Boat Titles For Beginners: Transferring Titles + Getting A Title

If you own a powered boat, you will need to register it with your state. All powered boats plus a few other types of boats, require registration.

With larger recreational boats, you may even need to register your boat federally with the U.S. coastal guard.

Why Do Boats Have Titles?

Guy doing an inspection of a tiny house on wheels

A boat title is a legal document that proves ownership. Any boat can be voluntarily titled but not all boats require it. You should check with state boating department for boat instructions and regulations that may be applicable where you reside.

Some lender won’t finance a boat without a title, so securing a loan to purchase a boat may be easier if the boat is titled. Tilting is also a deterrent to boat theft as boat deal ant other potential purchase are more assured that someone offering a boat for sale has the legal right to do so.

Where Do I Get The Boat Title?

Boat registration and title are issued exclusively by the Fish and Boat Commission. In most cases, new boat owners will want a temporary registration so they can use their boats while registration document is processed.

Temporary registrations are issued by approved Boat registration agents, county treasurers, and Commission region offices.

New boats do not have a title issued until they are registered. The manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO) of a certificate of Origin (COO) serves as a temporary title from the manufacturer to the dealer and then to you. Compare the boat’s hull identification number to the numbers on the MSO or Coo.

Have the seller sign the MSO or COO for a new boat. You must submit the original MSO or COO to complete the registration process.

Eligible Boats

According to state law, every boat on the state should be numbered and currently registered in accordance with the provision of the constitution.

No person should operate or given permission for the operation of any boat on state waters unless the boat is registered and numbered.

It has to be done in accordance with the respective chapter on in accordance with a federally approved numbering system of another state and unless:

  • The certificate of number awarded to such boat is in full force and effect.
  • The identifying number set forth in the certificate of number is displayed on each of the bows of such boat.

How To Apply For Boat Titles For Boats With A Title

There are some things you need before you can register your boat.

Here’s what you need to get before you can start:


  • Photo ID
  • Completed motor boat transaction record Application for Title/Registration. If a bill of sale or affidavit of ownership is used, a pencil tracing of the picture of the hull number must be provided.
  • If your name is different on the title than the one on your ID, you must provide an affidavit showing they are one and the same. A marriage license will meet this requirement.


  • Photo ID
  • Completed signed-over title. If your state only issued registration of bill-of-sale brings registration in place of signed over the title. If you purchased a boat out-of-state and the only issued a bill of sale, a letter from the originating state stating the boat is not registered in the as required.
  • If your name on the title is different than the one on you Id, you must provide an affidavit showing they are one and the same.
    (A marriage license will do.)
  • If you live out-of-state, you must title and register your boat in the county where it is docked.

All states will allow boats registered in other states to operate within their waters for a designated period of time.

However, if another state eventually becomes your principal location for boating, you will need to transfer your boat’s registration to that state.

Replacement & Duplication Of Boat Titles

A duplicate registration card is $3.

A duplicate title is $5 and therefore no charge for replacement of decals.

Duplicate registration cards, decal and title can be obtained only from the commission licensing and registration section.

Do not use liquid paper/ or white-out for your title. Do not mark out or scratch through information on the title. Do not mutilate or erase. Provide an affidavit with new information signed and notarized.

Boat Titling Fees Are As Follows:

New Certificate Of Title $15
Corrected Certificate Of Title $15
Lien Recording $5
Duplicate Copy $5

Transferring a Boat Title When BUYING A Boat

If you want to operate a boat in American waters, it must be registered and title in the state where you live.

Part of the process of buying a boat from another individual is greeting boat title transferred from the seller’s to your name.

While the process is fairly straightforward, the mistake could result in disputes over the ownership of the boat.

1) Have the seller sign the title

Before you can have the title to your newly purchased boat transfer into your name, the seller must fill out the transfer section on the back of the title and sign it.

Some states require the title to be signed in the Presence of a notary.

If there is space for a notary seal on the back of the title, doesn’t it the seller sign it until they are in front of a notary otherwise the signature will be invalid.

Documentation from an authorized representative

Some seller may have an authorized representative, such as a dealer or an attorney; complete the title transfer for them. An authorized representative should have a contract, power of attorney, or other documents that make it clear they are the legal, authorized representative of the title owner of the boat.


If the representative cannot produce legal documentation, don’t go through with the sale, it might not be legitimate. Contact the title owner of the boat if possible.

2) Have the seller accompany you to the title office

Having the seller with you can help you avoid a horrible surprise if you find out there is some sort of problem with the title or the record of ownership for the boat.

With the seller by your side, most problems can be cleared up immediately; the seller could produce a release of lien document to prove that they owned the boat free and clear when they sold it.

3) Complete an application for a title

Each state has a title application form that you must fill out your name, address and other information regarding the boat you have just purchased.

The information you provide will be used to issue new title as some state require you to present a written bill of sale for the boat.

If you’re purchasing the boat from an individual, you may want to call your state, boat titling office in advance and find out what document you’ll need.

4) Pay any required taxes and fees

When you submit your title application to the title office, you typically be assessed taxes and fees on your purchase.

These taxes vary widely among states however some states don’t assess taxes on casual boat sales (sales between two private individuals).

5) Receive your new title

In some states, you’ll get your title immediately after you submit your application and pay the fees. However, many states will give you a temporary document and send you an official title in the mail. If you to wait for your official title find out if you can still register your boat with the temporary document. You won’t be able to take the boat out on the water until it’s registered.

Transferring A Boat Title When SELLING A Boat

1) Gather required proof of ownership

In general, you’ll need your copy of the title for the boat and the title for the outboard motor. In some state, these may be two separate title documents.

If you had the boat finance and there is a lien on the title, you’ll also need documentation for release of that lien from the finance company.

2) Complete a bill of sale

An official bill of sale provides a record of the sale and the amount for which you sold the boat. Some states require the buyer to present a written bill of sale when they apply to transfer the title.

Take the bill of sale to a notary public so your signature and the buyer’s signature on the bill of sale can be notarized. If the transaction is later disputed, the document will more likely hold up in court.

You should have two copies notarized for you and the buyer.

3) Fill in the transfer section of the title

On the back of the boat title, there will be a section to record the transfer of the boat to another person. Write the buyer’s name, address and other information required.

4) Sign the title in the presence of a notary

To complete the transfer of the title to the buyer, you must sign the back of the title below the transfer section. If there is space for a notary seal on the back of the title, that is an indication that the signature must be notarized. If you are unsure, you can call your state’s state licensing office to find out.

5) Give the title to the buyer

Once you have completed the transfer section on the back of the title and signed it, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to take it to the title office in your state and apply for a new title.

6) Accompany the buyer to the title office

Until the buyer applies for a new title, the boat is still your name.

If you go to the title office with the buyer, you can make sure the buyer gets their new title promptly.


It doesn’t matter what is required in other states. The only thing that matter is what the state where the boat is being registered requires.

Not all states require a title on boats.

Different states have different requirement for and title searches. Your best bet is to verify the requirement with the registering authority.

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