Virginia Watercraft Owner's Guide
Watercraft Registration, Titling and Sales Tax Requirements
- Titling and Registering Your Watercraft
- Boat Motors
- Duplicate Titles, Registrations, or Decals
- Temporary 30-Day Registration Certificate
- Expiration and Renewal of Registration
- Notification of Change in Status or Change of Mailing Address
- Registration Must Be Onboard While Operating
- Display of Registration Numbers
- Validation Decals
- Trailers - Title, Registration, and License Plates
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) administers all boat titling and registration of recreational boats in Virginia. All motorboats used on the public waters of Virginia must be registered and titled. If the motorboat is principally used on the public waters of Virginia it must be registered and titled in Virginia as opposed to another state.
- A Certificate of Title (title) and a Certificate of Number (registration) are required for all watercraft propelled by machinery, including, but not limited to, gasoline, diesel, and electric motors.
- A title alone is required for sail-powered vessels in excess of 18 feet in length, if they do not have a motor.
- Boats used only on private waters do not require registration or titling.
- New watercraft must be registered or have a temporary registration before they may be operated on the public waters of Virginia.
- Used watercraft with a current, valid registration may be operated for 30 days on the previous owner's registration if a copy of the dated bill of sale and the registration card are carried aboard the watercraft.
- If there is no valid registration or the registration has expired, used watercraft must be registered or have a temporary registration before being operated on the public waters.
- An owner bringing a watercraft into Virginia from another state may operate the vessel up to 90 consecutive days on the other state's current, valid registration before registering it in Virginia.
Watercraft registration is accomplished through the mail or at the DGIF headquarters building at 4010 West Broad Street in Richmond (8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays). The full mailing address is on the application form. Applications submitted through the mail are usually processed and the registration materials mailed within two weeks of receipt in Richmond.
Titling and Registering Your Watercraft
The Application for Watercraft Certificate of Title and Certificate of Number (registration) form is available from VDGIF offices, Department of Motor Vehicle service centers, and from the VDGIF website. This is a combined application for both the registration and title.
An application for title and registration requires a detailed description of the watercraft that includes the make, length, model year, type of vessel, hull material, type of propulsion, and the 12-character hull identification number; the make, horsepower and serial number of the motor if in excess of 25 horsepower; and the name and address of the lien holder, if any.
Most of this information will be available from the title provided by the previous owner or the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin provided by the retail outlet where the watercraft was purchased.
Certain supporting documents must be submitted with an application for title and registration as follows:
- New Watercraft:
- The owner must provide the original Manufacturer's or Importer's Certificate (Statement) of Origin with "First Assignment" completed and issued by dealer at time of purchase and a copy of the sales invoice showing gross purchase price, watercraft sales tax paid, and a description of the watercraft.
- If watercraft was homemade by you, an affidavit must be provided stating this fact in lieu of a Manufacturer's or Importer's Certificate of Origin. The affidavit may be retrieved from the DGIF website or mailed to you upon request. Copies of receipts for building materials and pictures of the watercraft from all sides must also be submitted with the application and affidavit. Your watercraft may be subject to inspection by a law enforcement officer.
- If titled in Virginia: the original title with assignment of title completed by titled owner/owners. If purchased from a dealer the dealer reassignment portion of the title must be completed, and include a copy of the sales invoice showing gross purchase price, watercraft sales tax paid, and a description of the watercraft.
- If titled by someone else in another state: the original title with assignment of title completed by titled owner/owners. If purchased from a dealer the dealer reassignment portion of the title must be completed, and include a copy of the sales invoice showing gross purchase price, watercraft sales tax paid, and a description of the watercraft.
- If titled by you in another state (moving the watercraft to Virginia): the original title must be submitted.
- If registered by you in another state but not titled (moving the watercraft to Virginia): a copy of the out-of-state registration.
- If registered in Virginia but never titled: a copy of a dated bill of sale or a "Notification of Change of Status of a Numbered Vessel" form signed by the registered owner/owners. (Available on the DGIF website or mailed to you upon request.)
- If registered by someone else in another state but not titled: a copy of the out-of-state registration and a copy of the bill of sale signed by the registered owner/owners.
- If never registered or titled in Virginia or any other state: a "Statement for Registering and Titling a Motorboat not Previously Registered and/or Titled" form must be submitted with completed application and pictures of the watercraft from all sides.
- If Documented with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and being changed to state registration: the Certificate of Documentation, a copy of the signed bill of sale, and either a Letter of Deletion from the USCG or the Abstract of Title (with proof of lien release in the documented owner's name). Note: Watercraft cannot be documented by the USCG and titled at the same time. The owner must choose between documentation or titling. While a documented vessel may not be titled, it may be registered at the owner's discretion should a registration decal be desired to show proof that sales tax was paid. The registration decals may be useful if the watercraft is operated in other states that require a registration decal or other proof that sales tax was paid.
