Guide to ATV & UTV Laws in Tennessee

atv laws

Continuing in our series of articles analyzing the ATV laws in every state, which stemmed from this article, we are addressing the ATV laws in Tennessee.

It should also be noted that, while I am an attorney, I am not your attorney and am not giving legal advice.  If you have questions, you should consult a local attorney.

How does Tennessee define an ATV and UTV?

Tennessee defines an ATV as a motorized non-highway vehicle with 4-6 non-highway tires, that is limited in engine displacement to 1,000 cc, that is limited in dry weight to 1,500 pounds or less, that is steered by handlebars, and that has a seat or saddle designed to be saddled by the operator.

Tennessee includes UTVs in the category of “Class I off-highway vehicles,” which are defined as a motorized vehicle with 4-6 wheels whose top speed is greater than 35 mph, that is limited in engine displacement to 1,000 cc, that is limited in total dry weight to 2,000 pounds, that is 65 inches or less in width, that has a steering wheel and that has non-straddle seating capable of holding 2-4 passengers.

Are you required to title and register your ATV or UTV in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you must obtain a certificate of title for your ATV or UTV.  Using your certificate of title, you must then obtain a special identification plate verifying that you possess a certificate of title. 

This plate is to be affixed to your ATV or UTV.  The identification plate is non-transferrable, meaning you must obtain a new one anytime ownership of the ATV or UTV is transferred.

On the other hand, you are neither required nor permitted to register your ATV or UTV in Tennessee, unless it is a UTV to be operated on County Roads, in which case it must be registered as a Class I off-highway vehicle and as a medium speed vehicle.

Nonresidents of Tennessee who bring their ATV or UTV to ride in Tennessee do not need to obtain the special identification plate so long as you have proof that the ATV or UTV was either titled or registered in their home state. You will need to obtain an off-highway vehicle temporary permit.

What ATV/UTV equipment requirements apply in Tennessee?

The following gear and equipment requirements must be met by any ATV and/or UTV in Tennessee.

  • If and when you are riding an ATV or UTV on a public street in Tennessee, or if you are under 18, you are required to wear a helmet.  This requirement applies to both operators and passengers.
  • Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with operable headlights that illuminate 200 feet in front of the ATV or UTV under normal atmospheric conditions on a level surface.
  • Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with operable tail lights.
  • Your ATV or UTV must be equipped with a muffler in good working order if operated on state land.

utv laws

Can you operate an ATV or UTV on public streets in Tennessee?

Generally, you may not operate an ATV or UTV on state or interstate highways in Tennessee unless you fit into one of the following exceptions.

  • You are on a road, or portion thereof, that has been specifically designated as open to ATV use.  Examples of such road include the following:
    • State Route 116 fro Beech Grove to Railroad in Lake City
    • Oneida or Western Railroad in Scott County up until the intersection with Verdun Road.
  • You are safely and efficiently crossing a two-lane highway at an angle of approximately 90 degrees.
  • You are safely and efficiently crossing a highway with more than two lanes at a designated ATV crossing.
  • You are using the ATV or UTV for agricultural purposes.
  • You are moving the ATV or UTV in non-mechanical fashion, meaning not operating it, along the side of the roadway to access or return from a designated riding area so long as there is not an alternative route available and you are not interfering with traffic.

Separate from State and Interstate highways, UTV use is permitted on county roads throughout Tennessee where the following conditions are met:

  • the UTV is capable of exceeding 35 mph;
  • the UTV is equipped with brakes;
  • the UTV is equipped with 2 tail lights, stoplights and headlights;
  • the UTV is equipped with a horn;
  • the UTV is equipped with a roll bar;
  • the UTV has seat belts for each seat;
  • the UTV is equipped with a spark arrester;
  • the UTV is equipped with a working muffler properly connected to the exhaust system;
  • the operator is at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license; and
  • the operator has proof of liability insurance meeting the same requirements as for a motor vehicle.

If your UTV is properly registered for use on public roadways, you may operate it on paved roadways in state land, otherwise you are limited to unpaved roads.

ATV and UTV riding areas in Tennessee

Tennessee has a number of popular riding areas approved for ATVs and UTVs, including the following:

  • Adventure Off Road Park
  • Aetna Mountain Adventures;
  • Belle Ridge Retreat;
  • Bikini Bottoms Off Road Park;
  • Brimstone Recreation;
  • Buffalo Mountain ATV Trail;
  • Dee Mountain;
  • Doe Mountain Recreation Area;
  • I-81 Motorsports Park;
  • Loretta Lynn’s Ranch;
  • Muddy Creek Raceway;
  • North Cumberland WMA;
  • Powerline Supercross;
  • Prentice Cooper State Forest;
  • Ride Royal Blue ATV Resort;
  • Smith Mountain Trail;
  • Southern Gulf Off Road Park;
  • Thunder Valley Motocross;
  • Trails End Campground;
  • Unicoi Motorcycle Trail in the Cherokee National Forest;
  • Wheelin’ in the Country, Inc. Off Road Park;
  • Windrock Park;
  • WMMX-TN; and
  • Wooly’s Offroad.

Other Tennessee ATV/UTV Regulations:

  • ATVs and UTVs may only be driven in the time from one-half hour after sunrise to one-half hour before sunset.
  • The headlight and taillight of your ATV and UTV must be illuminated while in operation.
  • You may not ride an ATV or UTV upon the land of another without first obtaining approval of the landowner or the person in charge of the land.
  • It is unlawful to damage any natural resource on any State Forest.

Brent Huntley

Brent Huntley is the owner of ATV Man and is responsible for almost all the material on the website. He also runs and loves to travel and ride ATVs with his family. When he isn't playing, his day job consists of owning Huntley Law.

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