Register a Boat in California

Need help registering a boat in California? We’ve got the answers. Learn the steps to take to properly register your vessel in the state.

Register Your Boat
Boat Registration

California Boat Registration

California offers some of the best boating and fishing opportunities in the country. If you’ve bought a boat to take advantage of all the state has to offer, odds are you’ll need to register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Here’s what you need to know about registering a boat in California to avoid penalties.

What Vessels Need to be Registered in California?

In the state of California, most types of recreational boats need to be registered. These include:

It’s important to note that California boat trailer registration is also required, and trailers must be registered separately from your boat.

There are some exceptions to the boat registration rules in California. The following types of boats in California are exempt from the registration requirements:

  • Seaplanes
  • Watercraft that’s guided by a mechanical device that keeps it on a permanently fixed course
  • Houseboats
  • Vessels powered by oars or paddles
  • Sailboards
  • Lifeboats
  • Those vessels that are currently registered in another state if they’re primarily used outside of California
  • Boats that were brought into the state specifically for racing
  • US Coast Guard documented vessels

How to Register a Boat in California

In California, you’ll need to register your boat with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The agency makes it as easy as possible for you to register your boat by providing two options: in person at a local California DMV office or by mail.

No matter what method you choose, you’ll have to gather some basic items to complete the application process. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • An application for the registration number, certificate of ownership and certificate of number for undocumented vessel (Form BOAT 101)
  • Proof of ownership documents. These include a bill of sale or conditional sales contract. If you just bought a boat that was previously registered in California and you’re registering a boat in California with no title, you’ll need to obtain the title from the seller, print your name and address on the back and send in the title with a title transfer fee and any tax. If you’re registering an out-of-state boat in California, you’ll need the out-of-state title.
  • Payment for the registration fees

What Does California Boat Registration Cost?

The fees for California boat registration vary depending on whether you’re a California resident as well as when you apply. The fees for registering a boat in California are as follows:


  • Applying in an even-numbered year: $37
  • Applying in an odd-numbered year: $65


  • Applying in an even-numbered year: $65
  • Applying in an odd-numbered year: $93

When it’s time to renew your boat registration, which is due every two years on odd-numbered years, the cost for residents and non-residents alike is $20.