A mint green kei truck driving on a gravel path near industrial power lines and shipping cranes with a large cargo ship in the background under a clear blue sky.

Kei trucks, small and efficient vehicles from Japan, are popular for their versatility and fuel efficiency. However, navigating the legalities of kei trucks in the U.S. can be challenging, especially in Tennessee. This blog post explores whether kei trucks are legal in Tennessee and what you need to know about titling, registration, and usage.

Federal Regulations

Before diving into state-specific regulations, it’s essential to understand the federal requirements for importing kei trucks into the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set stringent standards for imported vehicles.

  1. Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO): This document certifies the vehicle’s origin and is required for titling and registration.
  2. Bill of Sale: Proof of purchase is necessary to establish ownership.
  3. Form HS-7: This form declares that the vehicle meets federal motor vehicle safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards.
  4. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Label: A photograph of this label is required to prove compliance with federal safety standards.

Tennessee-Specific Regulations

In Tennessee, the rules for registering and titling imported vehicles, including kei trucks, are as follows:

  1. Application Process: To obtain a Tennessee title and/or registration for a vehicle imported from another country, you must submit the MSO, bill of sale, Form HS-7, and a clear photograph of the vehicle’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Label to your county clerk.
  2. OHV Registration: Kei trucks in Tennessee are classified under Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV). This means they are not permitted for general on-road use but can be registered for specific off-road uses.

Classification of Off-Highway Vehicles

Tennessee categorizes off-highway vehicles into various classes, impacting how kei trucks can be used:

  1. Low-Speed Vehicle: A four-wheeled electric or gasoline vehicle with a top speed of 20-25 mph. These vehicles must comply with federal safety standards.
  2. Medium-Speed Vehicle: A four-wheeled electric or gasoline vehicle with a top speed of 30-35 mph. These must also meet federal safety standards and include mini-trucks.
  3. Class I Off-Highway Vehicle: A motorized vehicle with 4-6 non-highway tires, a top speed greater than 35 mph, a weight limit of 2,500 lbs, a width of 80 inches or less, non-straddle seating for up to four passengers, and a steering wheel. Mini-trucks fall under this category.

Practical Use and Restrictions

While kei trucks are not permitted for general road use in Tennessee, they are popular for various off-road applications, including:

  • Agriculture: Kei trucks are ideal for farm work due to their small size and maneuverability.
  • Construction: Their ability to navigate tight spaces makes them useful on construction sites.
  • Recreation: Kei trucks are also used for recreational purposes on private properties or designated off-road trails.


Navigating the legalities of kei trucks in Tennessee involves understanding both federal and state regulations. While kei trucks cannot be used for regular on-road driving, they are valuable for off-road applications. By following the necessary steps for titling and registration and understanding the vehicle classifications, you can enjoy the practical benefits of kei trucks within Tennessee’s legal framework.

For more detailed information, refer to the Tennessee DMV website and the specific regulations provided by state and federal authorities.

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