Does A Boat Require A Title: State By State Requirements

A view looking up at the bow of a boat and blue skys with a few clouds and text that say "Do You Have Title To Your boat?".

Having purchased many boats over the last few decades, my research shows that state laws tend to change regarding boat titles. Let’s dive into some boat title requirements for each state.


Does your boat require a title? The long answer is YES and the short answer is sometimes NO. What this means is that in many states, shorter boats do not require a title to show ownership. In this case, the current registration is what proves ownership.


If you’re trying to sell a boat, you’re going to need to prove that you are the owner as per state requirements. If you’re buying a boat, you want to be sure what documentation your state needs from you  to be granted ownership into your name. Let’s take a deeper look into this.



Yes, Most Boats Require Title: But Not All


This chart will show my findings for each of our United States at the time of this writing. Once you find your state’s boat title requirements and the requirements of the states that you are interested in moving to, or buying from, then you want to be sure that you won’t have any state to state titling conflict. Do this before you spent your money on a boat!


StateTitle Requirements
AlabamaNo title is required for boats in the State of Alabama. If it is a used boat, a bill of sale and the last boat registration certificate is required
AlaskaNew Alaska Statute 05.25.056 requires the owner of an undocumented boat that is subject to registration and that is more than 24 feet to apply for a certificate of title or “No Title Issued (NTI)” registration.
Due to the new titling requirement online renewal is not available for boats more than 24 feet - application must be made in-person.
Titling of an undocumented boat less than 24 feet in length is optional.
ArizonaNo title is required. If the boat is coming into AZ from another state to be registered, the other states title is required to prove ownership at the time of registering.
ArkansasNo title required. This is a registration state.
CaliforniaGenerally, every sail-powered vessel over eight feet in length and every motor-driven vessel (regardless of length) that is not documented by the U.S. Coast Guard which is used or on the waters of this state are subject to registration (California Certificate of Ownership (title)) by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
ColoradoColorado is a registration only state and does not issue boat titles. All boats must register.
ConnecticutAs of January 1, 2016, all motorboats and all sailboats 19.5
feet in length or longer are required to be titled through the
Department of Motor Vehicles IF:
• They have a model year or construction date of 2017 or
later; and
• They are registered in Connecticut where Connecticut is
identified as the state of principal use; and
• They are NOT documented with the United States Coast
Guard or titled in another state
DelawareDelaware is a NON TITLE state. If you register a boat in delaware you will not get a title, only a registration card.
FloridaAll motorized vessels operating on Florida's public waterways must be titled and registered.
GeorgiaThe state of Georgia does not require boats to be titled. However, all boats and watercraft that are operated on public waterways in the state for more than 60 days must be properly registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
HawaiiHawaii does not issue boat titles. This is a registration state only.
When any of the following vessels are acquired after December 31, 1999, the new owners are required to title them:
• Any vessel with a permanently attached mode of propulsion, model year 2000 or newer. Examples: model year 2000
inboard and inboard/outboard motorboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft (jet skis).
• Any non-exempt vessel, model year 2000 or newer, over 12' in length, regardless of the mode of propulsion. Example:
model year 2000 13' outboard.
• Any non-exempt vessel that is being financed.
All types of vessels listed in the “vessels that must be titled” category that were acquired prior to January 1, 2000 may
optionally be titled. These types of vessels (model year 1999 or older) may be optionally titled unless they are being financed, in
which case they must be titled. Once a vessel has been titled, every subsequent Idaho owner must also title it in his name.
IllinoisIllinois now removed the requirement of a certificate of title for watercraft under 22 feet in length. This change gives the new owner the option to only apply for registration. However, if the watercraft was titled by the seller(s), you must surrender the original properly endorsed watercraft certificate of title issued in the seller's name(s)
IndianaAll watercraft not exempt from registration must be titled.
IowaBoats with a lien and boats that are 17' and over in length (except canoes and kayaks) are required to be titled.
KansasAll vessels powered by motor (gasoline, diesel, or electric), or sail, must be registered and numbered. The State of Kansas does not, however, title watercraft nor does it register or title motors.
KentuckyA Title is a legal document, establishing a person or business as the legal owner of a vehicle or vessel. When a vehicle or vessel is sold from one Kentucky resident or business to another in Kentucky, the title must be transferred to the new owner within 15 days. In the case of Boats, all parts of the boat (e.g. body, motor, etc.) are, together, one titled vessel.
LouisianaYou must register all motorized vessels/watercraft, including sailboats 12 feet or longer, used in Louisiana waters with LDWF.

