Register a Boat in Tennessee

Connect with nature and experience the great outdoors by taking a boat trip with the family on one of Tennessee’s many lakes or rivers. Before visiting one of the state’s top spots, be sure you know the requirements for Tennessee boat registration.

Register Your Boat
Boat Registration


Tennessee has hundreds of waterways for boating. You can boat on the state’s many freshwater rivers, lakes, and reservoirs with a registered boat.

All boat operators need to know the safe boating basics and must abide by the boating rules of the road set forth by the state. Boaters can learn more about safe boating basics, filing a float plan, what to do during times of inclement weather, environmental considerations and personal floatation devices by taking a boating education or safe boating class.


Your boat registration serves as documentation to prove that you are the rightful owner of a vessel. There are registration fees that you will need to pay when you register your boat in Tennessee; however, these fees are used by the state to help sustain our natural resources and promote responsible boating.

In Tennessee, all mechanically powered vessels and sailboats must be registered. That includes federally documented recreational vehicles and vessels with electric trolling motors. Boats that don’t use mechanical power and use oars or paddles do not need to be registered. All boats that require registration must be properly registered before use in any public water in Tennessee.

Boats registered in other states can use public water in Tennessee unless Tennessee is the primary state of use or mooring. Then the boat must be registered in Tennessee. The only exception is sailboats from states that do not require sailboat registration.

Tennessee boat registration

Tennessee boat registration can be completed at the County Clerk’s office, online, or at TWRA regional offices in Jackson, Nashville, Crossville, or Morristown. Dealers and manufacturers can also apply for transferrable registrations.

If the boat was purchased from a person, you will need the date of sale, price, a full description of the vessel including the year, make, model, and HIN, and contact information and signatures for both buyer and seller.

To register a boat from another state in Tennessee, you will need registration documents from the other state and proof sales tax was paid in another state to receive credit for all previous taxes paid.

If a vessel built after 1972 is missing the HIN or it is not in the proper US Coast Guard format, photos of the vessel are required.

For boats that have never been registered, proof sales tax was paid at the time of purchase is required.

Boat owners can also upload registration documents online at Go Outdoors Tennessee.

Auto renewal options are available.

Boating Education

In order to operate a boat in Tennessee and obtain a Tennessee boating license, all residents born after January 1, 1989 must successfully complete the TWRA Boating Safety exam and show the TWRA-issued Boating Education Certificate when asked. The certificate will fit in any standard-sized wallet. For out-of-state boaters born after January 1, 1989, any NASBLA approved boating safety certificate is acceptable.

The process for obtaining the Boating Education Certificate is similar to that of obtaining a driver’s license. Study materials are available online.

Certification is not required if there is an adult 18 years or older on board who can take immediate control of the vessel when needed.