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Virginia Boat Registration

Do you need to register your boat in Virginia?

The owner of a watercraft must apply for a Certificate of Title at the same time application is made for a Certificate of Number (Registration). The Application for Watercraft Certificate of Title and Certificate of Number form (PDF) is available from most watercraft dealers, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Headquarters and Regional Offices (and this site), and agents who sell hunting and fishing licenses.

In addition to other information, 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 twelve-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 lienholder, if any.

New online portal!

One-stop shop, for DGIF customers to register and renew boat registration.

Boat Registration Virginia

FAQ - Virginia Boat Registration

I just bought a used boat that is currently registered in Virginia. How do I register it?

  • If it was titled: Send
    • the original title signed over to you by the previous owners,
    • the completed “Boat Title and Registration” form, and
    • appropriate fees to this department, attention the Boat Section.

Do I have to register a canoe?

If you propel the canoe by any type of motor, including an electric motor, then you must register and title it if it is used on the public waters of Virginia. Otherwise, you are not required to register or title a canoe in Virginia.

Do I have to register a small john boat propelled by an electric trolling motor?

Yes, if you propel the john boat by any type of motor including electric, then you must register and title it if used on the public waters of Virginia.

My Virginia registration has expired. How do I renew it? Are there any late fees?

You may use the “Boat Title and Registration” form to renew your registration. If you use this form, write in large bold letters at the top of the form the word “RENEWAL“. Otherwise, you can contact this department by phone, mail or e-mail asking for a new renewal form. Be sure to give your VA boat number and correct return mailing address. We would then send you a renewal form in the mail for you to renew the registration. There are no late fees for registering a past due boat registration.

How do I get a replacement registration card, replacement decals or replacement title?

  1. Complete the “Duplicate Certificate of Number” form for a replacement registration card; the “Application for Duplicate Validation Decals” form for replacement decals; or the “Duplicate Certificate of Title” form for a replacement title,
  2. enclose the appropriate fee(s), and
  3. send to this department, attention the Boat Section. 

Boat registration Virginia

Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF), which is charged with regulating the state boating laws, mandates that all motorized vessels using Virginia waters carry a valid Certificate of Title and a Certificate of Number (registration) except if the vessel is a:

  • canoe, kayak and all other non motorized vessels 
  • watercraft used only on private waters;
  • watercraft registered in other states using Virginia waters for 90 consecutive days or less;
  • documented vessel.

Sailboats in excess of 18 feet in length, even if they do not have a motor, must be properly titled before use.


  • The pocket-size Certificate of Number must be onboard whenever you use your vessel.
  • Once in receipt of the application and required fees, the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries will issue a title, which is proof of ownership, and a Virginia Certificate of Number. A set of registration decals will also be issued. 
  • The Certificate of Number and registration decals are valid for 3 years. 
  • Trailers are treated like cars. The title, registration and license plates for your boat trailer are obtained from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • 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 in writing, within 15 days to the DGIF.

Display registration number Virginia

Display of Registration Numbers & Decals

Your registration numbers must be displayed:

  1. On the forward part of your vessel well above the waterline.
  2. On both sides of the bow.
  3. Numbers must be painted or applied as a decal, where law enforcement officials can read it.
  4. Letters and numbers are BLOCK style of at least 3 inches in height and must contrast in color with the hull. 
  5. Letters and numbers are to read from left to right and have a space (VA 4252 AF) or hyphen (VA-3534-AF) to separate letters and numbers.  
  6. Registration decals must be displayed within 6 inches in line with the registration number, on each side of the vessel.

Validation decal Virginia

You must display only current registration decals and remove any expired ones.

Documented vessels

Some boats that are at least five net tons in size and owned by an American citizen can be registered with the U.S. Coast Guard. These boats are "documented." Documented boats must still be registered with the state. They cannot be titled in Virginia, but the owner of a documented watercraft may apply to DGIF for state registration decals.

Get your Virginia boating License today!