Titling and Registration

Home Boat Buying Guide Guide Detail

Transfer of ownership not only entails taking physical possession of the boat but also the legal ownership via proper transfer of title and registration. Not all states register and title boats in the same manner so it is essential that you understand how to register your boat, motor, and trailer.

  • New Boat Purchases - When purchasing a new boat, you will need to secure the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSOs) from the dealership to properly take legal ownership. These documents act as “titles" and are essential to register your boat, motor, and trailer with the appropriate state entities. Some dealerships will offer temporary operating permits and thus register the boat, motor, and trailer on your behalf using the MSOs to process your registration. You will then receive the official registration and/or titles from your state entity.

    If you plan on financing your purchase the MSOs will be forwarded to your lender, either via the dealership, finance company, or titling agency involved in your purchase transaction. The lender typically holds the MSOs and or titles as the legal leinholder of your boat. Most states don’t allow the purchaser (you in this case) to physically hold the title if there is a loan against the purchase. The lender will typically hold the titles until your loan is paid off.

  • Used Boat Purchases – If you are purchasing a used boat, it is essential that you are purchasing it from the legal owner. If the titles and/or registration are not in the name of the person you are buying the boat from it is essential that you verify that the boat has not been stolen. You can contact a marine titling agency to verify the legal ownership via a title search

    The owner should have in his possession proper titles, MSOs, registration, or US Coast Guard Documentation. If the owner has a loan on the boat, the lender must be paid off before you can physically possess the legal documents for ownership. If you plan on financing your used purchase the finance company can help you with the transfer of ownership and ensure that your bank will physically possess the titles – thus consummating the purchase transaction.

    Registering your used purchase with the proper state entity is essential for legal use. This may require that you physically take the boat and/or trailer to the motor vehicle division/state entity to secure the operating permits necessary. You may also consider hiring a titling agency to help with this process. They will have the means and resources to aid you in the transaction. Refer to the American Vessel Documentation Association for an authorized agent in your area.

    For more information on proper state titling and registration contact your local motor vehicle division, titling agency, or purchase the N.A.D.A. Titling and Registration Textbook. It is essential that your purchase is done in a legal manner otherwise you may encounter difficulties securing the proper titling and registration documentation. It is important to note that improper titling or registration can result in state fines and/or impeded ability to legally operate your boat.

You found the boat of your dreams, secured financing for the purchase, transferred the titling, and registered the boat, motor, and trailer -- you are ready to go boating! Congratulations! Enjoy your purchase and boat responsibly.