Titling & Registration
What are the state requirements for registration and titling?
All states require pleasure boats to be registered and/or titled in order to operate legally in their jurisdiction. Unfortunately, at this time there is no national standardized format or procedure, so requirements and fees vary from state to state. Many states require payment of one-time sales or use tax at the time of registration.
Who can help me register/title my new boat?
When purchasing a new boat, the dealer will generally handle the initial registration and/or titling and sales tax payment for you. If you are financing your purchase, the lender will be listed as lienholder on the registration/title documents. It will be your responsibility to renew annually by return mailing the registration form along with the proper fee.
What if I buy a used boat?
A used or pre-owned boat will have an ownership history and it’s important you check with the proper state authorities where the boat is currently registered and/or titled for a lien search. This will tell you if the boat is financed, and in some cases may indicate any other claims that may be filed against it or the current owner. Any questions or concerns should be addressed with an attorney or a registration agent to be certain you understand the ownership status. You will need to gain clear title to the boat, while transferring it into your name. Any sales or use tax payment due at registration will also be your responsibility.
How do I find the registration office for my state?
For a directory of registration and titling contact information by state, please visit the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators’ Website at www.nasbla.org and go to the “Boating Law Administrators” page.
If you are financing your purchase, the lender (or its agent) may take the lead role in ordering and reviewing the lien search, paying off any outstanding claims, and transferring ownership into your name.
Should I document my boat with the US Coast Guard instead?
Most boats over 30’ in length are registered at the federal level, by documenting the vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information, please go to the “Understand U.S. Coast Guard Documentation of Your Boat” section of this Website.
Most boats are required to be registered in their state of use and all states have special boating laws and regulations. Registration is not the same as "Titling," which is required in most of the states where boating is a major recreation. A good place to find details is from members of the National Association of State Boating Laws Administrators (visit www.nasbla.org). Lenders and buyers will want to assure that a boat they loan or borrow on is registered and titled to make sure that there is only one borrower/owner.
Owners of many larger boats (those that qualify are typically 25- to 27-feet long and up) "document" their craft with the U.S. government. Most lenders will require a qualifying boat to be "documented" because it gives a greater level of "lien protection." There are also advantages, and costs, for the boat owner to obtain documentation. Marine lenders, "vessel documentation specialists," and admiralty attorneys are good sources for information and to get the job done.