Do I Need Plates On My Boat Trailer: State By State Requirements

A view of a license plate on a boat trailer sitting in the driveway.

Boat trailer registration requirements vary from state to state. Here you will be able to see if your state requires license plates on your size boat trailer.


While the answer is probably “YES” that you would be required to register and display a license plate on your boat trailer, it could be that you don’t need to do this where you live. However, you may want to plate it anyway.


Let’s look at the list of all 50 states and their requirements in the below table. However, don’t stop after you have your answer, because you just might want to register anyway. Explanation after this list of state requirements.



Boat Trailer Registration/Plate Requirements For Each State


StateBoat Trailer Registration Requirement
AlabamaBoat trailers are not registered in Alabama.
AlaskaAll trailers require a licence plate.
ArizonaTrailers registrations are determined by whether or not the trailer will be used for commercial purposes, and on the weight of the trailer (both as certified by the owner). A trailer may be eligible for a regular registration (one, two or five year) or a permanent registration.

Permanent registration will be issued for the following:

Noncommercial trailers with a declared gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 10,000 lbs or less (one-time $125 registration fee.
Permanent registration is a one-time fee and a PERM license plate tab is issued. There is no annual billing for vehicle license tax or registration fees. If the trailer has a special plate, only the fee for the plate will be billed annually.

The public safety fee is collected at the initial registration and for each transfer of ownership.
ArkansasAll trailers drawn by automobiles and Class One trucks, and all boat trailers and
travel trailers drawn by any truck, which truck has a load capacity of one (1) ton or less, a
triennial fee of twenty-one dollars ($21.00). Provided, however, every owner of a trailer drawn
by automobiles and Class One trucks, and all boat trailers and travel trailers drawn by any truck,
purchased or otherwise acquired on or after January 1, 2002 shall pay thirty-six dollars ($36.00)
for the issuance of a permanent registration that shall remain valid, without renewal, until the
owner of the trailer sells or otherwise disposes of the trailer for which the registration is issued.
Permanent registration issued under this subdivision (a)(3)(I)(i)(a )(1 ) shall not be transferred to
other owners or other vehicles, and shall not be replaced under 27-14-602(b)(6). Any owner of a
trailer registered under the provisions of this subdivision before January 1, 2002 may, at his or
her option, upon expiration of such registration, pay thirty-six dollars ($36.00) for the issuance of
a permanent registration as authorized in this subdivision
CaliforniaDefinitely call the California DMV on this one. It is difficult to understand the full law on trailers there. It is possible the trailers under #3000 GVW may not need registration, but again, call them. They do have a PTI program though.

The PTI program is a registration program used for all trailers, except trailer coaches and park trailers. ... Once issued, the PTI license plate remains with the vehicle permanently. A service fee is charged every 5 years to maintain the record.
ColoradoThe State of Colorado titles and registers ALL trailers.
ConnecticutThe State of Connecticut registers ALL trailers.
DelawareBoat trailers must be titled and registered at the Division of Motor Vehicles
FloridaYour boat trailer will need to be registered in the state of Florida.
GeorgiaAll boat trailers must be registered with the Georgia Motor Vehicle Division.
HawaiiYes, you will need to register your boat trailer in the state of Hawaii.
IdahoYour boat trailer will need to be titled and registered in Idaho.
IllinoisLicense plate registration is required for you boat trailer in Illinois
IndianaYes, register your Indiana boat trailer.
IowaTo register your trailer, fill out the proper forms and pay the fees at the county treasurer's office. If you are not an Iowa resident, your trailer must still have valid plates and registration papers from your home state if your home state requires registration for the type of trailer you are towing.
KansasBoat trailers must be titled and registered if the gross operating weight is 2,001 pounds or more.
KentuckyPrivately owned and operated trailers used for the transportation of boats, luggage, personal effects, farm products, farm suppliers or farm equipment do not require registration. However, All trailers must be titled in Kentucky.
LouisianaIt is required to register and plate your boat trailer in Louisiana.
MaineYes, register your boat trailer in Maine.
MarylandAll trailers are subject to the same motor vehicle laws as passenger vehicles. They must be titled and if registration is desired, they must be safety inspected (if they are used vehicles).
MassachusettsDepending on the size of the trailer, you may only be required to register it, but not title it. If the trailer and its cargo have a combined weight of 3,000 lbs. or less, you are not required by the MA RMV to title it.
MichiganAll trailers used on Michigan roads must be registered and display valid license plates.
MinnesotaIf your trailer is a small utility trailer that has 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or under, it would receive a permanent Minnesota registration sticker. The registration sticker issued is displayed on the tongue of the trailer and no plate is required.

