Skip to Content

Vanderbilt International Office

Vanderbilt International Office

Home > Resources > Driving in Tennessee

Driving in Tennessee

Below is information about driving a car in Tennessee:


Obtaining a Driver's License

The Tennessee Department of Safety issues both Temporary Driver's Licenses and Regular (Class D) Licenses to all noncitizens who are lawfully present (for a specific period of authorized stay).

Tennessee Department of Safety
1150 Foster Avenue
 Nashville, TN 37243
 Tel: (615) 251-5166

All driving test information is available on this website, including the Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual , driver's license practice test, and test locations. To get a Tennessee driver's license you will need to pass a vision test, a written test examining your knowledge of Tennessee traffic rules, and a road test. The road test takes about 10 minutes; however, the testing centers are usually very crowded, and you may experience long wait times. If you are applying for a Regular (Class D) license, you can schedule an appointment; however, you must complete the written test before your scheduled test time.

Required for taking the test:
  • Please check the Tennessee Department of Safety website for detailed information on acceptable documents.
  • Proof of your age and full name, such as your passport or birth certificate, and proof of any name changes since issued (for example, a marriage license).
  • Proof of legal status in U.S. – valid passport with I-94 card and valid I-20/DS-2019.
  • Proof of Tennessee Residency (two statements or bills from official organizations showing your address in Tennessee: documents from your bank, utility service, your leasing contract or any other bills you receive at your home address).
  • A car that you will use for the road test (most students own their own cars before taking the test and drive their car with an international license, while some students borrow a car from a friend).
  • Driver's testing fee ($19.50 as of August 2012).
 Special Notes for Nonimmigrants:
  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record must be in Active status when an F, M or J nonimmigrant applies for a Driver License.   Otherwise your application will be unsuccessful.
  • Wait at least ten calendar days from the date of entry into the United States to apply for a driver’s license or ID.  The verification system needs some time to process the information.  Additionally, you should wait two business days after your SEVIS record becomes Active to apply.
  • You are not required to have a Social Security Number in order to receive a driver license, but you are required to apply for one regardless.
  • If seeking a driver license for a dependent, he or she must provide their own documentation as described above.  You should also include proof of relationship, such as a marriage certificate.  The office will verify that your visa’s duration time matches.
  • Be consistent with paperwork.  Be sure that you understand the meaning of Family Name/Surname/Last Name versus First Name and enter these names consistently in every form (many errors derive from mistakes in paperwork).  If the English alphabet is not used by your mother tongue, make sure the transliteration is understandable and consistently used.  Please note that the computer systems do not recognize accentuation and letters like ñ or é.
  • If you encounter a problem when applying for a Driver License: 1. be sure that you understand what the nature of the problem is, 2. you may want to ask to speak to a supervisor, 3. you can contact your advisor at the ISSS office.

  back to top


Buying a Car

Car Dealers

There are two kinds of car dealers in Nashville – certified car dealers and non-certified car dealers. If you are considering spending more than $8,000 on a used car or you want to search for a car less than 5 years old it is much better to buy it from certified car dealers. Those car dealers are the local distributors certified by specific car manufacturers. In other words, car manufacturers have to guarantee the quality of used cars sold in those car dealers, and you can also enjoy the maintenance services provided by them.

If you are considering spending less than $8000 on a used car and you are not familiar the mechanics of cars, looking for a non-certified car dealers may be a reasonable choice. CarMax, which is located near the “100 Oaks Shopping Mall,” is the largest non-certified car dealer in the U.S. Just like the certified car dealers, it guarantees the quality of its used cars and offers maintenance services. However, the quality of the cars may not be comparable to that offered by certified car dealers. The price range of CarMax’s inventory is between $5,000 and $10,000. If you want to spend less than $5,000, you may consider buying a car from other non-certified car dealers. To minimize fraud, only buy a car from a non-certified car dealer which is authorized by the State of Tennessee. According to the law, all car dealers must have a license (posted in their office) authorized by the Tennessee state government.


If you desire to purchase a car while your are here at Vanderbilt, financing is one option.  However, it is extremely difficult for non-residents and non-citizens to obtain financing. Moreover, Vanderbilt does not recommend that you accrue any debt in your time here.  You can learn more about financing here.

Local Auto Dealerships

Beaman Toyota: 1525 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203; Tel: (615) 251-8400

Downtown Nashville Nissan: 25 Vantage Way, Nashville, TN 37228; Tel: (888) 479-1908

Crest Honda: 2215 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37228; Tel: (800) 236-4285

Crown Ford: 646 Thompson Lane, Nashville, TN 37204; Tel: (888) 750-4092

CarMax: 2501 Powell Avenue Nashville, TN 37204; Tel: (888) 661-9898 or (615) 783-2624 (Sales)

Individual Sellers

To find individual sellers, look in car magazines available at supermarkets/stores or search the classified ads in the automobile section of the Tennessean newspaper. If you buy a car from non-certified car dealers or individuals, consider the following procedures:

  1. Check the VIN number of your favorite car.
  2. Use the VIN number to check the car’s history from in order to see any history of accidents or damage.
  3. Drive and check the car yourself or with someone who is familiar with the mechanics of cars.
  4. Take the car to Firestone Tire & Auto Center (1221 Broadway; Tel: (615) 255-6627) for an inspection test before making your purchase.
  5. Make sure that the name and address on the title is the same as the seller’s name and address by checking their ID. (Individual sellers only)
  6. Take the title of the car entitled by the previous owner (Individual sellers only) or the document of transfer entitled by the car dealer.
  7. Obtain a temporary plate issued by the car dealer in order to drive the car before getting your “official” plate from the County Clerk.

back to top


Car Registration

If you are buying a car from a dealer, they will issue a temporary registration tag and order a permanent state license plate for you (the cost will be included in the purchase price). If you are buying a car from an individual seller, you will need to:

back to top


Car Insurance

If you purchase your own car, you must have third-party automobile insurance to drive legally in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee auo insurance liability minimums are 25/50/15: $25,000 per person for bodily injuries you cause to the other party; $50,000 for all injuries; and $10,000 for property damage. Prices will vary, so be sure to check with several agents before making any decisions. Below you will find a list of some Nashville area insurance companies.

back to top


Parking at Vanderbilt

If you plan to park on University property, you must apply for a parking permit from Vanderbilt's Office of Traffic and Parking, located on the ground floor of the Wesley Place Parking Garage or via their website. If you park on campus without a permit, you will receive a parking ticket and your car may be towed.

Office of Traffic and Parking
Wesley Place Garage
2043 Scarritt Place Nashville, TN 37203
Tel: (615) 322-2554