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Boat Registration and Licenses in South Carolina

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Boat Registration and Licenses in South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) handles all vessel titling and registrations.

Continue scrolling for complete instructions on how to title and register your boat AND to learn about the qualifications needed to operate watercraft on The Palmetto State's waters.

SC Boats You Must Register & Title

The South Carolina DNR requires ALL vessels propelled by mechanical devices to be registered.

Additionally, you're required to title ALL watercraft used primarily on SC waters, including:

  • Sailboats.
  • Outboard motors with 5 horsepower or more.

Exemptions to the DNR's titling requirement include:

  • Vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Windsurfers.
  • Watercraft propelled by humans (with instruments like oars or paddles).
  • Outboard motors with less than 5 horsepower.

If you aren't sure whether your vessel requires a title and/or registration, call the SC Department of Natural Resources at (800) 277-4301.

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Title & Register Your Boat in SC

After purchasing a vessel, you have 30 days to title and/or register it with the SC Department of Natural Resources before late fees apply.

In general, to title and/or register your boat in South Carolina you'll need to present the following items at a DNR boating office location:

  • A completed Watercraft/Outboard Motor Application (Form SCDNR BTR-1).
    • You'll need to turn in a notarized bill of sale, which is included in the application.
  • Any of the following proof of ownership documents:
    • The boat's current, properly assigned title.
      • If your vessel did not require a title, provide a written explanation of why your boat is exempt AND a tracing or photograph of the hull identification number (HIN).
    • A Manufacturer's Statement of Origin for brand new boats purchased from a dealer.
  • If your watercraft was previously titled, registered, OR purchased out-of-state:
    • The current registration card.
    • A pencil tracing or photograph of the vessel's HIN.
  • Payment for all boat title and registration fees and taxes.

Depending on how you acquired the vessel (e.g. if the boat is homemade or you inherited it), you may need to take additional steps to complete your title and registration application. For specifics on what you'll need to do in these special situations, call the SC Department of Natural Resources' boater registration office at (803) 734-3857 OR check out their boat title/registration page.

SC Vessel Registration & Title Fees

The costs to title and/or register your boat with the South Carolina DNR are as follows:

  • SC title AND registration for:
    • New boats: $40.
    • Transferring ownership of a vessel: $16.
    • Sailboats with motorized propulsion: $40.
  • Title ONLY for:
    • Sailboats propelled only by the wind: $10.
    • Non-motorized vessels: $10.
  • Boat registration renewal: $30.
  • Replacement:
    • Boat title: $5.
    • Registration card: $5.
    • Vessel decals: $5.
  • Additional late fee for:
    • Initial title/registration applications received AFTER:
      • 30 days have passed from the boat's purchase date: $15.
      • 60 days have elapsed since the sale date: $30.
    • Registration renewals received MORE THAN:
      • 30 days after the vessel's expiration date: $15.
      • 60 days after the registration's expired: $30.
  • Casual excise tax (for all watercraft EXCEPT those purchased from an out-of-state dealer): 5% of the boat's sale price.
    • Maximum casual excise tax: $300.
  • Use tax (for vessels bought from out-of-state dealers): 5% of the boat's purchase price.

Renew Your South Carolina Boat Registration

South Carolina boat registrations can be renewed:

If you have questions about renewing your vessel registration, call the SC Department of Natural Resources' boat registration office at (803) 734-3857.

Replacement SC Title & Registration

If your boat title, registration card, or decals are lost or damaged, you can request replacements by submitting:

You can turn in the items above:

  • In person at a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources boating office.
    OR
  • For replacement registration cards and/or decals, by mail to:
    • SCDNR Boating
    • Attn: Renewal
    • P.O. Box 167
    • Columbia, SC 29202

Boater Qualifications in South Carolina

In South Carolina, if you're younger than 16 years old, you can ONLY operate a boat with 15 hp or more if you:

  • Complete a state-approved boating safety class.
    OR
  • Are supervised by an adult who's at least 18 years old.

You can fulfill the Department of Natural Resource's boating education requirement:

Keep in mind, taking a boating safety course in South Carolina could save you a boatload on insurance! Head over to our boat insurance page for quotes and more information on purchasing coverage for your vessel.

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