounts in the Volunteer State:
Car insurance companies regularly change their pricing structures. If you want to see which insurers are changing how they price their policies, state regulators make it easy for you to do so by publishing rate changes online. The document shows the company name, its size, its rate change history, and upcoming changes for the year.
If you have a complaint with your Tennessee car insurance company, there’s help. Officials from the state’s Consumer Insurance Services can investigate your complaint and help you resolve issues when you submit a formal complaint online.
If you’ve had a hard time finding a car insurer who will cover you (usually because of marks on your driving record), you can still turn to the Tennessee Automobile Insurance Plan. The Plan is the car insurer of last resort for the state’s high-risk drivers.
According to a study by Runzheimer International, Chattanooga had the lowest average premiums of any city in the country in 2012.