Do you have to register an inflatable boat?

If you are a newbie and would like to take up rowing or fishing as a sport or hobby, are you supposed to register your boat? Do inflatable boats need to be registered? These are questions you may be asking. And if you have to, where do you register it? These are questions we will aim to answer in this post to clear whatever doubts and confusion you may have about rowing.

Do you have to register an inflatable boat?

The short answer to this is yes; you need to register an inflatable boat in all the 50 states of the union before you start using it. Different states have their conditions and requirement, so you need to find out what they are in your home state.

While not all inflatable boats require registration in most states, those with motors must be registered. The policy differs from State to State.


There are a few reasons why the authorities demand that inflatable boats be registered. First, over the course of the last decade, drug smugglers have used inflatable boats to traffic drugs and even humans into the United States. So registration numbers are used to track these boats used for illicit trades. Furthermore, registration numbers are used to track boats in case of search and rescue missions.

Why need to register a boat?

You will need three documents to register a boat in addition to a registration fee. Again, do note that these requirements may differ in your State. On average, most states will require the following

  • Manufacturers’ information and origin
  • Invoice
  • Bill of Sale
  • Registration fee

The general rule states that the registration number be boldly displayed on both sides of the boat so it can be seen clearly. Besides, here are some rules you should keep in mind.

  • Registration number character must be written boldly of at least 3 inches in height
  • The number must be visible even if the boat is 100ft away
  • Only block lettering is accepted, decorative fonts are rejected
  • Numbers should be clear and visible at all times
  • Only hyphens and spaces should separate characters

Steps to take to register a boat

Registering your inflatable boat is not a big deal. All you need to do is have all the required documents and the registration fee. Simply visit the registration office in your area, request an application form, and fill in all the information required of you. Then, attach all relevant documents and submit them to the official attending to you. If there are other steps required, you will be notified. Do note that your local office may request some additional information not listed in this article. So, therefore, to avoid making fruitless trips to your local office, browse their website or call their hotlines to know more.

But for the purpose of clarity, here are the steps you should take to register your inflatable boat.

 Research the registration office

The first move should be to research the department responsible for registering boats in your State. This department may be the DMV if you live in New York or California or a different department if you live in other states. Ask other boaters or do a quick online research to identify the body responsible for registration.

Get and complete the registration form

Once you’ve identified the department, you have two options. The first one may be to visit their office to request an application form. If they have an online portal from where you can download the form, you can do so. Make sure you fill in your personal details accurately. Provide all the information requested. After you are done, submit it through the same medium in which you got it.

If you got the form online, submit it in the same portal. If you got it from an official at the front desk, submit it to the official who gave you the form. Email submission is another option if that is allowed.

Attach required documents

In subsequent paragraphs, we will briefly explain some of the important documents your home office may require of you. As we pointed out above, different states have different documentary requirements, so make sure you only provide what is required of you. Attach the documents to turn application form and submit.

Pay the registration fee

Boat registrations are not free, so a certain amount will be required of you. To complete your registration, you will need to pay this fee. Fees are charged based on the size of the vessel, but they are not expensive.

Note: Note that registrations are not permanent, so they should be renewed at expiry. This date will be boldly displayed on your registration document, so be conscious of it and start the renewal process a few days before it expires or immediately it expires to avoid violations.

Types of boats that should be registered

Not all boats should be registered, and these boats vary from State to State. Generally, in most states, here are the boats that should be registered.

• Boats with gasoline, electric, or diesel motors

• Boats with trolling motors

• Watercrafts with engines

• Sailboats with auxiliary powers

• Boats that exceed a certain length

The registration requirements for the following boats may vary depending on the State

• Kayaks – inflatable and non-inflatable

• Rowboats

• Paddle

• Human-powered crafts

As we have stated a few times already, the requirements will depend on your State. While some states may demand registration for a 6ft inflatable boat with a motor engine, other states may not require registration unless the boat is 10ft and above. So do your due diligence and know what is required by law in your State.

Registration Stickers and Numbers

Many newbies confuse registration numbers and stickers, but they are not the same even though they serve as proof that the boat has been registered.

Registration number: The registration number is the number and letters combination displayed on your boat’s hull. This number is mostly 3-inches bold for clarity. Numbers can also be painted for those who don’t want to puncture their inflatable boat.

Registration sticker: A registration sticker is mainly a sign to prove that the boat has been registered for 1-3 years. With a sticker, patrol officials can tell if a boat has really been registered even without seeing or demanding the boat’s number. The actual number is only requested under special circumstances. So, in a nutshell, you cannot have a sticker if you don’t have a number.

Registration renewal

How often you renew your registration will depend on the law in your State. Some states demand that boats be registered once a year; For some, it is two years, but for others, it is three years.

Benefits of registering an inflatable boat

Registering your inflatable boat has several benefits.

Avoid sanctions

When you register your boat, you avoid violations and the sanctions that come with it. Remaining in the good books of the law makes you a responsible boater.

For emergencies

If there is an accident or your boat has been stolen, the number makes it easier for you and the authorities to find it. Registration numbers are widely used to search and return vessels to their owners.

Information update

Your registration number will be used by the authorities for administrative purposes. They use the information in their database to keep track of boat populations in their jurisdiction.

For Tax purposes

Another benefit of registering your inflatable boat is for the purposes of tax. You can present the document to the IRS or any government agency as proof of tax.

Do you have to register inflatable boat FAQ

Is it mandatory by law to register my inflatable boat?

Yes, it is given certain conditions. For example, if your inflatable boat uses a motor or exceeds the length requirement in your State, you need to register it with the authorities.

How long will it take for my inflatable boat to be registered?

It doesn’t take too long. Completing the form takes only a few minutes. In some states, document processing is instant, while in others, it may take a few days m consult the authorities in your area to know more.

What documents do I need to register my inflatable boat?

It depends on the state where you are domiciled. But on average, you will most likely be asked to provide

  • Application form
  • Proof of ownership
  • Proof of Sales tax
  • HIN
  • Bill of Sales

Some states may request all or a few of these documents.

How many inches must my number be in my boat?

By law, the registration numbers on inflatable boats must be at least 3 inches big. Numbers and letters must be in block letters, not fronted, and must be visible at least 100ft away. The letters must be clear and displayed in sharp color.

Where should my registration number be displayed?

The number should be displayed at the front of both sides of your vessel.

How many years does a boat registration last?

 That will depend on your State. Some states issue licenses that expire in a year’s time. Others may last for 2 or 3 years. Contact your local authorities to know more.

Final Thoughts

If you own an inflatable boat, you will have to register it before you can start using it. Failure to do so will be a violation and will attract stiff fines. To avoid violations, visit the website of the body responsible for registration in your area to find out more information. Then you can download the application form from their portal if online registration is allowed or visit the local office in your district to complete your registration.

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