Which States Require Boat Titles?

by Bethany Marroquin
Once your boat is titled and registered, you can enjoy the open water.

Once your boat is titled and registered, you can enjoy the open water.

You have recently bought a boat, and it won't be long before you are enjoying adventure on the high seas or relaxation on the local lake. But first be sure of your state's laws concerning boat titles and registration. Almost all states require that boats be registered with the government, but titling requirements vary by state.

States That Require Titles for All Boats

Oklahoma was the first state to require all boat owners to have their boats titled, passing this condition into law in 1959. Nevada and South Carolina followed suit in 1972 and 1974, respectively. It wasn't until the 1980s that Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin adopted this law as well.

States That Require Titles for Boats of a Certain Length

Some states are less concerned with boats under 12 feet in length, but expect boat owners to request titles if they own boats that exceed that length. Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon and South Dakota require titles for any boats 12 feet and above, while Massachusetts, New York, Ohio and Texas only expect titles for boats 14 feet and above. Minnesota and Vermont extend the regulation to 16 feet, and Virginia pushes it to 18 feet. The state with the largest size requirement is Michigan, which only requires a title if the boat in question is 20 feet or longer, unless the boat has a permanent engine, in which case it much be titled regardless of length.

States That Require Titles Pending Other Conditions

A handful of states have specific conditions for boat titling, similar to Michigan's "permanent engine" stipulation. California and Maryland require a boat to be titled only if it requires registration as well. A Kentucky boat requires a title if it is used in public, but it is exempt if used only in private waters. In Indiana, a boat needs to be titled only if it fits one of the following scenarios: it was bought before January 1986 by a citizen of Indiana; it is treated as a lifeboat for a ship; it is valued at less than three thousand dollars when new or it was built for private usage and will not be sold.

States That Do Not Require Titles

Some states do not ask for boats to be titled and require only registration. Those states include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming. The states of Mississippi and Idaho are "optional titling states," allowing boat owners to choose for themselves.

About the Author

Bethany Marroquin is a writer and credentialed English teacher from Southern California. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Westmont College, and completed her teaching credential in 2014 through Azusa Pacific University.

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