What Is the Pop Up Travel Trailer Law in Tennessee?

Wide View of Pop Up Camper at Campsite on Family Camping Trip
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Under Tennessee state law, pop-up trailers are considered recreational vehicles. While they do not need to be registered if used solely in the state, they must be inspected by the Tennessee Department of Safety.

They also need a Trailer E license plate, which can be purchased through a county clerk’s office once they pass inspection.

What Is a Pop-up Trailer?

Pop-up trailers (also called tent trailers or folding camping trailers) are compact while being towed behind motor vehicles, but expand once they reach a campsite. This allows for more space for campers to sleep and otherwise relax in.

Because they are lighter and smaller than traditional travel trailers, smaller SUVs and trucks can tow pop-up trailers with ease.

In the state of Tennessee, pop-up trailers are considered recreational vehicles because they are towed or self-propelled by towing vehicles and provide a temporary living space for recreational purposes.

Their use complies with applicable federal vehicle regulations, and they typically do not require a special permit to ride on highways. Mobile homes, travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers are also considered to be recreational vehicles.

Trailer Registration Requirements in Tennessee

While the majority of trailers in Tennessee must be registered, pop-up trailers, like utility trailers, do not require registration, unless they are used out of state. They do, however, require inspection and license plates.

Pop-up trailers use the Trailer E license plate. These can be personalized and cost $17 through a Tennessee county clerk’s office.

Brake Requirements for Pop-up Trailers

According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, brake requirements on trailers differ by weight.

Folding Trailer Brake Requirements by Weight


Brakes Required

More than 3,000 pounds in gross weight

Brakes on all wheels

Between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds in gross weight

Brakes on one axle

Less than 1,500 pounds in gross weight

No brakes required

If a trailer has brakes, their linings must be replaced when their thickness is 5/16 inches or less at the center of the brake shoe. Brake pads and linings must be attached to the brake shoe firmly and not saturated with brake fluid, grease or oil.

Brake drums with cracks (other than those that are short, hairline cracks due to heat) will not pass inspection. Trailers with brakes must have a break-away emergency device.

Requirements for Tires on Pop-up Trailers

Tires on foldable or collapsible trailers, must have a tread groove pattern that is a minimum 2/32 of an inch deep when measured in any location on a major tread groove. Tires must not:

  • Be inflated or mounted in such a way that they come in contact with any part of the trailer.
  • Be flat or leak.
  • Have bulges of any kind.
  • Have cuts exposing cord.
  • Be otherwise cracked or damaged.
  • Have markings with statements such as “off highway use only”.

A trailer’s wheels and rims must be in good condition and without cracks, and their stud holes must be round. The trailer must not have any broken, loose, missing or stripped wheel fasteners or bolts.

Lighting and Reflector Requirements for Trailers

All lamps listed below, with the exception of hazard lamps, will be inspected with the brakes applied.

All trailers must have the following lamps and reflectors.

Trailer Lamp & Reflector Requirements





Tail lamps


At the rear of the trailer

Red lenses that are clearly visible

Stop lamps


At the rear of the trailer

Red lenses that are clearly visible

Turn signal lamps


At the rear of the trailer

Red or amber lenses that are clearly visible



At the rear of the trailer and the same height

Red and clearly visible



At the sides, each of which must be located in a corner at the same height

Red and clearly visible at the rear

Amber and clearly visible at the front

Trailers that are over 32.8 feet long also require intermediate reflectors.

Lamp Requirements for Large Trailers Over 80 Inches Wide

Type of lamps

Number of lamps

Location of lamps

Color of lamps

Side marker lamps


On each side, as close to corners as possible and as high as is practical

Red and clearly visible at the rearAmber and clearly visible at the front

Clearance lamps


On the front of the trailer, one on each side

Amber and clearly visible

Clearance lamps


On the rear of the trailer and on each side and facing the rear

Red and clearly visible

Identification lamps


At the rear of the trailer, as high and near the center as is practical

Red and clearly visible

Trailer Frame Construction and Safety Requirements

A trailer frame should be designed to conform to highway transportation standard use and safety requirements. A business or individual that modifies a trailer’s frame is responsible for how it performs on the road.

The frame weld must be electric. The frame’s body mounts and cross members must not be broken, bent, cracked or rusted to a depth that weakens the frame considerably. Cross members must not be missing or loose. Body mounts must not be missing, have rivets that are deteriorated or missing, or have missing bolts.

A trailer’s coupling devices must support and maintain control of the trailer and must not show cracks or excessive wear. A trailer requires two safety chains that are crossed under its hitch. These chains must be strong enough to hold the attachment if the hitch fails.

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