Virginia.gov

Watercraft Titling and Sales Tax Laws

  • A Certificate of Title and a Certificate of Number (registration) are required for all "watercraft" propelled by machinery, including gasoline, diesel and electric motors.
  • All "motorboats" regardless of length and horsepower of motor are defined as "watercraft."
  • A "Certificate of Title" is also required for sail-powered vessels in excess of 18' in length.
  • Purchasers must pay a 2% Watercraft Sales Tax on the gross purchase price of watercraft and motor - maximum tax to be paid is $2,000.
  • All "watercraft" with registrations that expire after January 1, 1998 and that do not have a Certificate of Title, must be issued a "Certificate of Title" at the time of the Virginia Registration Renewal.

Certificate of Title

A Certificate of Title is a legal document that provides proof of ownership, protects businesses that make boat loans, and aids in the recovery of stolen watercraft.

All purchasers of watercraft must apply for a Certificate of Title and pay the required 2% watercraft sales tax, excepted licensed watercraft dealers.

If the Certificate of Title is lost, defaced or destroyed, you may obtain an Application for a Duplicate Title from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Headquarters or Regional offices (or this web site), and submit the Application to the Department's headquarters in Richmond. A fee of $2.00 will be charged.

Certificate of Number (Registration)

You must have at least a "temporary" Certificate of Number or a "Temporary Registration Certificate" on board before your watercraft can legally be operated on state waters. Upon receipt, the "permanent" Certificate of Number must be signed and carried on board at all times while the watercraft is being operated. It is the official document of registration for your watercraft.

Also, if a watercraft has previously been registered in Virginia, the new owner may operate the vessel for thirty days from the date of purchase with a dated bill of sale and the valid Certificate of Number of the former owner.

If the Certificate of Number (registration card) is lost, you may obtain an Application for a Duplicate Certificate of Number from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Headquarters and Regional Offices (or this site), and submit it to the Department's Headquarters in Richmond. A fee of fifty cents will be charged.

Display of Registration Numbers

The number issued to your watercraft appears on the Certificate of Number and is to be displayed on each side of the forward half of the vessel in block letters, at least 3" in height, and contrasting in color with hull or background. They can be painted or attached to the watercraft, must read from left to right and must always be legible. A space or hyphen must separate both the VA symbol and the letter suffix from the numerals.

Example: VA 9999 Z or VA-9999-Z (must read from left to right)

Decals will be furnished with each permanent Certificate of Number issued by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Decals indicate the month, year of expiration and the registration number assigned your watercraft, and must be displayed within six inches of the registration number on the watercraft for which they were issued. Only the current decal may be visible - expired decals must be removed.

If a decal becomes defaced, lost, or destroyed, you may obtain an Application for a Duplicate Decal from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Headquarters and Regional Offices (and this site), and submit it to the Department's Headquarters in Richmond. A fee of $9.00 will be charged for each set of decals replaced.