Registering a Boat in California

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Registering Your Vessel In California

Finished with this guide and still need help registering your vessel in California? Give the CA DMV a call at (800) 777-0133 for more assistance.

Vessels Requiring Registration in California 

Registering a boat is similar to registering a car, as soon as you put a motor in it, the state recognizes the boat as a "motorized vehicle", and requires registration. California residents are required to register the following types of boats:

  • Sail-powered vessels over 8 feet in length.
  • All motor driven vessels.
  • Commercial vessels weighing at least 5 tons or measuring at least 30 ft in length, must be registered with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Newport Vessels Customers 

Newport Vessels creates boat documents for every boat we sell through our website, if you purchased your Newport Vessels boat via another website, please fill out our Boat Document Request Form. You will receive these documents in a yellow envelope via USPS a few days after ordering your boat, if you keep an eye out for them you might just have your boat registered by the time it arrives at your door. 

These documents include:

  • Vessel Bill of Sale
  • Manufacturer Statement of Origin

These are the only documents you will need from us. Please read the rest of this page to learn what else you will need to register your new boat. 

California Boat Registration Exemptions

The Department of Motor Vehicles in California does not require boat registration for the following craft:

  • Seaplanes.
  • Watercraft guided by a mechanical device that keeps the vessel on a permanently fixed course.
  • Houseboats.
  • Any vessel propelled by oars or paddles.
  • Non-motorized sailboats that are 8 feet or less length.
  • Sailboards.
  • A ship's lifeboat (does not include dinghies). :(
  • Vessels currently registered in another state (if used primarily outside California).
  • Vessels brought into California for racing. 
  • U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels.

California Boat Registration Process 

The California DMV allows you to register your boat in person or by mail.

If you recently moved to CA with a vessel currently registered in another state, you must register your boat with the CA DMV within 120 days of your arrival.

To register your boat, you will need the following items:

To complete the registration process you can either:

  • Take the items above in person to your local California DMV office.
  • Mail the required items to:
    • Department of Motor Vehicles
    • P.O. Box 942869
    • Sacramento, CA 94269

Once you receive your vessel registration number (aka CF number), display it on both sides of the front half of your boat in at least 3 inch block letters that contrast with the color of your boat for easy visibility.

California Boat Registration Fees 

Here is  fees associated with registering your boat with the California Department of Motor Vehicles are as follows:

  • Original application fee—Depends on your residential status and (weirdly) the year you apply:

    • Resident original application submitted in:

      • An even-numbered year: $37.
      • An odd-numbered year: $65.
    • Non-resident original application submitted in:

      • An even-numbered year: $65.
      • An odd-numbered year: $93.
  • Registration renewal fee (due every 2 years on odd-numbered years): $20.
  • Transfer fee: $15.
  • Duplicate registration fee: $15.