How Can I Get a Title for a Boat [EXPLAINED]

How to title your boat without having the previous title

The first step to obtaining a boat title is to prove ownership. You can apply for a title by contacting the relevant authority depending on your state and its specific titling requirements. Some States issue boat titles and others do not. Also, the seller may not have the title so how can you register the boat when you buy it?

This article shows how you can get a title for your boat in simple steps. Our knowledge and expertise in the industry have enabled us to help many in their pursuit of getting a boat title and securing their ownership.

We address important questions such as How Can I Get a Title for a Boat? Register a Boat With Just A Bill Of Sale? Register a Boat Without Bill Of Sale? Title a boat without a title? Can I Sell My Boat without a Title?

What is a Boat Title? | Do boats have titles?

A boat title is a legal document that proves ownership of a boat. It essentially contains information identifying the boat’s owner, including their registered name and complete address, and other important details about the boat, such as its hull identification number, make, model, and manufacturing year. It may also contain the registration date, lienholder’s name and information, and market value of the boat.

Not all boats are legally required to have titles. In general, motorized boats or ones larger than a specific length will need to be titled.

Since titling varies by state, checking your state’s requirements is important to ensure a seamless application procedure. If you live in a state where titling your boat is not mandatory, you can still get a boat title voluntarily.

Having a title for your boat is recommended as this will help eliminate confusion or legal complications in case you decide to sell the boat. Some States are going beyond regular titles and implementing UCOTVA law.

When do you need a Boat Title? | Proving Ownership of a Vessel

A boat title search is required in legal cases, to sell a boat, or to mortgage a boat. It can be used to find the owner of a boat. It also shows ownership when buying or selling used boats, protecting both parties from scams and legal complications.

What is the difference between boat title and boat registration?

Boat registration is required by law, similar to other land-based vehicle registration. Generally, boats must be registered in their state if they have a diesel, electric, or gasoline motor, including a trolling motor.

Personal watercrafts are categorized as motorized vessels and must be registered in most states. Sailboats without auxiliary power need to be registered if they exceed a certain size, like 8 feet, but that varies by state.

The registration requirements for paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats, canoes, and other human-powered boats vary by state, but most do not require registration. Boat registration also needs to be renewed periodically, depending on the state.

Unlike boat registration, a boat title proves ownership. Lenders generally require them to prove the seller fully owns the boat. A boat title is obtained once and doesn’t need to be renewed.

How is the boat title different from coast guard documentation?

Coast Guard Documented vessels do not have titles, but they instead have Certificates of Documentation instead that expire every 5 years after issuance.

Federal law forbids documented vessels from acquiring State titles since the Federal Documentation surpasses all state registrations.

Steps on How to get a Boat Title

  1. Check your state’s requirements since each state has different rules and regulations related to boat titling
  2. Contact your local boat registration government agency, such as DMV, game and wildlife agency, or another agency for detailed instructions
  3. Fill out a boat title form
  4. Use your bill of sale document to show proof of ownership
  5. Pay the required fees

Do Documented Vessels Need a Boat Title?

Documented vessels do not need a boat title. They are required to hold a US Coast Guard Certificate of Documentation (CG-1270), which provides conclusive proof of nationality for international purposes, permits unhindered trade between the states, and admits boats to certain restricted areas, like fisheries and coastwise trade.

Documented vessels qualify for both a Boat-Alert History Search and a Title of Abstract.

Do non-documented Vessels Need a Boat Title?

Smaller boats are registered with the state, considered non-documented, and may require a boat title depending on the state’s requirements. Even though all states do not require boat owners to get a title, they can still apply for one voluntarily. Some states, such as Florida and Texas, do issue boat titles which can be helpful if you are doing a boat title search for an undocumented vessel.

Are Boat Trailers Required to be Titled?

Like boats, boat trailers must also be titled since the two can be separated. However, not all states require it. In states where getting a boat trailer title is optional, you can get it voluntarily for a fee.

Can I Sell My Boat without a Title?

Selling a boat without a title is possible if it’s not a legal requirement by the state. In such an instance, you need to have all other documents in place, such as the Bill of Sale, proof of registration, Hull Identification Number, etc.

A bill of sale includes the name of the buyer and seller, thereby serving as proof of purchase. However, the absence of a boat title may raise suspicion, so it’s best to get one before selling your boat.

You might need an affidavit as well so check with local state agencies if such an attestation is needed! – For further evidence, look for your Manufacturer Statement of Origin (MSO), which is a document that verifies ownership of a water vessel.

How to get a title for a boat having no title | buy a boat without a title

Contact your state boating department for more information to get a title for a boat that wasn’t previously titled. If you buy a new boat without a title, you will receive a state of origin which you can take to the relevant agency to get the formal, state-issued document. It is important to contact a lawyer and notary when things get complicated.

The process of buying a boat without a title can be quite complex. Many potential buyers often wonder, “Can you buy a boat without a title?” The short answer is yes, it’s possible, but it comes with certain challenges.

However, it’s essential to consider the legal aspects when attempting to sell a boat without a title, as it might raise questions like, “Is it legal to sell a boat without a title?” While some states allow the sale of a boat without paperwork or title, it’s crucial to follow the specific regulations and requirements set by your local authorities. When considering how to sell a boat without a title, you’ll often need to provide alternative documentation or proof of ownership, and the buyer should be informed of the situation.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the boat’s trailer may have separate requirements for title or registration, and the question of “Can I sell my boat trailer without a title?” is another important consideration. In any case, the sale of a boat without a title or proper documentation should be approached carefully and with a full understanding of the legal implications in your region.

