How to Register Your Inflatable Boat: The Complete Guide for all 50 States

How to register your inflatable boat can be a confusing topic.

To make matters worse, searching how to do this online can leave you with more questions than answers. Some websites will say one thing, while others will say another.

The problem is that laws differ from state to state. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this question. What is true in California may not be true in Florida.

All this will leave you scratching your head wondering, “What should I do? Do I need to register my inflatable boat? How do I register my inflatable boat?”

What you need is a complete guide. Today, we’re going to walk you through all there is to know about registering your boat. We’ll also give you a complete chart of requirements for all 50 states.

So without further adieu, let’s dive in!

Do You Have to Register Your Inflatable Boat?

Registering your inflatable boat may seem like a huge hassle. After all, it’s not like you use it every day. What’s the big deal about registering inflatables anyway?

All this, plus the confusion on how to register, can lead you to throw your hands up and say “I don’t care.”

But that’s illegal.

It’s your responsibility as a boat owner to know the regulations and requirements.

So do you have to register your inflatable boat?

Yes.

However, there are some exceptions. Once again, these exceptions are different in every state. Some common exceptions include:

Motor

One of the most common exceptions is inflatable boats with no motor. If you use paddles to propel your boat, you probably don’t have to register it.

This is because, in a lot of states, boats are regulated by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). It doesn’t make sense for the DMV to keep records on a boat without any motor, does it?

Some states only regulate gas-powered motors. Others include electric motors, such as trolling motors, as well.

That said, other states, such as Ohio, are regulated by other divisions. These divisions have their own set of rules on registration. So pay attention to what your state says.

Again, it’s all very confusing. So stay with us, because we’ll have a complete look at all the states in a bit.

Length

Another factor that you should consider is the length of your boat. In some states, you won’t have to register your inflatable if it is below a certain length.

For example, Minnesotans have to register their boat if it is over 10ft long, even if it doesn’t have a motor. On the other hand, all inflatable boats in Iowa over 7 ft long need registration.

Location

Finally, you need to consider where you are going boating. It’s one thing to boat in a private lake, it’s another to do this in a national park.

Some states don’t bother with registrations for boats used only in private waters. When you hit public waters, things get different.

Also, if ever you plan to use your inflatable in a national park, it’s important to check the requirements. Even if you don’t need registration in your state, the office in charge of that national park may require it.

How to Check if Your Inflatable Boat is Registered

Suppose you bought an inflatable boat from a private seller, do you have to register it?

Before you bring home your boat, it’s good to ask the previous owner about its registration. If it’s already registered, you won’t have to register it again until it expires. This is unless you want to put it under your name right away.

You should also ask for the latest registration papers. A lot of states require these when you register your boat.

But let’s say you forgot to ask. Or let’s say you’re not sure if your boat registration is already expired. How do you find out?

It’s simple, first find the registration number on your boat (for inflatables, this will be on the bow). Then call the office that handles boat registration in your state (full list of this below), and ask the status of your boat. The office will check their records and let you know if you need to register or not.

How to Register an Inflatable Boat

So let’s say you have to register your inflatable boat, how do you do it?

To register your inflatable boat, you’ll need to prepare a few things. One thing that you need is a proof of ownership. This can be either a bill of sale or a receipt. Anything to show that you are the owner of this boat.

You’ll also need to know the specifications of your boat. You need to know not only the maker and model, but also the length as well. A document showing all of these will come in handy.

Finally, the motor. You need to know what type of motor you are using for your boat. You need to know whether you are using an outboard motor, a trolling motor, or some other type.

With all of these, you should be ready to register at any state. Head to the DMV office (or whichever handles boat registration) and register your inflatable boat.

How to Register Your Inflatable Boat Online

Today, a lot of states will allow you to register your boat online. Doing this takes away a lot of hassle, as you don’t have to travel to the DMV office anymore.

To do this, all you have to do is go online and print a copy of the application form. Fill this up and mail it along with the other requirements to your state’s DMV office. Again, the requirements vary from state to state.

When that arrives, the DMV should give you a registration number and sticker for your inflatable boat.

You have to display these numbers on your boat. Without these, your boat will be considered unregistered, and you can get in trouble.

We’re going to show you how to put your registration number on your boat. But first, let’s take a look at all the requirements for the 50 states.

State Requirements for Inflatable Boat Registration

So how do you register your boat in California, New York, or Colorado? To clear up all the confusion, here is the complete chart of requirements for each state.

On the first column is the state, followed by the office that handles boat registration. The “exceptions” column shows if your inflatable boat may be exempted from registration. Finally, the last column is the requirements for registration.

