BlogApril 2015

5 Steps for Easy Boat Registration

5 Steps for Easy Boat Registration

By Tom Keer

Apr 23, 2015

So you just bought a boat and are anxious for that first splash.

So you just bought a boat and are anxious for that first splash. As with cars, boats need to first be registered.

Here's how:

  1. See who handles the registration process. In some states it's the DMV while in others it's the Parks Division or the Fish and Game Department. Check to find your specific state requirements.

  2. You will need to fill out the application forms. Some states accept online registrations while others require physical documentation. New boats require an MSO (manufacturer’s statement of origin which is where the boat was made) along with a bill of sale, proof of tax payment and your fee.

  3. Are any certificates required? Your state may require a safe boating certificate or a boater’s license to register your boat or renew your registration.

  4. You will receive a state registration number, a combination of letters and numbers, which must be decaled or painted in the forward part of both sides of the boat, preferably the bow, with numbers reading from left to right. They must be in block format at least 3 inches high, and contrast with the hull color. Letters must be separated from the numbers by a 3 to 4 inch space or a hyphen. For example: MA 1234 TK or MA-1234-TK. Validation stickers must accompany the registration numbers and should be placed on the boat according to state instruction.

  5. Your registration certificate must be kept on the boat, so keep the original in a safe place and bring along a copy.

Remember: some boats don’t need to be registered. For more information on what is required where you live, check our page and chose the state website you want to be redirected to.

A welcomed side benefit of boat registration is that a portion of the funds go towards protecting and improving natural resources. That's something to think about every time you launch and haul!

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at