Wisconsin Boat Registration

Wisconsin Boat Registration History Report

Wisconsin boat registration FAQs are found below and can be downloaded as PDF. We have written this page to inform the boating community about registration requirements, recording methods, and title search guidelines for the State of Wisconsin.

We will cover information about the Boat Registration Agency in this state and if you are wondering about Registration and marking requirements we have an overview of that as well. We also talk about Registration Requirements for boat in Wisconsin along with things you need to know about boat Ownership and Liens so you can better perform Boat Title Searches or boat history lookups in WS.

Where are Wisconsin Boats Registered?

Remember, some states have titling for boats and others do not. Wisconsin issues both registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the WS STATE Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Madison. This state does not issue titles or registrations for outboard motors but note that Boat trailer registration and titling would be mandatory for those weighing over 3,000 lbs.

Boat Alert History Report · Wisconsin Boat Registration

Did you know that boats registered in the State of Wisconsin make up 5.0% of all USA vessel registrations?

Boat Registrations by year in the State of Wisconsin (source: Nasbla) - motorized vs non motorized boats.
Boat Registrations by year in the State of Wisconsin (source: Nasbla) – motorized vs non motorized boats.
Infographic Wisconsin Boat Registration
Infographic: Wisconsin Boat Registration

Wisconsin Boat Registration Numbers

Wisconsin boat registration numbers begin with a “WS“. The WS designation is followed by four numbers and then two letters like in most states. You will have to display these as shown above if your boat is non-documented at the USCG. Put the WS boat registration sticker tab next to it. The state reg. number should not be confused with the 12 character Hull ID (HIN).

All boats manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters “WSZ” are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. Hull number inspections are not required in Wisconsin unless there is a discrepancy.

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Exceptionally, a Coast Guard documented vessel does not need to display the state registration number but instead they would display the state registration tabs, an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. The USCG Official documentation number must also be affixed on other location on the boat: interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull.

Boat Liens Database In Wisconsin

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the DNR in WS. These will be shown on both the registration and title certificates if there are any. Security interests in boats that are neither titled or USCG documented are recorded with the Secretary of State as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. If the vessel is USCG documented, a lender’s security interests will be recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center (NVDC) and are indexed on the boat’s abstract of title. This is different from state registration lookups and can be ordered at boat-abstract.com.

Tax liens may be flagged on boat registration records, recorded as UCC filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk’s office. There are no provisions for recording mechanic’s liens or other non-secured claims against state titled boats. Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State.

Wisconsin Boat Registration Number Search Website

Boat title and registration records in Wisconsin are maintained by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This agency does not facilitate online searches on their website.

Wisconsin Boat Registration Lookup

The Boat-Alert.com database combines 53+ nationwide databases into a single place so you can search in a matter of minutes. These include records for stolen boats, marine lien claims, boating accidents, pollution incidents, auctioned boats, factory recalls, and boat manufacturers.

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Click to Order a HIN Report

Titling & Registration Requirements in Wisconsin

Wisconsin

  • TITLING:
    • REQUIRED: Yes EFFECTIVE DATE : 1/1/1989
    • VESSEL TYPES: Effective February 1, 1989, the owner of a boat, 16 feet in length or greater, in Wisconsin, whether or not the boat is operated on the waters of this state, is required to hold a certificate of title.
    • EXEMPTIONS: Boats exempt from Wisconsin titling requirements include: 1) Boats under 16 feet; 2) Boats voluntarily registered; 3) Boats purchased by nonresidents who intend to register the boat in another state; 4) Boats exempt from registration requirements.
    • FEES: $5.00
    • DUPLICATE FEE: $5.00
    • TRANSFER FEE: NA
  • REGISTRATION:
    • VESSEL TYPES: All motorized vessels and boats used on waters of the state; including electric trolling motors, and sailboats greater than 12 feet in length used on waters of the state.
    • EXEMPTIONS: 1) Nonmotorized boats (non-sailboats); 2) Nonmotorized sailboats 12 feet in length or less; 3) Boats registered in another state and using Wisconsin waters for less than 60 consecutive days; 4) Boats operated under the authority of a temporary operating receipt, no greater than 60 days from the date of application and payment. The temporary operating receipt must be carried onboard; 5) Boats from a country other than the United States temporarily using the waters of the state; 6) A military or public boat of the United States, except recreational-type public vessels; 7) A boat whose owner is a state or subdivision of a state, which is used principally for governmental purposes, and which is clearly identifiable; 8) A ships lifeboat; 9) Boats present in this state, for a period of not to exceed 10 days, for the express purpose of competing in a race conducted under a permit from a municipality or an authorized agency of the U.S. government.
    • USCG DOCUMENTED VESSELS REQUIRED: Yes
    • NUMBER OF DAYS BEFORE REGISTRATION REQUIRED: 60 consecutive days.
    • FEES: 1) Under 16 ft. = $22; 2) 16 ft. to less than 26 ft. = $37; 3) 26 ft. to less than 40 ft. = $65; 4) 40 ft. and greater = $105
    • DUPLICATE REGISTRATION FEE: $2.50
    • DUPLICATE DECAL FEE: $2.50
    • TRANSFER FEE: $3.75 for vessels under 16 feet, voluntary registration, and USCG documented vessels; $8.75 for vessels 16 feet and over.
    • LATE FEE: No

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