Registered trailers weighing over 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight require one license plate with yearly registration.
MississippiYou do have to register and plate your boat trailer in Mississippi.
However, boat trailers may be voluntarily titled if less than 5000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW.) If the trailer is over 5000 pounds GVW, then it is required to be titled.​
MissouriMissouri requires the owner of a boat trailer to title and register it.
MontanaYou are required to title and register your boat trailer in Montana.
NebraskaNebraska's motor vehicles department requires all cars and trailers to be registered with the state in order to be validly driven on public streets and highways.
NevadaBoat trailers must be registered to be operated on public streets.
New HampshireIt seems that you will need to register your boat trailer in New Hampshire, but this state has a strange process. Go to the DMV site at:
New JerseyTrailers (manufactured or homemade) weighing less than 2,500 lbs. must be registered but are exempt from titling; if a trailer weighs more than 2,500 lbs. (unladen) it must be titled
New MexicoYou do have to register your boat trailer in New Mexico. You will also need a weight certificate. It's required if Title does not indicate the empty weight of the trailer.
New YorkRegistering your boat trailer in New York is required.
North CarolinaDepartment of Motor Vehicles, said trailers are not required to be inspected, but they do need to be registered.
North DakotaNo.You are not required to register a trailer that hauls a boat, because of this statement form . ALL trailers, semi-trailers, and farm trailers are required to be titled and licensed except:
• Trailers with a gross weight of 1,500 pounds or less and not for hire or commercial use.
• Trailers used to haul recreational vehicles such as a motorcycle not qualified for registration, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats, and personal watercraft.
OhioYes you will need to register your boat trailer in Ohio. The extra kicker is that you have to supply a weight card showing the empty weight of the trailer. (Not sure how they expect you to remove the boat when you aren't allowed on the road without plates)
OklahomaRgistration is not required for your boat trailer in Oklahoma.
Effective July 1, 2008, at the option of the owner, noncommercial trailers, such as utility and boat trailers may be registered only (no title issued) for an annual fee of $12.00.
OregonTrailers operated on Oregon's public roads must be titled and registered with DMV. ... Trailers with a loaded weight of 1,800 pounds or less are exempt from title and registration requirements.
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania requires your boat trailer to be titled and registered.
Rhode IslandTo use your boat trailer on public roadways, you need to register it.
South CarolinaTrailers weighing less than 2,500 pounds are not required to be licensed or registered. If yours is over the 2500 lbs, you will have to register.
South DakotaAccording to the North Dakota Department Of Transportation, you do not need to register your personal boat trailer.

This is because they list it in their "trailers exempt from registration" list:
• Trailers with a gross weight of 1,500 pounds or less and not for hire or commercial use.
• Trailers used to haul recreational vehicles such as a motorcycle not qualified for
registration, ATVs, snowmobiles, boats, and personal watercraft.
TennesseeThe State of Tennessee does not require boat trailers to be registered or licensed.
TexasTexas requires all boat trailers to be registered. Just a note: trailers over #4000 GVW are titled, and those under are not.
UtahEvery trailer operated in Utah, including travel and tent trailers, weighing more than 750 lbs, must be titled and registered.
VermontVermont requires registration on your boat trailer. Be sure to check out their requirements for trailer brakes on trailers grossing over #3,000.
VirginiaYou must register any kind of trailer with the Virginia DMV. You can choose to register annually, bi-annually, or permanently.
WashingtonYou are required to have plates on your boat trailer in Washington. However, you can have "intermittent use" plates if your empty trailer is under #2,000 (which I'm sure it is). This type of plate is quite inexpensive.
West VirginiaWest Virginia requires all boat trailers to be registered.
WisconsinA title and registration is required for trailers operated over 3,000 pounds. A title and registration is not required for trailers operated at or less than 3,000 pounds gross weight.
WyomingWyoming requires all boat trailers to be registered. You will not be able to get registration without a title. If it doesn't have a title, you will have to work that out first in order to be granted use on public roads.



Register For Your Boat Trailer Plate Anyway


A text image stating to "do it anyway" with white text on a black background.Consider you’re not required to register and plate your boat trailer. But you decide to take it to a neighboring state which does require a licence plate to be displayed on boat trailers. You would be subject to a violation in that state.


You must abide by the laws of the state in which you are using your boat trailer on the road. It doesn’t mean you will get a ticket. What it does mean, is that you are violating state law and you could get a ticket.



Border Living Between States


I live on the border between two states that have very different laws regarding registration of boat trailers. I live in Illinois, but I register all my “toys” in Wisconsin.


I do this because that’s where I primarily use them. So I feel that is the state that should get the revenue from me. In fact, not only do I register my boats, ATVs, snowmobiles and other toys there (which is allowable by law as an Illinois resident), I also title my trailers in Wisconsin as well, because I own a rental home in wisconsin and keep them at that proerty (wink, wink).


Now from the perspective on the toys themselves, they’re not vehicles for the road. So the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles is not involved. It is the WDNR (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). Remember, I don’t claim to own any real estate in Wisconsin with regards to the WDNR, so there’s no tie to residency. (Again, I do own rental real estate in Wisconsin, but that’s never brought up, nor would it matter for these toys.)



Now In The Case Of The Boat Trailer


A map with Wisconsin stating trailers do not require a license plate is its GVWR is under 3,000 pounds, and Illinois stating that all trailers on roadways require a license plate.In Wisconsin a title and registration are required for trailers over 3,000 pounds GVW. A title and registration is not required for trailers at or less than 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. So some of my boat trailers have been used without plates. However, if I didn’t live just 600 feet from Wisconsin, I would register and plate all my trailers anyway, just to avoid getting a ticket on my way to Wisconsin.


In the case of a trailer that requires title and registration for use on the roadways, I can still make that happen in Wisconsin even though I live in Illinois.


I don’t use any of my “toys” in Illinois, with the exception of possibly once or twice a year with a boat. Wisconsin is just much nicer. Per Wisconsin regulations, if my boat trailer resides in Wisconsin more that 60% of the year, an out of state owner can title and plate it in Wisconsin. I use it there and do winter storage in Wisconsin.



Check With Your Surrounding States For Boat Trailer Requirements


Laws change often, so be sure you double check directly with the DMV of the places you will use your boat trailer. Knowing your options can save you a lot of money from possible infractions.


Just like some boat trailers, in some states require title and registration, you may also want to know the boat you are hauling on the tat trailer requires a title. You can read about the title requirements, state by state here.


I bought my first boat while in high school 1981. I had more hours working on it than using it in the water. I can't count how many boats I've had since, but I really enjoy reviving boats. I've had so many boats that I could never use them all. Once I fix a boat up, I play with it a couple times and sell it. My goal is to use my many years of experience, and help as many people Begin Boating.

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