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Perils of relocating to Tennessee: DMV (etc...)

For those of you thinking on relocating to Tennessee be forewarned that Tennessee does not have a "Department of Motor Vehicles" per say.

They have a Drivers Services division of the Tennessee Department of Safety.  This is where you get your Tennessee drivers license.

Each county (Tennessee has 95 of them) has a County Clerk.  That is where you register your vehicles.

The state also has a Department of Revenue division which is where you have to go to get a temporary tag for a vehicle if for any reason there is a problem with any paperwork when you try to title or register a vehicle.

Some cities and jurisdictions in the state have vehicle inspections, which can be either emissions testing or safety inspections, or both.  This testing varies by jurisdiction, which could be a city or a county.  Testing requirements also vary by jurisdiction (some times by neighborhood within the jurisdiction) regarding which vehicles need which inspections.


Most states that I have lived just have a DMV which take care of all of that stuff - although occasionally you might have to go to a separate agency or building for emissions inspections (which makes sense as it requires a drive-in type facility).

Not Tennessee,  they divide them up to 4 separate offices at 4 separate locations.  To make matters worse, not all locations are "full service" meaning only some of the services may or may not be administered at that location.  To salt the wounds, some of the locations which are listed as "full service" may or may not *actually* provide the services their website claims they do, which is apparently something no one can track because when you call many of them you do not get to talk to the actual people at the location.  No, when you call you get to talk to someone at a central location who will tell you that a service is provided at a location, then when you get to that location the bitch overworked clerk will rudely tell you from behind bullet proof glass that you are SOL because they don't do that at that location.

So, for two drivers licenses and 4 vehicle registrations, we had to hit 5 locations spread out all over our county and the neighboring county.  Here is what we experienced:

We had 100% of our paperwork in order, and multiple forms of everything that is possibly needed.  Identification, proof of citizenship, proof of residency, insurance, registrations, and qualifying paperwork.  I am excessively anal retentive about things like this - so we had our shit together even before we started the process.

The Drivers Services people were very friendly, although somewhat bland.  They helped us easily enough and the drivers licenses went smoothly.  If in the Memphis area I recommend heading out to the folks in Oakland, Fayette county.  They were a good experience.

The Shelby County clerks people were a mixed bag.
-In the posh uppity suburb of Germantown with all the big McMansions, gated communities, and specialty malls with JCrew and Apple stores - the County Clerk people were behind a wall of bullet proof glass with tiny "speak through this metal contraption" systems.  Instantly you feel put-off.  You take a number and wait with no way to maybe get some paperwork started or a clipboard or whatever... Then you have to shout through the little holes, everyone in the facility gets to hear everyone else's business.  This branch was listed as "full service" and that was confirmed by calling the County Clerk.  Nope, they don't do everything and the lady there isn't even apologetic or helpful - they couldn't do 3 out of 4 of our vehicles, so we just left empty-handed.  She didn't even try to find out or tell us where we *could* get the stuff we needed.
-Over in a poorer less fancy area of Memphis, across the field from a jail, in an old military-esque building another County Clerk's office was completely different.  The people were sitting behind a normal counter.  They were all extremely friendly, welcomed us to Tennessee, and there was no wait whatsoever (she even laughed that I had taken a number).  They were a "full service" center but she apologetically informed us that they had run out of one type of plate, and she personally got on the phone to make sure that another place would have it.  She gave us help, and instructions, and chatted nicely the entire time.  They were able to register 2 of our 4 vehicles (would have been 4 normally except for the shortage of a plate I mentioned before and one of our vehicles is old enough to need a safety inspection so we have to go get that done).

All said and done, after putting like 50 miles on the car and spending half a day, we completed 4 out of 6 tasks and found that we should ignore the Germantown Shelby county clerk's office completely in the future.


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