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Boat Registration and Licenses in Iowa

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Boat Registration and Licensing in Iowa

If you live in Iowa and operate a boat, you may need to register it with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

On this page, we'll teach you about registering your vessel with the DNR AND the qualifications needed to operate watercraft on Iowa waters.

IA Vessels Requiring Registration

The Iowa DNR requires all boats operated on state waters to be registered, with the following exceptions:

  • Inflatable watercraft measuring 7 ft or shorter.
  • Canoes and kayaks:
    • 13 ft or shorter.
      AND
    • Not propelled by a sail or motor.
  • Boats registered out of state being operated in Iowa for 60 days and under.

If you're not sure whether your boat requires registration, call the IA Department of Natural Resources at (515) 725-8200 or email for clarification.

Registration Procedures for Boats in Iowa

To apply for an original boat registration with the Iowa DNR, provide the following items at your county recorder's/registrar's office:

Iowa boat registrations are valid for 3 years and expire on April 30th of the renewal year.

Fees for Iowa Boat Registration

The IA Department of Natural Resources' vessel registration fees change from year to year. Take a look at the fee schedule on their boating registration page for the most up-to-date registration and renewal fees.

Boat Registration Renewals & Replacements

Registrations are valid for 3 years and expire on April 30th of the renewal year. You can renew your registration starting January 1st of your vessel registration's renewal year. If you renew your registration late, you will pay a $5 penalty.

When its time to renew, simply take your current boat registration card AND the applicable renewal fees to your county recorder's/registrar's office.

Replace a Lost Registration

If your boat registration is lost or destroyed, you can apply for a duplicate by providing the following at your county registrar's/recorder's office:

Boater Qualifications in Iowa

If you're between 12 and 17 years old and want to operate watercraft with 10 horsepower or more, you'll need to complete a DNR-approved boater education course.

After completing the course, you'll be given a watercraft safety certificate; you must be able to show the certificate whenever requested by Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officers.

You have the option of completing your boater education requirement:

  • Using a home-study boating education course.
  • Online through an approved education provider.

Head over to the Iowa DNR's boater education page for approved online boating education providers AND contact information to request the necessary home-study materials. 

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