State: Department: Exceptions: Requirements
Alabama Alabama Marine Patrol Non-mechanically powered boats
  • Application form
  • Bill of sale
  • Last-issued registration (if 2nd hand)
  • Proof of sales tax
Alaska DMV Non-powered boats
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Arizona Arizona Game and Fish Department Boats without motors
  • Application form
  • Bill of sale
  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (if new)
  • Current registration (if 2nd hand)
Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Vessels not propelled by motor or sail
  • Hull Identification Number (HIN) verification
  • Bill of sale or current registration
  • Proof of liability insurance (motors with >50 hp)
  • Proof of boat assessment by a county assessor
  • Proof of property taxes
California DMV Any vessel propelled by oars or paddles
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Colorado CO Parks and Wildlife Non-motor or sail-powered boats
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Connecticut DMV Boats powered by oars or paddles only
  • Application form
  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of identity
  • Ownership document
  • Proof of CT sales and use tax
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Non-motorized boats
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Boats original title signed by the seller (if 2nd hand)
  • Bill of sale (if 2nd hand)
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Boats not powered by a motor and not more than 16 ft in length.
  • Proof of ownership
  • Application form
  • Vessel’s title signed by buyer and seller (if 2nd hand)
Georgia DNR Rubber rafts without mechanical propulsion
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (if new)
  • Vessel’s out of state title or registration (if new to Georgia)
Hawaii Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation Recreational vessels that are manually propelled
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Hawaii drivers license or ID
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Manually propelled vessels, float tubes
  • Application form
  • Boat’s title
  • Proof of identity
  • HIN
Illinois DNR Any vessel not propelled by a sail or motor
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Bill of sale (if 2nd hand)
Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Non-motorized boats (except sailboats)
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of residency in Indiana
  • SS Number
  • Proof of sales/use tax
Iowa DNR Inflatable watercraft less than 7 ft long.
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Boat’s registration and title (if 2nd hand)
Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism Any vessel not powered by sail, gasoline, diesel, or electricity.
  • Application form
  • Proof of sales tax
Kentucky KY Transportation Cabinet Non-mechanically powered vessels
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Bill of sale
  • Photo or pencil tracing of HIN
  • Proof of identity
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries N/A
  • Application form
  • Proof of purchase
  • Boat title (if applicable)
  • Boat registration tax payment certification (if purchased from a dealer)
  • Affidavit for boat inspection (for boats without a valid HIN)
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Non-motorized boats
  • Excise tax (unless your boat is <20 ft and isn’t motorized)
  • Application form
  • Boat tax exemption (if your boat is exempted from excise tax)
  • Proof of use tax
Maryland DNR Use non-mechanical propulsion
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Bill of sale
Massachusetts Boat, ATV, and Snowmobile Registration Bureau Watercraft without a motor – not including vessels over 14 ft that are designed to be motorized
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Pencil tracing of HIN
  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of MA sales tax
  • Boat title (if applicable)
  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (if new and 14 ft or longer)
Michigan Secretary of State Vessels less than 16 ft long that are powered by oars or paddles (unless for commercial uses)
  • Application form
  • Current registration (if 2nd hand)
  • Boat’s title (if 2nd hand)
  • Proof of use tax
Minnesota DNR All non-motorized boats less than 10 ft long
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Purchase receipt with sales tax
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Boats with no motor or sails
  • Application form
  • Proof of purchase
  • Proof of Mississippi sales tax (if bought out-of-state)
Missouri Department of Revenue Boats (any length) propelled by oars or paddles only
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of personal property tax
Montana Vehicle Services Bureau All non-motorized boats
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Nebraska DMV Boats that are not propelled by gas, diesel, or electric motor
  • Application form
  • HIN
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of sales and use tax
Nevada Department of Wildlife Non-motorized boats
  • Proof of ownership
  • SS Number
  • Proof of sales tax
  • Previous title (if bought out-of-state)
  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (if new or untitled)
New Hampshire DMV Non-motorized boats or sailboats less than 12 ft
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Verification of Vessel Identification (if applicable)
  • Valid Photo ID
  • Proof of ownership
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commision Non-motorized craft
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
New Mexico State Parks Division Boats powered only by paddles or oars
  • Application form
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of ownership
  • Bill of sale (if 2nd hand)
  • Dealer invoice (if applicable)
New York DMV Non-motorized vessels
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of identity
  • Bill of sale (if bought from dealer)
  • Sales tax clearance
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Boats powered only by oars or paddles
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
North Dakota Game and Fish Department Non-motorized vessels
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft N/A
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Ohio driver’s license
Oklahoma OK Tax Commission’s Motor Vehicle Divison Boats propelled by paddles only. Boats with motors less than 10 HP
  • Application forms
  • Proof of ownership
Oregon State Marine Board Non-motorized watercraft
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Non-motorized vessels on non-PFBC or PA state park waters
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Non-motorized boats
  • Application forms
  • Pencil tracing of HIN
  • Proof of purchase
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of sales tax
South Carolina DNR Watercraft propelled by humans (oars or paddles) and outboard motors with less than 5 HP
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Registration card (if purchased out of state)
  • Pencil tracing or photo of HIN (if purchased out of state)
South Dakota SD Game, Fish and Parks Inflatable boats less than 12 ft long
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • South Dakota driver’s license or SS card
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Watercraft propelled by paddles or oars
  • Application form
  • Bill of sale signed by buyers and seller (if 2nd hand)
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department All non-motorized boats
  • Application forms
  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of ownership
  • Valid photo identification
Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation Non-motorized vessels
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of uniform fees paid
  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of ownership
Vermont DMV Non-motorized boats
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Bill of sale
Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Non-motorized vessels
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Washington Department of Licensing Non-motorized or sail boats. Motorboats under 16 ft long and under 10 HP in non-federal waters
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of sales tax
West Virginia DNR Non-motorized boats
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Wisconsin DNR Manually propelled watercraft and sailboats under 12 ft long
  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Non-motorized boats
  • HIN
  • Application form
  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of ownership

