Residents will need to have Wisconsin boat registration decals issued by the Department of Natural Resource (DNR) in order to operate certain water vessels. WI DNR boat registration is required for motorized boats over 12 feet in length. Learn more about registering a boat in Wisconsin in the following sections.

Requirements for Boater Registration in Wisconsin

Before registering a boat in Wisconsin, applicants are required to provide proper titling for boats over 16 feet in length. When a boat is bought through a dealership, the dealer will apply for the title. Vessel registration requires a registration and certificate of title application be completed, proof of ownership like a boat bill of sale and payment of applicable fees.

Documents can be mailed or dropped off to a DNR office. Wisconsin boaters can photocopy his or her application to use as a temporary registration until the official one arrives. First time registration requires information on the manufacturer, hull material, type of propulsion, HIN, model, year and proof that sales taxes have been paid.

Exemptions from Registration and Titling in Wisconsin

Many boaters often ask if every type of water vessel needs a WI DNR boat registration and there are some exceptions. The main rule of thumb for registration is the 12-foot length requirement and motor. Kayak, rowboat and canoe registrations are not required in Wisconsin because of the fact that they do not have motors.

Foreign boats that are temporarily using Wisconsin waters do not need a registration, either. This also applies to out-of-state vessels using Wisconsin waters for a total of 60 consecutive days. Registration is not needed when the boat is federally recognized by an American Indian tribe or band.

Wisconsin Boat Insurance

Boat insurance is not required when registering a boat, but it is necessary to cover any accidents or damage to a boat. Boat insurance protects not only the boat but also the owner’s finances in the instance of an accident. Documented vessel registration is necessary when applying for insurance.

Boat insurance works like car insurance and has various coverage options. Comprehensive coverage protects against damages caused by anything other than a collision. While collision coverage is for damages caused by a waterway accident.

Bodily injury covers medical payments, court fees and defensive costs associated with a boating accident. Property damage relates to any damage caused to another person’s property. Boaters can choose which coverages to add when registering a boat and fees vary by company and coverage type.

Wisconsin Boat Registration Fees

Boat registration fees are contingent on the boat type, length and place of purchase. Boaters are also required to pay a 5 percent sales tax when purchasing a water vessel. Wisconsin boat registration fees are used to keep the waterways safe and clean for all boaters.

Registering a boat in WI also contributes to the education of knowledgeable boat operation in the state. The current schedule for motorized boats is as follows:

  • Under 16 feet – $27 and $22 when renewing
  • 16 feet to 26 feet – $37 and $32 when renewing
  • 26 feet to 40 feet – $65 and $60 when renewing
  • Any boat over 40 feet – $105 and $100 when renewing

Renewing Your Wisconsin Boat Registration

A Wisconsin boat registration renewal will need to be completed every three years. Vessel registration renewal can be completed in person at a DNR office, online or by mail. Registering a boat online during the renewal period requires a DNR customer number, mailing address, boat registration number and payment via credit card.

Renewing a registration through mail means payment and the renewal notice will need to be sent to the specified DNR office. If there is no notice, boaters will need to complete a Boat Registration and Titling Application form. In-person renewal requires the renewal notice and payment to be presented at a Department of Natural Resource office.

Replacing Your Wisconsin Boat Registration

The Department of Natural Resources will need to know the reason for a boat registration replacement such as it being lost, stolen or destroyed. There are a few fees to pay when replacing boat documents.

A replacement registration card and expiration decals will cost $2.50 each. A replacement title costs $5. Boaters who need a boat registration replacement will be required to fill out a Boat Registration and Titling Application, present a verifiable ID and pay applicable fees.

Boater Safety Course in Wisconsin

Boat registration requirements state that any boat operator born after January 1, 1989 will need to attend a boater safety course before operating a water vessel. DNR offers third party online courses at the convenience of boaters. Classroom courses that will meet new boat registration requirements are offered in March, April, May and June.

Prior to signing up for class, students will need to obtain a DNR customer ID through a DNR office. The course will cover topics like navigation, non-lateral markets, handling boating emergencies. There will be a 25-question certification exam that needs to be passed with at least 80 percent score before obtaining a temporary certificate.

Note: A permanent boating certificate will later be mailed to the boater.

Wisconsin Boater Licenses

Boat registration decals will be issued to boaters who have completed a boater safety course and have successfully registered a boat. Wisconsin does not have boater licenses but instead uses the boater safety course certificate to regulate boat operators.

The course is for boat operators born after January 1, 1989. Any boater born before this date can use a valid driver’s license. Boaters should have their certificate on their person when operating a water vessel, same as when operating a car.

Last updated on Monday, March 9 2020.