Virginia.gov

Virginia Watercraft Owner's Guide

Watercraft Registration, Titling and Sales Tax Requirements

Overview

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.
  • Sail-powered vessels (no motor) 18 feet in length & over are only required to be titled in Virginia (no registration needed).
  • Boats used only on private waters do not require registration or titling.
  • New watercraft must be registered or have a Temporary Registration Certificate 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 obtain valid registration or have a Temporary Registration Certificate before being operated on the public waters of Virginia.
  • 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 7870 Villa Park Drive, Suite 400, Henrico, Virginia 23228 (8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. M-F except holidays). Applications submitted through the mail are usually processed and the registration materials mailed within two weeks of receipt in Henrico.

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 name of the lienholder (if applicable) are also required.

Most of this information will be available from the Certificate of Title and/or Certificate of Number (Registration) provided by the previous owner or the Manufacturer's Statement (or Certificate) of Origin provided by the retail outlet where the watercraft was purchased.

Certain supporting documents must be submitted with an application for titling and registration as follows:

  1. New Watercraft:
    • The owner must provide the original Manufacturer's Statement (or Certificate) of Origin or Importer's Certificate of Origin with "First Assignment" completed and issued by dealer at the time of purchase. A copy of the sales invoice showing gross purchase price, watercraft sales tax paid, and a description of the boat must also be provided.
    • If watercraft was homemade by you, a "Statement for Registering and Titling a Motorboat not Previously Registered and/or Titled" must be provided stating this fact in lieu of a Manufacturer's Statement (or Certificate) of Origin or Importer's Certificate of Origin. The "Statement for Registering and Titling a Motorboat not Previously Registered and/or Titled" form is available on the DGIF website or mailed to you upon request. Copies of receipts for building materials and printed pictures of the watercraft from all sides must also be submitted with the application and "Statement for Registering and Titling a Motorboat not Previously Registered and/or Titled". Your watercraft may be subject to inspection by a law enforcement officer.
  2. Used Watercraft:
    • If titled in Virginia - the original Certificate of Title with assignment of title completed by titled owner(s). If purchased from a watercraft 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 Certificate of Title with assignment of title completed by titled owner(s). 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 Certificate of 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(s).
    • 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 printed pictures of the watercraft from all sides.
  3. Documented Watercraft:
    • 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.

Watercraft Registration Fee
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
Temporary certificate $11.00
Duplicate Cards & Decals
(Replacements or extra sets)
$9.00
Livery of up to 10 watercraft $27.00
Livery of more than 10 watercraft $21.00
Titling Fee
Original $7.00
Duplicate $2.00
Change of Motor on Title
(Original Title must be submitted)
$2.00
Record Supplemental Lien on Previously Titled Watercraft
(Original Title must be submitted)
$7.00
Tax Fee
Watercraft Sales and Use Tax 2% of gross purchase price of watercraft and motor (Maximum $2,000.00)

Boat Motors

Any size, type, or horsepower of motor on a watercraft requires it to be registered. 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 (e.g., 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 three-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. Only one Temporary Registration Certificate is allowed per applicant

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 Registration Certificate you will need to show the license agent some proof of ownership (e.g., bill of sale, registration card, Manufacturer's Statement (or Certificate) of Origin, or Certificate of Title.

You must apply for the three-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.

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 boat-reg@dgif.virginia.gov.

Registration Must be Onboard While Operating

You must have a valid registration card or a Temporary Certificate of Registration on the vessel before your watercraft may legally be operated on public waters. The three-year registration card is the official document of registration for your watercraft and once it has been issued, it must be carried aboard the watercraft while in use. If you purchased a used watercraft with 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 inches 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" abbreviation and the letter suffix from the numerals.

Example: VA 4696 AF or VA-4696-AF
(Must read from left to right)

Graphic showing correct decal placement

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 DGIF assigns new numbers to the vessel.

Validation Decals

Decals are furnished with each three-year registration issued by DGIF. Decals indicate the month, year of expiration, and the registration number assigned to your watercraft. Decals 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.