How to Read a Boat Registration

Explore America's Campgrounds

If you love the water and want to purchase a boat, then it is important to know that having your boat registered, unlike a car, is done differently in different states. Certain states will either have you register with the division of motor vehicles, the parks division or the fish and game department. Once you have your registration, understand how to read it, because you will need to have part of the information properly attached to your vessel.

Items you will need

  • -Any one of these documents: Manufacturer's statement of origin (if your boat is new), Carpenter's Certificate, Bill of Sale (from dealer or previous owner), Title, OR Affidavit of ownership

  • -Application

  • -Form of payment

Reading Boat Registration Card

Find the four bold numbers on your registration card. These registration numbers correspond with the same numbers engraved in the hull of the vessel.

Look for the name of the boat manufacturer. This name appears to the right of the registration number on your card. In addition, you will notice a serial number, a certificate number and date registered.

Find the owner number, owner's name and address on the bottom of the Registration card.

Interpreting the registration on the boat is just as important as the piece of paper that you have in your wallet. Just like a VIN number for your car, three sets of letters and numbers are attached to the bow of the boat. The first two letters are the identify the state the boat is registered in. The two sets of letters and numbers following the state ID are registry numbers.


  • Improper or expired boat registration or the failure to properly register your boat can result in a fine.


  • Attach the registration number decals properly to the side to the boat. All lettering must not be less than 3 inches in height with the spacing between the two letter state identifier and registration number a full space equal to the length of a letter. Additionally, it is required that everything must be displayed on each side of the bow of the boat and at a height above the waterline.
Gone Outdoors