What is the Surety Bond process?

If the department is not satisfied as to the ownership of a vehicle and there are no
known liens on the vehicle, and the vehicle has not been reported as stolen, the
department may register the vehicle, but as a condition of issuing a certificate of title,
require the owner to complete additional steps depending on the fair market value and
age of the vehicle.

The value of the surety bond is calculated at one and one-half (1½) times the fair
market value of the vehicle.

Surety Bond vs. Certification of Ownership
To obtain a certificate of title, an owner of a vehicle meeting the description above,
     • with a fair market value of three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) or less, or
     • with a manufacture year of at least 30 years old regardless of fair market value,
       must complete the Certification of Ownership process as outlined using the
       Certification of Ownership form.

To obtain a certificate of title, an owner of a vehicle meeting the description above,
     • with a manufacture year of less than thirty (30) years old AND
     • with a fair market value exceeding three thousand dollars ($3,000.00),
       must contact the department’s Special Investigation Section to begin the “surety bond
       process”, using the Surety Bond Application.

A Surety Bond application must be supported by the following documents:

  • Verification of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) by a law enforcement officer or licensed dealer, a pencil tracing of an embossed or stamped VIN is acceptable.
  • notarized bill of sale from the last registered owner or a notarized statement from the seller stating why the vehicle was not titled or registered in the seller's name.
  • In the absence of a notarized bill of sale or notarized statement, submit a licensed motor vehicle dealer appraisal of the value of the vehicle.                                       
  • Photographs of the vehicle in its pre-repaired state. If these are not available, post-repair photographs must be submitted, along with a notarized statement from the applicant stating that the pre-repair photographs are not available, and that the applicant was unaware that such photographs were required prior to the repairs being made. If no repairs were made, that fact should be reflected in the statement.

After the application has been processed by the department’s Special Investigation
Section, the Anti Theft Unit, the applicant will be notified to secure a corporate or
personal surety bond to cover one and one-half (1½) times the value of the vehicle;
either type bond may be used in this process.
     • A corporate surety bond may be obtained from a corporate surety bond
       company duly licensed to conduct business in Tennessee.
     • A personal surety bond may be obtained from two solvent personal sureties.

The issued bond is maintained in a file for a period of three years. The bond may be
returned at the end of the three (3) years or prior to the three (3) years if the vehicle is
no longer registered in this state and the certificate of title has been surrendered to the

After the surety bond is received by the department, a letter of verification will be mailed
to the applicant advising them to complete the Multi-purpose Application at the local
county clerk’s office, apply for title and registration and pay the appropriate fees. State
and local title and registration fees as well as sales and use tax may apply.

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