The research I’ve done over the years shows that, depending on which state you live in, boat title requirements can differ. Below you will find an extensive article on the difference between title requirements between US states.
Do you need a title for your boat? The answer you are looking for is both “yes” and sometimes no. Whether or not it requires a certificate of ownership depends on the length of the vessel in question, as some states only require registration to prove legal ownership for smaller boats.
If you’re trying to sell a boat, then make sure that the vessel is in your name as per state requirements. If you are buying one, find out what documentation will be required by your state before applying for ownership of it yourself. Let’s take a closer look at this issue below.
Keep In Mind: Most Boats Will Require a Title, But Not All
It’s important to know the boat title requirements in your current state before you buy a vessel. If you are considering moving states, be sure that there will not be any titling conflicts. This chart can help you make these determinations quickly and painlessly.
|The State||Requirement for Titles|
|Alabama||The State of Alabama does not require a boat title. If you are buying a used boat, a bill of sale, as well as the previous registration certificate, will be enough.|
|Alaska||New Alaska State Statute 05.25.056 states that undocumented boats with a length greater than 24 feet must apply for either a certificate of title or “No Title Issued (NTI)” registration. Online renewal isn’t an option to those owning boats over this size limit – it has instead been replaced by an in-person application process. The new law does make titling optional for smaller vessels.|
|Arizona||No title is required. If the boat needs to be registered in AZ but is brought from another state, the other state will have to provide proof of ownership.|
|Arkansas||This is a registration state, so no title is required.|
|California||The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for the registration and titling of all sail-powered vessels over eight feet in length, as well any motorized vessel not documented by the U.S. Coast Guard.|
|Colorado||All boats will have to be registered, but Colorado is a registration-only state, so it does not issue boat titles.|
|Connecticut||All motorboats and all sailboats that are 19.5 feet in length or longer will have to get a title from the Department of Motor Vehicles if they have a construction date of 2017 or later, are registered in Connecticut and this is the state of principal use, and they aren’t under the US Coast Guard or titled in any other state.|
|Delaware||Delaware is called a non-title state and this means that if you were to register a boat in this state, you will only get a registration card and no title.|
|Florida||If you want to own a boat in Florida, you will have to get it both registered and titled.|
|Georgia||Even though Georgia as a state doesn’t require a boat to get a title, vessels and other watercraft that are operated on public waters will have to be registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.|
|Hawaii||This is a registration state only, which means that it does not issue boat titles.|
|Idaho||If the vessel is bought after Dec 31, 1999, the new owner will be required to title it if it falls into one of these categories:
• If the vessel has a permanently attached mode of propulsion, the model year 2000 or newer.
• If the vessel is non-exempt, over 12′ in length, the model year 2000 or newer, regardless of the mode of propulsion.
• If the vessel is non-exempt and is being financed.
The types of vessels that were acquired before Jan 1, 2000, even if they are listed under a category of vessels that have to be titled, can optionally be titled. The only exception is if they are being financed, in which case they must get a title. Once the first title has been issued, even if the boat is older, all subsequent owners will have to get titles in their names respectively.
|Illinois||Illinois now allows you to register watercraft of 22 feet or less without the need for a certificate of title. Instead, they only require the previous owner to surrender the original certificate of title if the boat was ever titled in their name.|
|Indiana||Indiana is a state where all boats, regardless of the type, that aren’t exempt from registration will have to be titled.|
|Iowa||Boats that are 17′ and over in length or those that have a lien (the only exception being canoes and kayaks) will have to get a title.|
|Kansas||If your boat is powered by a motor, either electric, diesel, or gasoline, or by sail, then it will need to be registered and numbered. As for the title, the State of Kansas does not require watercraft or their motors to get one.|
|Kentucky||Titles are the legal documentation for vehicles and vessels that establish ownership. In Kentucky, a title must be transferred within 15 days of purchase. When purchasing a boat from one resident or business, all parts of the boat will be grouped and titled together.|
|Louisiana||Boats that are 12 feet or longer and motorized vessels need to be registered in Louisiana. You must also title a boat if it is financed, currently titled in another state, homemade boats with an incorrect hull identification number, and motorized boats with a motor of 25 hp or above.|
|Maine||You won’t have to get a title for your boat in Maine, but you will have to register it.|
|Maryland||You won’t have to get a title for your boat in Maryland, but you will have to register it.|
|Massachusetts||You will have to have your boat titled only if it is designed to be used with a motor or has a motor at any given time and is 14 feet or longer.|