Registration and Titling Fees and Watercraft Sales and Use Tax
Most people must pay a registration fee, a titling fee, and watercraft sales and use tax when they acquire a watercraft. These fees are found on the application.
|less than 16 feet in length||$27.00|
|16 to less than 20 feet length||$31.00|
|20 to less than 40 feet length||$37.00|
|40 feet length and longer||$45.00|
|Duplicate Cards & Decals
(Replacements or extra sets)
|Livery of up to 10 watercraft||$27.00|
|Livery of more than 10 watercraft||$21.00|
|Change of Motor on Title
(Original Title must be submitted)
|Record Supplemental Lien on Previously Titled Watercraft
(Original Title must be submitted)
|Watercraft Sales and Use Tax||2% of gross purchase of watercraft and motor|
Any size, type, or horsepower of motor on a watercraft will require it to be registered, but only motors in excess of 25 horsepower are listed on titles.
Duplicate Titles, Registrations or Decals
If a title, registration or decal becomes defaced, lost, or destroyed, you may obtain an "Application for a Duplicate Certificate of Number, Decal and/or Title" form at all the locations where the application is available (see "Titling and Registering Your Watercraft" above). You may also use this form to order extra registration cards should you want more than one.
Please note that only one valid title is recognized for each watercraft. If a duplicate title is issued, it prevails over any previously issued title.
Temporary 30-Day Registration Certificate
If you wish to operate a watercraft that does not have a valid registration (it expired, the watercraft is new, it was never registered, etc.), a "Virginia Motorboat Temporary Registration Certificate" is required. It allows a watercraft to be legally operated for 30 days pending the receipt of the 3-year registration from DGIF. The Temporary Registration Certificate is available for purchase through all Hunting and Fishing License Agents at a cost of $11.00.
If you purchase this Certificate, you are not required to display the Virginia registration numbers on your watercraft during the 30-day period in which the Temporary Registration Certificate is valid. To purchase the temporary you will need to show the license agent some proof of ownership (bill of sale, registration card, manufacturer's statement of origin, or title).
You must apply for the 3-year registration immediately after receipt of the temporary registration certificate. An application to register and title the watercraft may be obtained from the same agents that sell the temporary registration certificate.
Expiration and Renewal of Registration
Registrations are valid for three years. Renewal notices are mailed to the last known address of all watercraft owners approximately 45 days before expiration. The most common reason owners do not receive a renewal notice is because their address has changed within the three years and DGIF was not notified. If a renewal notice was not received, the registration may be renewed by checking the "renew registration" box at the top of the application to register and title a watercraft, then completing the application. A shorter "registration renewal application" is also available on this website.
Notification of Change in Status or Change of Mailing Address
If a registered watercraft is sold, destroyed, abandoned, or stolen, or if there is a change in your mailing address, you are required by law to report this information within 15 days in writing to the DGIF Boat Section. A "Notification of Change of Status of a Numbered Vessel" form is available at all the locations where the application is available (see "Titling and Registering Your Watercraft") as well as this website. The notification can be mailed to the address on the form or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration Must be Onboard While Operating
You must have the registration card or a "temporary" registration on the vessel before your watercraft may legally be operated on public waters. The 3-year registration card is the official document of registration for your watercraft and once it has been issued, must be carried aboard the watercraft when in use.
If you purchased a used watercraft with a valid, current registration, you may operate the vessel for 30 days from the date of purchase provided you carry a dated bill of sale and the former owner's valid registration card.
Display of Registration Numbers
The number issued to your watercraft appears on the registration 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 may 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 4696 AF or VA-4696-AF
(Must read from left to right)
On vessels so configured that a number on the hull or superstructure would not be easily visible or the number would not remain securely attached (as on an inflatable vessel), the number may be painted on or the number and decal attached to a backing plate that is attached to the forward half of the vessel so that the number is visible from each side of the vessel.
If the watercraft already has Virginia registration numbers (used watercraft), in most instances those same numbers will be reassigned to the new owner. The Virginia registration number assigned to a watercraft should never be removed from the watercraft unless VDGIF assigns new numbers to the vessel.
Decals will be furnished with each 3-year registration issued by DGIF. Decals indicate the month, year of expiration and the registration number assigned to your watercraft, and must be displayed within 6 inches of the registration number on each side of the watercraft for which they were issued. Only the current decal may be visible. Expired decals must be removed.
Trailers Title, Registration and License Plates
Title, registration, and license plates for watercraft trailers are purchased through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Check with DMV for rules and regulations regarding trailers.