You must title a boat or outboard motor (25 HP and above) that is financed or currently titled in another state when you’re registering it in Louisiana, a homemade boat, or a boat that has an incorrect hull identification number.
MaineMain does not issue title for boats. All boats must be registered.
MarylandMaryland does not issue title for boats. All boats must be registered.
MassachusettsAll boats 14 feet or greater in length that are designed for use with a motor, or that use a motor at any time, must be titled.
MichiganAll watercraft 20 feet and over in length and all watercraft with a permanently affixed engine, regardless of length, must be titled.
MinnesotaRequires title and registration on boats.
MississippiBoat and outboard motor titling is available in Mississippi, but is not mandatory.
MissouriThe owner of a vessel (watercraft) or outboard motor must submit an application for title and registration within 60 days after the unit is purchased or brought into this state or be subject to title penalties.
MontanaBoat owners must obtain a certificate of ownership (title) and certificate of number (registration) and pay all fees to the County Treasurer in the county where the owner resides.
NebraskaAll boats manufactured after 1972 will require a title in Nebraska.
NevadaAll vessels that require registration must be titled also.
New HampshireBoats in New Hampshire are not titled.
New JerseyIn order to use New Jersey waterways, all boats over 12'
must be titled and registered
New MexicoAll motorized and sail-powered vessels 10 feet or longer in length require a title.
New YorkNew York requires title and registration.
North CarolinaAny vessel 14ft in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled.
North DakotaNo titles issued in North Dakota, However, Owners of any watercraft propelled by motors must register their vessels with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
OhioTitles are required for all boats 14 feet or greater, outboard motors 10HP or greater, and PWCs (ie. Jetski, Sea-Doo, etc.). For those boats that require a title, the title must be an Ohio title in order to get an Ohio registration.
OklahomaAll boats, with a few exceptions, used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on the waters of this State, are required to be titled and registered annually.
OregonBoat title/registration are require in Oregon.
PennsylvaniaA title is required on all boats except for an outboard powered boat less than 14', or a boat with a model year before 1997.
Rhode IslandBoats require a Certificate of Title. Vessels 14' in length or less are not required to be titled.
South CarolinaSouth Carolina does require boats to be titled. You will also have to register your boat and motor.
South DakotaBoats over 12 feet in length or motor boats of any length are required to be titled at the time of registration.
TennesseeTennessee law requires that all mechanically powered vessels (including federally documented recreational vessels) and all sailboats which are principally used in Tennessee must be registered. (Boats are not titled in Tennessee.)
TexasA title printed in the seller's name is required to transfer ownership of a previously owned vessel and/or outboard motor titled in Texas.
UtahEvery watercraft (including canoes and personal watercrafts) powered by a motor or a sail operated in Utah waters must be registered, but they are only titled if they are 1985 and newer.
VermontMotorboats will require a title if they are 15 years old and newer and at least 16' in length.
Virginia All motorboats used on the public waters of Virginia must be registered and titled.
WashingtonTo navigate, operate, employ, or moor your vessel in Washington, you must have a title from the Washington State Department of Licensing, a registration card, and registration decals.
West VirginiaAll motorized vessels (including sailboats that have a motor) purchased in West Virginia by the current owner after July 1, 1989, must have a title except for those which are Coast Guard documented.
WisconsinThe owner of a boat, 16 feet in length or greater, in Wisconsin, whether or not the boat is operated on the waters of this state, is required to hold a certificate of title.
WyomingALL motorized boats (including those with trolling motors) must be titled AND registered with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Be sure to verify your findings by going to your state’s website also”.



Is It Better To Have A Boat Title?


A certificate of title that is not filled out with red banners showing where signatures are required.I am actually seeing more states loosening the requirements for boat titles. I know Illinois used to require all boats to be titled. Recently they are allowing boats under 22 foot, to opt out of the title requirement.


Of the states that have requirements based on boat length, 22′ is about the longest. So keep in mind that boat title requirements tend to change. So if you’re in the market to buy or sell a boat, you’ll need to keep up on your state’s current title law.


Each state having it’s own laws regarding boat titles, forces you to search out, not only your state’s title law, but you will need to be sure they are friendly to boats purchased from other states. This is because, as you can see in the above chart, not all states have titles on their boats. So when you buy a boat from a non-title state and then bring it back to your home state, you are asking to get a title on a boat that has no title. Good Luck!


So, even though you may not be required to get a title on your boat for use in your state, you may want to take the option of titling it anyway. That’s if your state offers that option. It would allow for more buyers to be comfortable buying your titled boat and having the ability to title it in another state.


The trailer that you’re hauling your boat on, could also be in violation. Even if your state doesn’t require a license plate, the neighboring state might. Check your surrounding states trailer plate laws 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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