Can You Register a Boat With Just A Bill Of Sale?

Before registering your boat, research the boat registration requirements in your state. Depending on the requirements, you will have to provide a bill of sale and/or title as proof of ownership. We give two examples below but your state could be the exception:


All motorized vessels operating on Florida’s public waterways must be registered and titled. Listed below are some of the exemptions from titling in Florida.

  • Vessels used, operated, and stored exclusively on private ponds and lakes
  • Vessels owned by the State of Florida, the US Government, or Florida’s political subdivisions
  • Documented vessels
  • Vessels used  for testing, sales purposes, or demonstration only


In Texas, all motorized, non-motorized, and USCG-documented vessels require registration. Vessels exempted from titling include:

  • All USCG-documented vessels
  • All non-motorized kayaks, canoes, rubber rafts, punts, rowboats, or boats under 14 feet long. Adding a trolling or outboard motor to one of these boat types requires registration and titling.

For all other states see: boat titles in each state including California.

How to Get a Title for a Boat with Just a Bill Of Sale?

A bill of sale is a legal document that outlines the sale and purchase of a vessel between two parties. This document acts as proof of purchase by the buyer and extends protection to the seller from any liability once the deal has been made.

After the sale is finalized, the buyer must apply for a boat title with the state agency responsible for handling the registration. It might be the DMV, DNR, or any other agency. Normally, you will be able to use the bill of sale as proof of purchase to acquire the title.

How to Get a Title for a Boat without a Bill Of Sale (Register Boat with No Papers)

To get a boat title without a bill of sale, check your state’s boating website for the exact documentation requirements. You will most probably have to fill out alternative title forms and submit some proof of ownership. This can be done by providing details, including the hull material, vessel type, fuel type, and engine, along with the seller’s details and contact information. You will most likely have to pay a title and replacement fee.

You can also contact your insurance agent for more information about titling your boat.

QuestionAnswerDetailed Steps
How can I get a title for a boat?You can get a title for a boat by applying for one through your state’s DMV.1. Contact your state’s DMV or boating agency.
2. Provide the necessary documents, such as proof of ownership, bill of sale, and boat registration.
3. Pay the required fees.
Register a boat with just a bill of sale?Some states allow you to register a boat with just a bill of sale. Check with your state’s DMV for more information.1. Check with your state’s DMV or boating agency to see if they allow boat registration with just a bill of sale.
2. Provide the necessary documents, such as the bill of sale and proof of ownership.
3. Pay the required fees.
Register a boat without bill of sale?Yes, you can register a boat without a bill of sale. You may need to provide other documentation to prove ownership. Check with your state’s DMV for more information.1. Contact your state’s DMV or boating agency.
2. Provide the necessary documents, such as proof of ownership, boat registration, and a completed application for boat registration.
3. Pay the required fees.
Title a boat without a title?In some cases, you can title a boat without a title. You may need to provide other documentation to prove ownership. Check with your state’s DMV for more information.1. Contact your state’s DMV or boating agency.
2. Provide the necessary documents, such as proof of ownership, bill of sale, and boat registration.
3. Explain the situation to the DMV or boating agency and follow their instructions.
4. Pay the required fees.
Can I sell my boat without a title?It is possible to sell a boat without a title, but it can be more difficult. You may need to provide other documentation to prove ownership. Check with your state’s DMV for more information.1. Provide the buyer with as much documentation as possible, such as the bill of sale, boat registration, and proof of ownership.
2. Explain the situation to the buyer and be upfront about any issues.
3. Check with your state’s DMV or boating agency to see what additional steps you may need to take.
4. Complete the sale and transfer ownership to the buyer.
Table: common questions regarding registering or titling a boat that has no title or no bill of sale.

Boat with No Registration

If you have a boat with no registration, here are the basic steps you can take to register it:

  • Look for the state’s specific boat registration requirements
  • Fill out a registration form – either online, in person, or via mail
  • Show proof of ownership – a bill of sale, title, and/or seller’s details
  • Pay the registration fee – this will vary depending on the state
  • Be aware of the expiration date and apply for renewal on time

Can You Transfer A Boat Title? | Boat Title Transfer

Yes, you transfer a boat title, which is similar to transferring a car title. The titled owner must sign the boat title and get it notarized. The new owner must fill out the relevant form, sign it and submit it to the relevant state agency along with the applicable fee.

If the vessel is USCG documented, you can follow the exchange/transfer guide here.

Can You Get A Title For An Abandoned Boat?

Yes, you can get a title for an abandoned boat (derelict). The exact steps will vary based on the state that you are living in. For example, in Texas, you can apply for an abandoned boat title through the Department of Parks and Wildlife. You must also report the vessel as abandoned to the local law enforcement agency via certified mail at least 30 days before applying. history reports check for derelict vessels as part of our search


This article comprehensively answered, “How Can I get a Title for a Boat?” A boat title proves ownership of a vessel, and its requirements vary depending on each state. The same applies to jet skis.

We also discussed the titling procedure for different boats, such as documented and non-documented vessels, abandoned vessels, and vessels that didn’t originally have a bill of sale. This information will help protect your ownership and make the selling process hassle-free.

#BoatTitle #ApplyforaBoatTitle #HowtoGetaBoatTitle #BoatRegistration #Boat #Titling

Infographic: Register a boat without bill of sale? titling a boat in USA

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