With kayaking becoming such a popular outdoor activity that virtually anyone can get into, it is important to understand the rules and laws for using watercraft on any given waterway. People love to kayak as part of a sports event, or as general recreation, and for fishing.
Sometimes you may want to travel far and wide to paddle different waters. Every state has different regulations when it comes to watercraft registrations: the most important thing is that you need to be able to legally take your kayak or boat out on the water.
We are here to inform you and point you toward the appropriate places you need to go to obtain registration information. How to register, fees, and much more. It may seem confusing at first, but we will break down the key things you’ll need to do and answer frequently asked questions. We are here to help!
Table of Contents
Is Online Boat registration possible?
In this day and age of everything internet, it is no surprise that you can even register your boat or kayak online. Some sites allow you to do so and offer you more information on how to complete the process. Whether it is via the internet or in person your boat or kayak needs to be registered as soon as possible.
Even though online registration can be an option; there will still be documents like proof of ownership or the bill of sale that you will have to mail in. That or you may have to bring these documents directly to the designated office of that state.
Be aware that you can start your registration online similar to an application, but you may not be able to fully complete it all via the internet. However, this may be different if you are only looking to do a renewal of your registration.
Each state regulates boat and kayak registrations differently, so for further information on online registration and finding the appropriate application form check out this article.
Do I need a registration for my kayak?
This is where things get a little more confusing. You see, not all states in the USA require kayaks and canoes to be registered.
That is why it is so important that you do your research to determine if you live in or plan to travel to another state that does require you to register your kayak.
To make things easier, we will detail which states do require it and what states don’t. We will also discuss registration fees and how much they typically are when you do have to register your kayak.
States that do not require kayak registrations
You will find that most states do not require registration for manual powered boats: canoes and kayaks. This changes, though, once you decide to put a trolling motor on one. Then you are required to register it since it is then a motorized vessel.
Also, once your boat is registered in one state then it typically does not need to be registered in another, as long as you are only there for 90 days or less. This is the case for the following states:
- New Hampshire
- New York
This is not a complete list, but as you can already see the vast majority of states in the US do not need kayaks to be registered. As long as they are not powered by any type of motor, electric trolling motors are included.
If the state you need more information on is not listed above, then you can check out this article for what you need to know. You can also directly search for boat registrations in your desired state.
States that do require kayak registrations
There are a few states that do require paddle watercraft like canoes, kayaks, and the like to be registered. We will provide a list of the most prominent states where you do need to register your kayak and the specifications that may or may not also be involved.
- Iowa: Their registration guide states that conventional canoes and kayaks, including inflatables, do NOT need to be registered if they are 13 feet or less in length, and do not have a motor. However, if they are over 13 feet it is assumed you would need to register it.
- Minnesota: If your non-motorized craft is over 10 feet in length, then it needs to be registered.
- Ohio: Requires all recreational boats; canoes, kayaks, and inflatable boats included must be registered. The Ohio Division of Parks and Watercraft is where you can go to do your registration, and the registration fee for kayaks is $20 for a regular registration and $25 for an alternative registration. You will need a certified watercraft registration application, proof of ownership like the manufacturer’s statement of origin, assigned title, or the current registration. You will also need your Ohio drivers license.
- Pennsylvania: unpowered boats need a registration ONLY if you plan to use it at a Fish & Boat commission access area or lake, or a Pennsylvania state park or state forest. The registration fee for kayaks in PA is $22, and you will need to go to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for your title or registration. To register your boat you’ll need to submit by mail a completed application for Pennsylvania boat registration/ boat title, proof of ownership like a current properly-assigned Pennsylvania or out-of-state watercraft title, or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin and a copy of the boat’s bill of sale.
A far shorter list compared to the previous. It also applies to these states that if your boat or kayak is registered in another state, then you don’t need to register it.
Though, this only applies as long as you are not there for more than 60 days or in some places up to 90 consecutive days (depending on which state you plan to travel to). Most registrations last between one to three years, but again you must check by where you live to be certain.
How to register your kayak: The registration process
In this section, we will provide you with helpful tips and instructions for what you must do to register your kayak. The process may or may not vary from state to state, but generally, the documentation needed and the actual process should be the same to obtain your registration.
We will inform you of the typical locations and departments that take care of watercraft registration. As well as what to expect from registration fees, what to do with your registration number, and much more.
Where can you register your kayak
There are a few different departments that you can go to for boat registration. At the very least you could ask at one place and they’d likely point you to where you need to go. Once again it depends on where you live.
We will list here the main places that typically do boat registrations so that you can check these first:
- Your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
- The department of natural resources in your state.
- Department of fish and wildlife, or similar depending on the state.
- A Parks and recreation division.
- Or even the U.S. Coast Guard.
If you are interested in specific guidelines regarding your state, then check out the following article. It highlights which agency is responsible for boat registration by state.
How to register Your Kayak
Next, we shall lead you through how to complete registration. Because every state can vary greatly in the registration process, we will provide further resources to help you. Most importantly we will discuss the documentation you will likely need to provide.
