Boat registration in Tennessee is a must for any mechanically powered vessel or sailboat principally used in TN waters. Although Tennessee vessel registration extends to most watercraft, the state does not require boats to be titled.

The requirements to register a boat in TN are the same state-wide, but each county’s process may vary slightly. Therefore, it is important that you check with the local county clerk’s office to get county-specific instructions.  General information on registration is outlined in the following sections.

Requirements for Boater Registration in Tennessee

“What do you need to register a boat in Tennessee?” is one of the first questions a new boat owner should ask. The first step is obtaining a TN boat registration form from the closest county clerk’s office. Registration instructions dictate across all counties that certification of sales tax paid upon purchase must be provided for boats that have never previously been registered.

Note: The county clerk’s office will stamp the application for registration as “tax paid.”

Requirements to register a boat in Tennessee that has previously been registered include a bill of sale showing last and new ownership. TN boat registration form applications must then be mailed or delivered in person to the address indicated on the form. All registration applications for boats take about 30 days to process.

Exemptions From Boat Registration and Titling in Tennessee

Common boat registration exemptions in Tennessee include non-motored vessels or anything powered by paddles or oars. Also, the list of which boats are exempt from registration in Tennessee includes boats registered in other states that will be on TN waters for fewer than 60 days. As a matter of state policy, no boats of any type need a certificate of title in Tennessee.

Tennessee Boat Insurance

Boat insurance rates in Tennessee are offered by insurance agents throughout the state, but these types of policies are not a legal requirement for obtaining boat registration. Competitive boat insurance quotes in TN are available for boaters looking to protect their assets in the event of a watercraft being lost, damaged or stolen, or in accidents that result in personal injury.

Participation in a boat insurance program in Tennessee may be necessary if there is a lien on your vessel. When looking for prices, you may wish to see if your home or auto insurance provider offers boat insurance for cheaper bundle prices.

Tennessee Boat Registration Fees

If you are wondering about registration costs, you should know that boat registration fees in Tennessee are statewide, and do not vary by county. Boat registration costs in Tennessee are as follows:

  • Vessels 16’ and under: $13; $24; $35
  • Vessels 16’ to less than 20’: $25; $48; $71
  • Vessels 26’ to less than 40’: $38; $72; $107
  • Vessels 40’ or longer: $51; $97; $142

Renewing Your Tennessee Boat Registration

You can renew boat registration online in Tennessee and should be aware of how to renew your boat registration in Tennessee as all registrations eventually expire, and expired registrations may inhibit your ability to legally operate a boat in the state. Renewal can also be handled in person at any business where Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) hunting and fishing licenses are sold, including large mass retailers like Wal-Mart.

The white copy of your renewal is mailed in for processing while the yellow copy serves as a temporary proof of registration. Boaters should carry the yellow temporary registration document on the vessel any time it is in operation, to prove registration status if stopped by a marine law enforcement officer. Like the car registration renewal process, this procedure is crucial to vessel owners.

Alternatively, boat registration renewal in Tennessee can be handled by mailing the renewal notice received in the mail to the address below. The boat registration TN number will be required and it’s a good idea to also have the TWRA ID number at hand. Registration decals are typically received within 2 to 3 weeks.

Boat Registration
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
P.O. Box 41729
Nashville, TN 37204

Replacing Your Tennessee Boat Registration

To replace registration document, apply for a duplicate from the TWRA. Part of how to replace your boat registration in Tennessee includes paying a fee of about $7. While boaters cannot replace registration online, they can renew online in lieu of a replacement.

Boater Safety Courses in Tennessee

All boaters are required to take a safety course if they plan to operate a vessel with more than 8.5 horsepower or a sailboat that has a secondary motorized method of propulsion. This Tennessee boating safety course law is only applicable to residents born after January 1, 1989. While there are many ways to take an official boater safety course in Tennessee, the most convenient option is usually an online class.

Boating safety education is required of anyone 12 and older operating a vessel, and boaters must possess the Boating Safety Education Certificate on their person while boating. Boating safety exams will not be administered to anyone under the age of 12, nor will certification be issued. Keep in mind that it is illegal to operate a vessel powered by more than 8.5 horsepower without this certification.

Tennessee Boater License

An in-person or online boating license is equivalent to a Boating Safety Education Certificate. The initial boater license is a permit, the Type 600 Boating Safety Exam permit. A mandatory Tennessee boating license will be issued to boaters age 12 and older once an approved TWRA representative has administered the boating safety exam.

If lost, replace this card by visiting any TWRA license agent to receive a temporary Type 605 card to use for two weeks while the permanent replacement is processed and mailed.

Last updated on Monday, March 9 2020.