Boat Registration and Licenses in Michigan

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Boat Registration and Licenses in Michigan

The Michigan Secretary of State handles all boat registrations and renewals. When you visit your local branch office and follow each step of the process (see below). Once you meet all requirements, the MI SOS will issue a Certificate of Number (registration) and validation decals.

Keep reading to find out exactly how to proceed with your boat registration in Michigan.

What to Register

  • All vessels used on the state's waterways (public and private).


  • Vessels 16 ft long or less that are powered by oars or paddles and are not used for commercial or rental purposes.
  • Rafts, surfboards, sailboards, and swim floats (all sizes).
  • Canoes and kayaks that don't have a motor and aren't used for rental or commercial purposes.
  • Vessels currently registered in another state that are only being used in Michigan on a temporary basis.

Boat Requirements and Procedures

  1. Locate your title or bill of sale.
  2. Be prepared to pay the registration fee.
  3. Register your vessel at your nearest Secretary of State (SOS) branch office.

Once you obtain the registration, be sure you display your Certificate of Number appropriately. The state has rigid guidelines.


Registration fees greatly vary, depending on the length and type of your vessel.

Renewals and Replacements

Your boat registration is valid for 3 years, and expires on March 31 of the final year.

Renew in Person

If your name, address, or boat information has changed since your last registration, you must renew at a local MI branch office. Bring your renewal notice and fee payment.

Renew by Mail

If you receive a renewal notice in the mail, you can easily renew your boat registration without actually paying a visit to the Secretary of State.

  1. Make your check or money order payable to the State of Michigan; VISA, MasterCard, or Discover Card credit cards are also accepted for payment.
  2. Send your renewal notice and fee payment in the envelope provided.
  3. Your renewal material will be mailed to you within 14 business days.

Renew Online

NOTE: If your address has changed, or your registration is expired, you cannot renew online.

To renew your Michigan boat registration online:

  1. Go to the renewal site and enter your PIN. (If you don't have one, you must renew in person or by mail.)
  2. Follow the instructions given to complete your renewal process.
  3. Pay your fee with your valid VISA, MasterCard, or Discover Card credit card.

Replace Lost Registration

To replace lost boat registration in Michigan, you can submit a request online or visit a branch office.

You will need to locate your boat number and personal identification. If you process your request online, also be prepared to pay with a VISA, MasterCard or Discover debit or credit card. There is a small online processing fee.

Boater License

Although the state does not issue a boater license, if you were born after December 31, 1978, you must have a boating safety certificate to operate a personal watercraft.

Obtain your certificate by completing a state-approved safety education class.

Boat Insurance in Michigan

While boat insurance isn't a requirement for registering and titling your boat in Michigan, you should consider getting an adequate policy in case you are involved in a boat collision. For more information, please read our page about Boat Insurance in Michigan.

Boater Safety Courses

Fulfill your safety education requirement by taking a classroom-setting boating class offered by the state. Dates and time vary by location.

Even if you're not required to take a class, doing so allows you to become a safer boater, while possibly reducing your insurance rates in the process.

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