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How to Register a Boat or Pleasure Craft

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Boat owners can register their vessels in one of two methods: through a Vessel Registration, which provides you with state-issued Certificate of Number, and through a Vessel Documentation, which is federally documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. Vessels that need to be registered include sailboats, mechanically propelled vessels, powerboats, and motor-powered boats, while canoes and kayaks are exempt.

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All undocumented vessels that have propulsion machinery must be registered in the state where they are principally used. The Certificate of Number has to be displayed on your vessel, and if you move your vessel to another state, the current Certificate will be valid for 60 days. Numbers have to be either painted or permanently attached to each side of the forward half of the vessel. If you transfer your vessel, or it gets stolen, lost or destroyed, you have to report it within 15 days. If there are any changes to the owner's address,they also have to be reported within 15 days.

Boats can be registered either in person or by mail. In order to register a boat, you will have to submit a completed boat registration form, along with a bill of sale, to prove that you are the owner, pay the applicable registration fees, which vary depending on the vessel class, and can range between $15 and $100.

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