Chart correct as of March 2020. For more information, visit https://www.dmv.org/boat-registration.php

Keep in mind that there may be additional requirements for special situations. To be sure, it’s best to contact the department in charge of your state’s boat registration.

Also, each application form is different. Some states will require you to fill out multiple forms, while others only need one. You can check https://www.dmv.org/boat-registration.php for the full requirements of your state.

How to Put Registration Numbers on Inflatable Boats

When you register your boat, you’ll get a sticker and a registration number. Before you hit the water, you should stick the sticker, and paint the registration number on your inflatable.

Doing this is very easy. All you need is some stencils, paint, and masking tape. With these, you can apply your boat registration number in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Tape Stencils Together

The goal is to paint your registration number on your inflatable. Doing this without a guide will be extremely difficult. That’s why you should get stencils with the corresponding numbers such as these:

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Before you start painting, tape these stencils together. Position them correctly, then tape them all together using masking tape. When you’re finished, you should have something like a flexible plate number.

You need to paint these numbers on both sides of your boat. You can make another stencil plate for the other side, or you can use one for both sides.

Step 2: Tape Stencils to Boat

Next, take your stencil plate and stick that to your boat. Stick it in an area that is easy to see, preferably on the front of your boat. Remember, you need this number on both sides, so stick it a little bit to the side.

Before you do this, make sure your boat is clean. If your boat is dirty, the tape won’t stick and neither will the paint.

Also, make sure you use a good masking tape. There are plenty of good tapes, but perhaps none is quite as good as Scotch:

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Step 3: Paint!

Once that’s taped on, take your paint and spray over it. But before this, cover the rest of your boat with plastic to avoid paint spills.

For the paint, you’ll want something that can stick to your boat. If not, the paint will bleed, or get washed away when you hit the water. One good paint to fit this bill is Rust-Oleum’s 327916 paint which you can get here:

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If one coat is not enough, add another. Do this until you are satisfied with the results.

Step 4: Wait

Now it’s time to wait. The paint should be quite dry before you remove the stencil. This is so that the paint won’t bleed, and you’ll have properly formed numbers. You can use a blow dryer to speed this up.

Then remove the stencil and wait some more. Wait for the paint to completely dry before using your boat. This may take a day or two depending on the paint you use. If you don’t, the water will wash away your registration number.

Step 5: Stick Sticker

All there’s left to do is to add the stickers. You can stick these on your boat, or find another way to attach it.

One way to do this is to use a picture holder for refrigerators for this. If you don’t have one, you can order it below. Put the sticker inside, and secure it to your boat using a cable tie.

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Whatever you choose to do, just make sure the sticker is beside the registration number.

And that’s all there is to it!

Conclusion

Whenever states get to choose their own registration laws, things are bound to get confusing. They all have their own set of requirements, exemptions, and laws to keep in mind. That’s why it’s so difficult to find sources online that cover all of these.

With our complete guide, however, you should know all you need to know for your state. If you’re still unsure, be sure to give the department in charge of registration a call.

So gather your requirements and register your boat today!


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