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Boat Registration and Licenses in Tennessee

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Tennessee Boat Registration & Licenses

Vessel registrations in Tennessee are overseen by the TN Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

On this page, we'll outline the basics of boat registration AND the qualifications needed to legally operate watercraft on The Volunteer State's waters.

Boats to Register in Tennessee

The TWRA requires registration for all:

  • Mechanically-powered vessels.
  • Sailboats.

You do NOT need to register:

  • Watercraft propelled by paddles or oars, like:
    • Canoes.
    • Kayaks.
    • Rowboats.
  • Boats registered out-of-state operating in TN for no more than 60 days.
  • Vessels from another country temporarily using Tennessee waters.
  • Lifeboats.

If you aren't sure if your vessel requires registration, call the Wildlife Resources Agency's boat registration number, (615) 781-6585, for assistance.

Register Your Vessel in TN

The steps to register your boat with the TN Wildlife Resources Agency differ depending on whether you purchased the boat from a dealership OR a private seller.

Regardless of how you bought the vessel, you can opt to register it for 1 year, 2 years, OR 3 years.

Boats Bought from Dealers

If you bought your vessel from a dealer, most of the registration process will be completed at the dealership. You will need:

  • A boat registration application, provided by the dealer.
    • The dealer will need to stamp your application as proof of sales tax paid.
  • The necessary vessel registration fees.

Then, you can submit the above items:

  • In person OR by mail to the address on the boat registration application.
  • Online by uploading your application to the TWRA's registration portal.

Vessels from Private Sellers

In general, to register a vessel bought from a private seller in Tennessee, you'll need to submit the following:

  • A completed boat registration application, available only at your local county clerk's office.
    • After paying sales tax, the county clerk will stamp your application as proof.
  • The bill of sale, to include:
    • The boats's make, model year, hull identification number, and building materials.
    • Signatures from the buyer AND seller.
  • Payment for the applicable boat registration fees.

Then, you can turn in the required items above:

  • By mail OR in person to the address on your application for boat registration.
  • Online by uploading your registration application on the TWRA's registration system.

NOTE: Certain TN counties may require additional items to register boats bought from private sellers—call your county clerk's office to confirm you have all the required materials.

TN Boat Registration Fees

The costs of registering your boat with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency are as follows:

  • Original and renewal vessel registration—Varies by validity period and boat length:
    • 1 year for boats measuring:
      • 16 ft or less: $13.
      • More than 16 ft and less than 26 ft: $25.
      • 26 ft and less than 40 ft: $38.
      • 40 ft or more: $51.
    • 2 years for vessels measuring:
      • 16 ft or fewer: $24.
      • Greater than 16 ft and less than 26 ft: $48.
      • 26 ft but less than 40 ft: $72.
      • 40 ft or greater: $97.
    • 3 years for watercraft measuring:
      • 16 ft or under: $35.
      • More than 16 ft but under 26 ft: $71.
      • 26 ft and less than 40 ft: $107.
      • 40 ft or longer: $142.
  • Duplicate registration card OR decals: $6.
  • Sales tax:
    • State: 7% of the purchase price.
    • Local: Varies by TN county—call your county clerk's office for specifics on what you may owe.

TN Boat Registration Renewals & Replacements

Your Tennessee boat registration will be valid for 1 year, 2 years, OR 3 years, depending on what you choose. Before your registration expires, the TWRA will send you a renewal notification.

You can renew your vessel registration:

Replace Lost Vessel Registration

If you damage or lose your boat registration or decals, you can request duplicates by submitting information about your vessel AND the $6 replacement fee:

  • Online using the TWRA's online portal.
  • In person at any business that sells TN Wildlife Resources Agency fishing and hunting licenses.

Tennessee Boater Requirements

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency requires all residents born after January 1, 1989 to complete a boater safety course AND pass a written boating exam BEFORE operating any vessels requiring registration. Upon passing the exam, you'll receive a boating safety education certificate.

You must be at least 11 years old to earn a boating safety education certificate.

Additionally, the following age restrictions apply to TN boaters, regardless of boating education course completion. If you're:

  • Younger than 12 years old you can drive motorboats with greater than 8.5 horsepower IF you're supervised by an adult.
  • Younger than 12 years old you can use personal watercraft (e.g. jet skis and Sea-Doos) AS LONG AS a supervising adult is on board with you.

You can study for the written boating exam through any of the following:

  • Online—Check out the TWRA's boating safety page for the approved online education providers.
  • Classroom—Refer to the TWRA's boating education page for a list of courses provided by TWRA-affiliated education providers in TN.
  • Home study—Call (615) 781-6682 to have study materials sent to you.

Once you've studied enough, you'll need to purchase a Type 600 boating safety exam permit ($10) from any business that sells TWRA hunting and fishing licenses. The permit receipt acts your admission to the written boating exam, which you will need to take at any TWRA testing location.

After passing the exam, hold onto your permit receipt—it acts as a temporary education certificate while you wait for your official boating safety education certificate to arrive.

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