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  • Boat Registration and Licenses in California

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    Introduction

    Whether you own a yacht for navigating the ocean currents along the Pacific coast, or a motorboat for ripping across the waters of an inland lake, chances are you'll need to register your vessel with California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

    Below you'll find all the information you need for California boat registration in an easy, comprehensive format. This way, you can spend more time on the water and less time indoors.

    CA Boats Requiring Registration

    • Sail-powered vessels* 8 feet.
    • Powerboats.
    • Commercial vessels that weigh at least 5 tons, or are at least 30 ft long, must be registered with the U.S. Coast Guard.

    *The state defines what constitutes a vessel.

    What Not to Register

    • Any vessel propelled by oars or paddles alone.
    • Non-motorized sailboats that are 8 feet in length.
    • Surfboards or sailboards.
    • A ship's lifeboat (does not include dinghies).
    • Vessels currently registered in another state (if used primarily outside California).
    • Vessels brought into California for racing.

    California Boat Registration Exemptions

    • Vessels documented by the U.S. Coast Guard

    CA Boat Registration Requirements and Procedures

    If you bring a vessel into California and plan on primarily using it here, you must register it first. Do so within 120 days of your arrival. Here's how:

    In Person

    Visit any California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) local office with:

    1. A completed boat application.
    2. Proof of ownership. This could be an out-of-state title properly signed over to you, your bill of sale, the vessel's Certificate of Origin, or a bond for the boat if proof of ownership cannot be provided and the boat's value is $2,000 or more.
    3. Payment for boat registration fee (see fees below). CA DMV offices accept cash, checks, money orders and debit cards.

    Display your vessel registration number (CF number) on both sides of the front half of your boat in, at least, 3" block letters that contrast with the color of your boat for easy visibility.

    By Mail

    Send the required items listed above to:

    • Department of Motor Vehicles
    • P.O. Box 942869
    • Sacramento, CA 94269-0001

    California Boat Registration Fees

    • Resident original application (submitted in an even-numbered year): $29
    • Resident original application (submitted in an odd-numbered year): $49
    • Non-resident application (fees due in an even-numbered year): $57
    • Non-resident application (fees due in an odd-numbered year): $77

    A use tax based on the purchase price may also be assessed. The DMV provides a complete list of boating-related fees.

    NOTE: The California DMV will also collect an annual Quagga and Zebra Mussel Infestation Prevention fee. The fee will be collected when you register or renew the registration for your boat/vessel.

    For more information, please see the California Division of Boating and Waterways website.

    CA Boat Registration Renewals and Replacements

    Renew your registration every 2 years on odd-numbered years. This needs to be done by December 31st. To do so, return the bottom part of your renewal notice along with payment (check, cashier's check or money order; do not send cash) for the $20 fee to the address listed on the envelope.

    Renewal notices are mailed approximately 60 days prior to the expiration date.

    Replace Lost Boat Registration

    To replace your missing or damaged registration, visit your local DMV office with:

    Before visiting be sure to make an appointment.

    Or, mail the application along with a check to:

    • Department of Motor Vehicles
    • Registration Operations
    • P.O. Box 942869
    • Sacramento, California 94269-0001

    CA Boater License

    California doesn't require you to have a boater license in order to operate a boat. However, children are restricted from operating some boats alone.

    Boater Safety Course

    While you don't have to take a boating safety course, doing so may make you a safer and better boater. It may also save you money on your marine insurance. For more information click the link below for BoaterExam.com, the recognized authority on boating safety courses in California.

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