Boat Registration and Licenses in Michigan

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Boat Registration and Licenses in Michigan

The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) handles all boat titling and registration. Keep reading to learn more about titling and registering your vessel as well as the qualifications needed to operate boats in The Great Lake State.

MI Vessels to Title & Register

The Michigan SOS requires registration for all vessels used on public waters. The only exemptions are:

  • Vessels 16 ft. long or less, powered by oars or paddles AND 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.
  • Watercraft currently registered in another state being used in Michigan on a temporary basis.

Additionally, the following types of watercraft must be titled with the MI SOS:

  • Vessels measuring 20 ft. or more in length.
  • Boats with permanent motors.

Contact the SOS if you're unsure about whether your boat requires a title and/or registration.

Title & Register Your Boat

To title and/or register your boat with the MI Secretary of State, visit your local SOS office with the following:

Your boat registration will be valid for 3 years and expires on March 31 of the final registration year. Once you obtain the registration, be sure you display your Certificate of Number according to the state's guidelines.

Michigan Boat Title & Registration Fees

The fees associated with titling and registering your boat with the Michigan Secretary of State are as follows:

  • Origina/renewal registration for:
    • Non-motorized watercraft:
      • NOT canoes or kayaks: $9.
      • Canoes and kayaks: $5.
    • Motorized canoes: $14
    • Motorized motorboats under 12 ft. in length: $14.
    • Motorized vessels measuring at least:
      • 12 ft but under 16 ft: $17.
      • 16 ft but under 21 ft: $42.
      • 21 ft but under 28 ft: $115.
      • 28 ft but under 35 ft: $168.
      • 35 ft but under 42 ft: $244.
      • 42 ft but under 50 ft: $280.
      • 50 ft and longer: $448.
    • Pontoons: $23.
  • Boat title: $5.
  • Transfer of ownership fee (in addition to applicable title/registration fees): $2.
  • Duplicate:
    • Registration decals: Free.
    • Registration certificate: $2.
    • Boat title: $15.
  • Use tax: 6% of the vessel's purchase price.

MI Vessel Renewals & Replacements

Your boat registration is valid for 3 years, and expires on March 31 of the last year. The Michigan SOS will mail you a renewal notice before your registration expires.

To renew your registration with the MI Secretary of State, submit information about your boat AND the applicable renewal fees:

Allow at least 14 business days for your new registration to arrive in the mail.

Replacement Title & Registration

If your watercraft's title or registration is damaged or lost, you can request a replacement by providing information about your vessel AND the necessary duplicate title/registration fees:

Boater License

The MI Secretary of State imposes age restrictions around operation of certain watercraft.

If you are:

  • Younger than 12 years old, you:
    • Can operate motorboats with 6 HP or less without supervision.
    • Can operate motorized vessels with more than 6 up to 35 HP ONLY IF you:
      • Hold a boating safety certificate.
        AND
      • Are accompanied by a supervisor who's at least 16 years old.
  • Born on or after July 1, 1996: You must have a boating safety certificate to operate boats on Michigan state waters.
  • Younger than 14 years old: You CANNOT operate a personal watercraft.
  • 14 OR 15 years old—You can operate a personal watercraft ONLY IF you:
    • Have a boating safety certificate.
      AND
    • Are supervised by someone on board who's at least 21 years old OR by your parent or legal guardian who's no more than 100 ft away.
  • At least 16 years old AND born after December 31, 1978: You can operate a personal watercraft as long as you have a boating safety certificate.

You can earn your boating safety certificate by completing a boater education course and passing a proficiency exam:

  • Online with an approved education provider, listed on the MI Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) boating safety page.
  • In the classroom with a:

In addition to making you a better boater, completing a boating safety course may also score you discounts on boat insurance. Even if you're not required to take a course, enrolling in one will benefit your boating skills AND wallet.

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