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California Boat Registration requirements - fees - renewal

California State Parks Boating and Waterways

United States Coast Guard

NASBLA - National Association of State Boating Law Administrator

What boats must be registered in California?

Generally, every sail-powered vessel over eight feet in length and every motor-driven vessel (regardless of length) that is not documented by the U.S. Coast Guard which is used or on the waters of this state are subject to registration by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The vessel must be located in California.

Which boats are exempt from registration in California? 

  1. Boats propelled manually.
  2. Sailboats eight feet or less in length propelled solely by sail.
  3. Documented vessels.
  4. Foreign vessels.
  5. US vessels from other states remaining in California less than 90 consecutive days.
  6. Sailboard.

Must I register a boat used exclusively on a private lake?

Yes; any vessel that is used or moored on California waterways, including private lakes, must be registered.

How do I register my boat in California?

The documents required to register and title a new vessel or a vessel being registered for the first time are:

  • Application for Vessel Certificate of Number (Boat 101 form).
  • Proof of ownership, such as the out-of-state title in the applicant's name or properly endorsed for transfer and signed by the applicant. A bill of sale is acceptable in lieu of the seller's signature on the title,
  • The original or certified copy of a conditional sales contract or security interest showing the purchaser's name and any lienholder and marked "paid" and countersigned,
  • A bond for the vessel value if proof of ownership cannot be provided and the vessel's value is $2,000 or more.

How much will it cost to register my boat in California?

California dmv registration fees to register and title a new vessel.

California dmv registration fees to register a vessel that was previously registered in another state.

When do I have to renew my boat registration?

The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that you renew your boat registration by December 31st every odd-numbered year (i.e., every 2 years).

California Boating License


  • You can obtain boat and trailer registrations at any office of the DVM.
  • The Certificate of number must be readily available for inspection by a law enforcement officer at all times while underway. It is valid for two years.
  • The Certificate of Ownership is your evidence of title to the vessel. We recommend that you keep your certificate in a sealable plastic bag in a dry place. 
  • On the reverse side of the Certificate of Ownership you will find the application for transfer of ownership.

registration number on boat placement california

California boat registration number placement


California Boater Card 

Beginning January 1, 2018, the mandatory boating safety education law goes into effect and will be phased in by age. If you operate any type of motorized vessel on California waterways (including powered sailboats/paddlecraft), you will be required to pass an approved boating safety examinaton and carry a lifetime California Boater Card.

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