Which Vessels Require Boat Registration?

By: Nadia Ibanez June 13, 2012
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If you live near an open body of water like a lake, ocean, or river, you may be one of the lucky few who get the chance to own a boat for your personal use. Once you've picked out your dream boat’s make and model, the next step to take is to register the toy with your state.

When it comes to boat registration, most states require different items. The place in which you will register the boat may also vary state to state.

If you are registering your first boat, or a new boat to add to your fleet’s repertoire, here are a few things to know about what to register and what not to register.

Do You or Don't You? Vessels and Boat Registration

Some states require you to register the following vessels:

  • Sail-powered vessels longer than eight feet.
  • Powerboats.
  • Commercial vessels that weigh at least five tons or are at least 30 feet long.
  • Any motorized boat of any length.
  • Sailboats that are 14 feet long or longer.

Smaller vessels like sailboats, a ship’s lifeboat, or a boat that is propelled by oars or paddles do not have to be registered with the state. Make sure to do some research or ask a state representative on what sorts of water toys do not have to be registered in your state.

NOTE: Your state will determine all of the boat definitions so make sure to consult your vehicle registration website for all of the details.

Where to Register your Boat

Before you take your boat to the open sea for a joyride, you will want to fill out your boat’s registration form and head down to your local agency that deals with registration.

In some states like California, New Jersey, and New York, you can register your boat with the state agency that handles driver's licenses or motor vehicle registrations. Other states, like Texas, require boat owners to register with the Department of Parks and Wildlife. Keep an eye out as to which office handles all of the state’s boating matters.

Depending on your state, you can either register your boat by mail, in person at your local vehicle registration office, or online.

Boat Registration Documents and Fees

Some required registration items are a completed boat application, bill of sale, and an application fee, which varies by state.

Additionally, some states require boat drivers to have a boating safety certificate or even a boater’s license.

Do you already own a boat? Did your state require you register it?

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