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Indiana Boat Registration

Registration Indiana

To operate any motorized vessel on Indiana waters it must be registered and display valid watercraft decals. Non-motorized must also display valid watercraft decals and pay any applicable taxes and fees.

Vessels exempt from registration:

  • Non-motorized vessels such as canoes, kayaks and rowboats
  • A ship’s lifeboat
  • Vessels that are properly registered in another state and
    • Are using Indiana waters for a maximum of 60 consecutive days or
    • The owner has paid the required Indiana excise tax
    • Vessels from another country that are operated temporarily on Indiana waters
    • Vessels moored on the Indiana part of Lake Michigan for a maximum of 180 consecutive days

Registration applications must be made to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Once a vessel is registered the owner will receive a Certificate of Registration that must be kept on board and readily available for inspection by a law enforcement officer whenever the vessel is in operation. 

The BMV must be notified in writing within 30 days if the owner changes address. If the boat is sold, destroyed, or stolen the BMV must be notified within 15 days. 

Registration fees are charged only when a vessel is purchased. 

Boat Excise Tax

Owners of motorboats and sailboats that are used, operated, docked or stored in Indiana are required to pay boat excise tax.

Boat excise tax must be paid annually. Owners will then receive two excise tax decals that are valid for one year and must be displayed on the vessel.

Excise tax must be paid on vessels registered in another state if the vessel is used, operated, docked or stored in Indiana for 22 or more consecutive days.


Any vessel that requires registration must also have a certificate of title.


  • Vessels acquired before January 1, 1986
  • Vessels less than $3,000 in value when new
  • Home-built vessels for personal use and not for resale.

How to Display Registration Number and Decals

Display registration number Indiana

You must display your boat number in the following manner:

  • Painted on or permanently attached to each side of the bow;
  • Using BLOCK letters at least three inches high and of one solid color contrasting sharply with the color of your boat;
  • Be clearly legible from a distance of 100 feet
  • To read from left to right; letters and numbers must be separated by a space or a hyphen, for example, IN 2234 AB or IN-2234-AB
  • No other numbers may be displayed

Every vessel that is required to be registered must display decals issued by the BMV.

You must display your excise decals as follows:

  • On both sides of the boat
  • Within three inches and to the right of the registration number
  • Expired decals must be removed.

Validation decal Indiana

Lake Permits

All privately owned vessels on state park, state forest or reservoir lakes in Indiana must display a valid lake permit.

Permits are available from state park and reservoir offices and from the Department of Natural Resources.

Documented Vessels

USCG-Documented vessels must also be registered with the state however they need not display the IN registration number.

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