No matter what state you go in the USA, all motorized boats must be registered before you can legally operate them.  If you’ve already registered your boat then all you need to do is be sure your registration is up-to-date.  Although the exact procedure varies from state to state, it’s pretty similar everywhere.

  • Boat registrations are usually good for two years. Like cars and trucks, state motor vehicle departments send boat owners renewal reminders by mail, typically, one month prior to the expiration date.
  • Boat owners must complete the form provided, include a check covering appropriate fees, and return by mail. The motor vehicle department will then process the boat registration and send a new registration and validation decal to the boat owner.  Most states will allow you to renew your registration online where you can pay via credit card.
  • Usually boaters simply place the decal on top of the expired one (on the hull of the boat).  Once registered, your boat registration numbers will stay the same, so there is no need to remove your old decals.  If you do prefer to remove last year’s sticker, then be sure you place the new sticker within six inches of the last of your boat registration numbers.
  • Like a car or truck, the registration must be on board the boat when it is being operated.
  • Penalties for operating boats with expired registrations can be expensive and may result in fines up in the thousands of dollars and even the possibility of jail time. If you missed the mailed copy of your boat registration renewal, simply go online to your state of residence and complete the process.   If your boat registration has been expired for a long time (typically longer than 48 months) then you will probably need to visit the registry in person.

So, if your boat’s registration is expired, and you plan to head out to the water, renew your boat registration ASAP!