Let’s use New York State as an example to explain how to register your modified motorized kayak:
- New York is one of the states that you can go to the DMV to get your boat registration. You can find the details on what you need and how to register on their website. There they have a PDF for you to review instructions before you go to the DMV.
- You will need to provide proof of identity.
- The bill of sale if you purchased your watercraft from a licensed boat dealer.
- A completed boat registration/ title application.
- And proof of ownership.
- There is a list of what is considered acceptable proof of ownership on the NYS DMV site.
Once you provide the necessary documents and proof, then it will be processed and you will receive your registration sticker. The sticker must be placed 18 inches from the bow on both sides of the vessel.
It is in the same location where you should also have your registration numbers placed. If you are looking to register in New York then you can click here to find out more. For other states, you can use this link to gain more information.
What to do if you don’t have proof of ownership
Still using New York as an example for registering a motor-powered kayak, they provide another option if you do not have proof of ownership. If the boat is a model from 1987 and newer and is 14 feet in length at least, then you can provide the NY State certificate of title.
It is also acceptable to provide proof of ownership from a different state. Other places may have separate options, which is why it is so important to search specifically in the area you desire to be paddling or boating.
What is a certificate of title
Only boats from 1987 and newer can be titled. They must also be at least 14 feet in length and registered in our example state: New York. The title certificate acts as proof of ownership instead of registration. It is only applicable to boats that match the above specifications as well.
Also take note that when a boat doesn’t receive a title certificate, the transferable registration can be used as proof of ownership, unless the boat is documented by the US Coast Guard (USCG).
How much is the Registration fee
Indeed there is a fee involved with registering your boat. Fortunately, if you do have to register your kayak it will be on the cheaper end. This fee goes toward the protection and preservation of aquatic natural resources.
The small sum you pay as a registration fee is a part of enhancing the experiences for future generations that will also be enjoying the waterways of the world. It is based on the length of the vessels you are registering.
If your vessel is less than 16 feet your fee should be about around 25 dollars but could be more. The average fee ranges from $25 to $250 all depending on the length. For 16 feet or less is the minimum payment, and it goes up from there with 16 feet to less than 26 feet in mid to low range as well when it comes to fees. As you get above 26 feet is when the cost of the fee starts to increase.
When it comes time to renew your registration after the one to three years mark, it is much simpler than your first time having to register a new watercraft. For places like Massachusetts, all you need is your registration renewal notice or completed titling and registration application.
You will have to pay the registration fee every time you need to register a new boat or need to renew an expired registration. Some states may even require you to renew your registration online as an option as it takes less effort. There is still the option of doing it by mail or in person if that’s what you prefer.
For detailed information, you should check with your state agency responsible for boat registration on how to renew your kayak registration. The best time to do this is when you are having your kayak registered for the first time.
What is your hull identification number
Your hull identification number or HIN is what is used to positively identify your kayak, motor, or sailboat, and all other vessels. They are the registration numbers that are displayed on your boat and are assigned by the USCG.
The first three characters of your HIN are the manufacturer identification code, they are specific to every manufacturer. Then the four numbers after the characters of the manufacturer identity are used as the hull serial number. The very last four characters of your HIN are mandated by the USCG and refer to the model year of your vessel as well as the date of certification.
Your HIN is usually located on the bow of your boat or kayak by your registration sticker. They are in plain black block characters like a decal on the side of the bow of your boat. Usually, these numbers are placed or engraved into your watercraft in such a way that trying to remove them would damage it. Your HIN serves an important purpose:
- The USGC uses it for identification and to check the safety standards that should be met with your particular boat.
- It can be used for titling and registration purposes.
- Law enforcement can use it to trace your boat in case of theft or loss.
- Some kayak brands use it for warranty purposes as well.
In addition: boating license and boating safety certificate
Many states are requiring everyone to obtain their boating license/ boating safety certificate. If you are planning to purchase a kayak and be operating any kind of watercraft you will need to take the class.
This is for your safety while on the water, to prevent accidents, and create awareness for things like proper boat care and aquatic invasive species. We are all out there to have fun and encourage future generations to love and protect the waterways.
Key insights & Takeaways
Registering and renewing your kayak or other vessels is not as hard as it sounds. You just need to know the right places to go to find what you need to know. All states do it a little differently so you always need to check!
Just because a majority of the states don’t need a kayak to be registered, if it is not modified to have a motor on it, doesn’t mean all of them are like that.
That is why we provided the lists and links to help anyone who may be uncertain about it. Always check your registration is valid since some are only good for one year, and others may be good for three.
All of the sites provided offer further information you will need to start your application processes either from home behind your computer, or they detail which department to go to for your state.
Once you have completed your registration then you will be able to go out on the water boating or paddling to your heart‘s content!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to display the registration number on the kayak?
It’s not necessary to display your registration number on your kayak. However, it is mandatory to display the validation decals. This is to prove that your boat registration is valid for that year.
What if I am a new owner of a used kayak?
If that’s the case then you should note that a boat registration isn’t transferrable in most states. So first, check with your state agency, but most likely you will receive new registration paperwork to fill out.
On the other hand, the title of a boat is transferrable from one owner to another. There are certain steps involved in doing this which can be found here.
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