Before raising anchor in your new vessel, be sure it meets your state’s boat registration requirements. Rules and regulations vary by state, but in most instances the following vessels are exempt from registration:
- Boats restricted to private lakes and ponds.
- Small sailboats under a certain length (usually 12 feet).
- Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and rubber rafts.
How to Register Boat
Just like cars, states require registering a boat within a certain number of days of the purchase date. Washington, for example, imposes a 15-day window, while Maryland gives new boat owners 30 days.
Depending on the state, register with either your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Fish and Game Division (your state may have a different name for this department).
Most boat registration scenarios require some or all of the following documents:
- Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (applicable only to brand new vessels).
- A completed Bill of Sale with buyer and seller information. Some states require notarization.
- Hull Identification Number (HIN) (usually only pertains to homemade vessels).
- A completed registration application.
- Boat title, if applicable.
- Proper payment. Boat registration fees are based on the vessel’s length. The longer the boat, the higher the fee.
Your state will determine how to apply. Some require applying in person, while other states also give the options to apply online or by mail.
After registering your boat, apply the HIN on the boat’s hull. All states are extremely specific about number placement. If you’re unsure on where or how to apply the HIN, contact your boat registration authority.
Register Out-of-State Boats
If you’re from out of state and plan on boating for an extended period of time, you may have to register your boat with that state. For instance, non-resident boaters in Montana are limited to 90 days, while visiting boaters in Maine have 60 days.
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