Boat Registration and Licenses in Alabama

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Whether you're navigating the Gulf waters or an inland lake or stream, chances are, depending on your type of vessel, you need to register it with Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Below you'll find all the information needed for registering a boat in Alabama along with the state's policies regarding boater education classes.

What to Register

  • Sailboats,
  • Boats for hire, and
  • Mechanically propelled vessels

Titles aren't needed for registering watercraft.

AL Boat Registration Exemptions

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provides a list of vessels exempted from the registration requirements.

AL Boat Registration Requirements and Procedures

You must register a new boat within 72 hours, or register a currently registered used boat within 15 days. Here's how:

  1. Complete the Application for Boat Registration, Transfer & Replacement form .
  2. Locate the previous registration and bill of sale. If you do not have a bill of sale, you may, depending on your county, need to provide an affidavit listing the purchase price.
  3. Have the registration fee ready (see below).
  4. Go to your local probate judge's office or license commissioner's office.
  5. Keep the registration certificate on board your vessel, and put the current year decal on an easily noticeable spot of the bow.

If you have a receipt showing you paid your sales and use tax, you may also register at the Marine Police Division office in Montgomery. (If you're a dealer, you must register at the Marine Police Division office.)

Note: There is NO grace period if you purchase a used boat with an expired registration. The boat MUST be registered before taking it out on the water.

Boat Insurance

You are not required to have boat insurance in order to register your boat in Alabama. However, since owning a boat does come with risks, you may find value in purchasing a boat insurance policy.

Alabama Boat Registration Fees

Your registration fee depends on the length of your boat (measured from the outermost point of the bow to the rearmost point of the stern), as follows:

  • Class I: 16 ft: $18.
  • Class II: 16 ft to 26 ft: $23.
  • Class III: 26 ft to 40 ft: $73.
  • Class IV: 40 ft and longer: $98.
  • Class V: $23.

NOTE: There is an additional $2 issuance fee for each class.

If the boat was previously registered in AL you'll also need to pay $3 (the fee is waived if you purchased the boat out-of-state).

Renewals and Replacements

Renew your registration by going to your local probate judge's office or license commissioner's office and paying the renewal fee. Your renewal fee is the same as your original registration fee.

The first letter of your last name determines the month you'll need to renew your registration; the state provides a staggered schedule.

Replace Lost AL Boat Registration

You can receive a replacement registration certificate by submitting a completed Application for Boat Registration, Transfer & Replacement form along a $5.75.

Alabama Boater's License

Who Needs One

To legally operate a boat in the state, you must be at least 12 years old and have an operator's license. Provide proof of your age at an AL driver's license office to receive your boating certificate.)

If you are 12 or 13 years old, you must have a currently licensed boat driver in the vessel. That person must be at least 21 years old, and able to take immediate control of the boat, if necessary.

How to Obtain a Boating License

There are several ways to obtain a license:

  1. Pass a course by an approved third-party provider.
  2. Successfully complete a boating course given by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadron, or the Alabama Marine Police Division.
  3. Pass the written boating exam at one of the Department of Public Safety Driver License Division offices.

Once you've accomplished any of the above, you'll receive a Class V designation on your license, indicating that you're eligible to drive a boat. Your boat operator license will be renewed whenever you renew your driver's license.

If you don't have a driver's license, you'll receive a vessel license instead. It costs $23. You will also be required to a pay a one time cash application fee of $5.

Alabama Boater Safety Courses

As mentioned above, you can obtain a license by completing a variety of state-approved boating courses. The class hours vary with the provider.

Some providers like (click its link below for course information) allow you to study the course and take the test online. If you pass the test, you'll receive a completion certificate, which you must take to a driver's license office to obtain your boating license.

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