The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NC WRC) is responsible for boat registration in NC and offers various services to promote boater safety. NC vessel registration is a system of identification and record-keeping on all motorized boats and large sailboats operated within the state.

The NCWRC’s enforcement division issues citations against irresponsible boaters and works to protect watercraft from theft. Your boat registration card must always be carried aboard when the vessel is in operation. Keep reading to educate yourself about the requirements to register a boat in NC, who needs safety education and whether your vessel is exempt from registration.

Requirements for Boater Registration in North Carolina

“What do you need to register a boat in North Carolina?” is a question many boaters may ask themselves. All motorized vessels meet the requirements to register a boat in NC, and sailboats over 14’ long used on public waters must also be registered. You must complete a registration form, the North Carolina Vessel Registration and Title Application (Form VL-1), bring payment for applicable fees and provide proof of ownership with one of the following:

  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO)
  • Bill of sale from the boat dealer
  • Original NC vessel title, out-of-state title or registration
  • Notarized bill of sale
  • Certificate of documentation with the U.S. Coast Guard

North Carolina boat registration instructions allow for registrations to be conducted by mail or at one of over 400 Wildlife Service Agent locations statewide. Titling is optional in North Carolina, but every boat that has a certificate of title must have a registration. Registration requirements also apply to U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels operating in NC for over 90 consecutive days, as well as vessels registered in other states using NC waters for the same timeframe. You may register your vessel for a period of one or three years.

If you prefer to process your registration by mail, send the above items along with your fee payment to:

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Transaction Management
1709 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

Exemptions from Boat Registration and Titling in North Carolina

As in other states, common boat registration exemptions in North Carolina extend to lifeboats and dinghies used only for emergency lifeboat purposes. The list exemptions includes vessels without engines, such as rowboats, canoes, kayaks and rafts operated only by paddles, oars or the current. Boats used only on private ponds fit the category of boats that do not require registration and titling in NC as do boats that are currently unused and kept on dry land.

North Carolina Boat Insurance

Various boat insurance rates in North Carolina can provide security to boaters, although the law does not require boat owners to have coverage. A lending company may require that you purchase a policy if you have a lien on your boat.

Boat insurance quotes in North Carolina are readily available online or by phone through many providers. You may be able to bundle insurance policies through some providers, as some may offer boat coverage, home insurance policies and/or auto insurance.

North Carolina Boat Registration Fees

If you are asking, “How much does it cost to register a boat in North Carolina?” you should know that the fees are highly variable. Fees are calculated with consideration of various factors, including the vessel’s length, whether it is titled in NC or not, the length of the registration period and how it was purchased. There are also different cost factors set for vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Boat registration fees in North Carolina begin at $35 for a vessel less than 14’ in length with a non-title registration period of one year. The highest current boat registration cost in NC is $190, for a new vessel over 26’ that is titled and registered for three years. The fee to obtain duplicate registration cards or decals is $8. You may call the NCWRC at (800) 628-3773 or email Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to ask about the specific registration fees for your vessel.

Renewing Your North Carolina Boat Registration

If you are wondering how to renew your boat registration in North Carolina, you should know that you will be able to renew boat registration online in NC a unique renewal number contained in your renewal notice. Simply log on to the NCWRC’s Automated License and Vessel Information Network (ALVIN) and follow the prompts.

You may also obtain boat registration renewal in NC over the phone by calling (800) 628-3773 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Just have your registration card handy and be prepared to pay the fees by credit card. If desired, you can also apply for your renewal in person at your local WRC office. Like the car registration renewal process, the state will send a renewal reminder notice well in advance of the expiration date of your vessel registration.

Replacing Your North Carolina Boat Registration

You should know how to replace your boat registration in North Carolina because you must request duplicate credentials as soon as possible once discovering that your documents have been damaged, lost or stolen. NC does not offer boaters the ability to replace a boat registration online, but you may send in your request by mail to the address provided above. Simply complete the Vessel Title Request Form and mail it with a check or money order for the $8 fee.

Boater Safety Courses in North Carolina

A boater safety course in North Carolina is available locally via classes taught by the NC WRC or online. If you were born on or after January 1, 1988, you must pass a North Carolina boating safety course and earn an NC boater education card to legally operate a motorized watercraft of 10 horsepower or more.

North Carolina Boater License

A boater license is not issued to recreational boaters in North Carolina. Instead of obtaining an in-person or online boating license, North Carolina boaters are required to obtain a boater safety education certificate, which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a boating license.

Last updated on Monday, March 9 2020.