|Michigan||You will have to title your boat if it has a permanent engine, regardless of the length, or if it is engineless and 20 feet or longer.|
|Minnesota||You will have to both register and title your boat in this state.|
|Mississippi||The titling of boats and motors in Mississippi is available on request, but it is not mandatory.|
|Missouri||If you as an owner don’t submit an application for both title and registration for a recently purchased outboard motor or vessel within 60 days of the purchase, you will be subject to harsh title penalties.|
|Montana||Any boat owner will have to request a certificate of ownership or title, and a certificate of number for registration and pay the required fees to the County Treasurer in the county where he lives.|
|Nebraska||If you live in Nebraska, you will have to title and boat that is manufactured after 1972.|
|Nevada||If the boat requires registration in Nevada, it will have to be titled as well.|
|New Hampshire||New Hampshire is a state that won’t require owners to title their boats.|
|New Jersey||Any boat over 12′ that wants to use public waterways in New Jersey will have to be registered and titled.|
|New Mexico||You will have to get a title if your boat is either motorized or sail-powered and 10 feet or longer.|
|New York||You will have to get both title and registration in New York.|
|North Carolina||You as an owner will have to title any watercraft that is bigger than 14 feet in length. Jet skis are included.|
|North Dakota||Owners of boats that are propelled by motors will have to register them with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, but a title won’t be required.|
|Ohio||Any PWCs like jet skis, outboard motors of 10 hp or more, and boats that are 14 feet or bigger, will have to be titled. If the boat will have to be titled, you will need an Ohio title to be able to register it in Ohio.|
|Oklahoma||Most boats that will be used for transportation on the waterways of this state will have to be titled and registered annually.|
|Oregon||Oregon requires all boats to be registered and titled.|
|Pennsylvania||The only boats that are excepted from the title requirement are those that are less than 14′, or with a model year before 1997.|
|Rhode Island||You will have to get a Certificate of Title for any boat in this state, except for vessels 14′ in length or less.|
|South Carolina||You will have to have your boat titled in South Carolina. Registration is also required for your boat and motor.|
|South Dakota||You will have to register and title all boats that are 12 feet in length or longer, and any boats that are propelled by a motor.|
|Tennessee||This state requires by law that all boats that are powered mechanically, and all sailboats which are principally used in Tennessee must be registered. This includes those that are documented federally as being for recreational usage. No title will be required for your boat in this state.|
|Texas||When you want to have ownership of a boat transferred, if it is titled in Texas, you will need a title printed in the seller’s name.|
|Utah||All boats that are either sail operated or powered by a motor (and this includes personal ones or canoes) will have to be registered, but only the newer ones will have to be titled as well.|
|Vermont||YOu will only have to have your boat titled if it is propelled by a motor and is 15 years old or newer, with a size of at least 16′.|
|Virginia||You will have to register and title any boat that is propelled by a motor and used in the public waterways of this state.|
|Washington||A title from the Washington State Department of Licensing, along with a registration card, and registration decals will be needed to use, navigate, employ, moor or operate any vessel in the state of Washington.|
|West Virginia||All 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.|
|Wisconsin||You will have to have your boat titled in the state of Wisconsin if it is 16 feet in length or longer, regardless of whether or not you will use it on the waterways of the state.|
|Wyoming||You will have to title and register any motorized boat with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. This includes the vessels with trolling motors.|
You should always check with your state’s representatives, to make sure that nothing has changed since this article was written.
Is It Better Overall To Have A Title For Your Boat?
Many states are loosening the requirements for boat titles, with Illinois being one of them. They used to require all boats under 22 feet in length be titled but have recently amended that requirement so small boaters can opt-out if they do not want a title.
Boat title requirements differ from state to state. The longest boat length that would have to be titled is about 22 feet, but this changes based on the current laws of each individual state. If you’re interested in buying or selling one yourself, make sure that you keep up with your own specific state’s policies.
Boat titles can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Not only do you have to search out your state’s title law, but if the boat is from another state, it may not get titled in your home state because of discrepancies between laws. For example, some states don’t put titling on boats at all, as you can see in the table above. This means that when buying a new boat from outside your state’s borders and bringing it into your own, if your state requires it to be titled, you will have to request titling for a boat that isn’t titled, and that can prove to be quite the paperwork.
This means that even if you live in a state that offers optional titling on boats, you should still get a title. This will help you find a buyer easier because they will be able to buy it even if they are from a state that requires boats to be titled.