You just bought a boat and are anxious to start using it.  But, before you can legally use it on public waterways, you likely need to register it with your state.

What is a Boat Registration?

Whereas a boat title designates who has legal ownership of a boat, the registration dictates whether the vessel can be legally docked, stored, moored and/or operated on public waters within that state. Nearly all motorized boats and even some non-motorized vessels are required to be registered.

When you register your boat, you will need to pay a fee.  The amount typically varies based on the size of the boat.  These fees are intended to help fund aquatic safety, conservation and facilities management projects.

What are the Boat Registration Requirements for My State?

The boat registration requirements vary by state.  To see a quick summary of what is needed and applicable fees where you live, check out this interactive map by  Just click on your state to see a list of the registration requirements and fees.

Please note that where and how you register your boat trailer may differ.  This will be discussed a little later.

Where Do I Register My Boat?

If you are registering a boat for the first time, will likely need to do it in person.  The state agency that issues boat registrations varies from state to state.  In some states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles it.  In others, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Parks Department is responsible.

To find out where to go to register a boat in your area, visit the agency’s website for your state.  You can easily find the proper website by checking out this map from Discover Boating.

Boat registrations are usually good for 2 to 3 years.  After that, you can easily renew by going online or mailing a check to the appropriate state agency.

Where Do I Register My Trailer?

Where you register your trailer often differs from where you register your boat.  For example, here in Texas, I register my boats with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department but go to the DMV to register my trailers.

To find out which agency is responsible where you live, do an online search with the terms “boat trailer registration [state]” without the quotes or brackets.  For example, boat trailer registration Florida.

Finally, it is important to note that some states require trailers to be inspected before they can be registered.  The best bet is to go online or contact your state agency to determine the requirements for your state before making the trip.

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