Does a Canoe Have to Be Registered?

Last Updated: 05.08.20


If you have a canoe that is outfitted with an electric motor you will need to get it registered or else you might get a ticket, but in most states, unpowered canoes are not required to be registered. Below you can find more answers to your question and once you are done you can take a look at some of our fishing canoe reviews we have prepared for you.


When do you need to register or title your canoe?

Canoes don’t need to be registered as long as they do not have a motor. Canoe manufacturers have started to sell more and more models built with an electric motor in the past years and that has made this subject even more popular among anglers who use canoes or kayaks in their outdoor adventures.

Furthermore, there are also many businesses that specialize in attaching motors to kayaks and canoes so even if you purchase a vessel that does not come equipped with a motor, if you do end up outfitting it with one, you will need to register it. Sellers tend to forget to tell the customer that most states require these crafts to be titled and registered as motor vessels.

We also found that in most states, the law dictates that motorized canoes need to be registered and titled regardless of length. In some states, you will also need to have registration numbers and decals displayed on your vessel.

Some aspects may differ from state to state, which is why it is best to research the issue in-depth depending on the state you intend to use your motorized canoe mainly. If the canoe does not come equipped with a motor, things are much simpler and you will not need to register the craft.

The only exception in which unpowered boats need to be registered is when they are used at a Fish & Boat Commission access area or lake, or at state parks and forests. In these situations, owners can also get a Use (Boat Launch) Permit or a Launch or Mooring Permit online using a credit card.

All in all, if you do have a canoe that is outfitted with an electric motor, you will need to get it registered since otherwise you risk getting a pricey ticket. The fee to title a canoe is not very high – in most states, it is around $100 or lower and the fee to register it is even less expensive.



What’s the difference between registration and title?

Having your boat registered is a very similar experience with getting a car registration. You will get issued a registration card and you will need to carry it with you on the boat as proof of registration if you ever get stopped by the authorities.

Registering your boat will also allow you to use it in all the other states and Canada without worry that you will get fined. With that said, the boat does need to be registered in the state of primary use, so you shouldn’t go to another state to get it registered even if you get more benefits there. Registration is not a secure ownership document.

The boat title is similar to a car title – namely it is a legal document which proves ownership of the motorized vessel. Registration does not prove ownership, but a title does and you will need it since lenders require to prove that the seller has clear ownership of the craft.

While a registration card is valid for only two years and needs to be renewed when that period expires, a title only needs to be purchased once. While getting a title for the boat is more expensive than a registration card, it is a one-time purchase. You can get boat titles from the Fish & Boat Commission and that is the only place from which they can be issued.


What you need to know about getting a registration card and title

The first questions new boat owners have when they need to get a registration or title is where they can get them from. Both registrations and titles are issued exclusively by the Fish and Boat Commission. New canoe owners will want to get a Temporary Registration so that they can still use their craft while the registration documents are processed.

These temporary registrations are issued and approved by Boat Registration Agents, Commission region offices, and country treasurers. To find the location of these boat registration agents you can consult your local government sites for more information.

Once you have arrived at the Fish and Boat Commission you will need to fill in an Application for Boat Registration. This form and all the other required documents are available at many marine dealers, Commission regional offices, and treasure offices.

Most of these forms can also be acquired online so that you can go to the Commission with all the documents ready to be filed so that you don’t waste more time than you need to. The fees differ depending on the state you’re in and the registration fees get more expensive the larger your motorized canoe is. There is also a small fee for issuing the temporary registration.

Once you have your boat registered you can renew it online once it expires which makes the entire process easier. New registration, unfortunately, cannot be completed online, but you can do it by mail if you print and fill in the required forms. Once the documents are ready, you can forward them by mail to the specified address in your state.

For the transfer of ownership, the owner and applicant (the new owner) will need to complete a form to transfer the ownership of the boat to the new person. The process is just like transferring a car title, and the titled owner will need to sign the back of the title and have it notarized while the new owner will need to submit the required form with the applicable fee.

If you lose your registration card or title you can ask for a duplicate from the Commission Licensing and Registration Section. A duplicate registration card and title will cost you around $5 each, but we recommend you try to be careful with your documents since while the process of getting a duplicate is not expensive, it is very time-consuming.



What are the regulations for the vessel registration number?

Once you get your registration card you will also be assigned a registration number and you will need to follow a few rules before you can display it on your canoe. It can be painted on or attached permanently to each side of the forward half of the boat.

It can be displayed using plain vertical block characters that are no smaller than three inches in height and arranged so that it reads from left to right. Furthermore, the numbers need to stand out and contrast with the color of the background so that they are visible in all lighting conditions.

The vessel registration number also needs to have spaces or hyphens that are equal to the width of a letter other than “I” or a number other than “1” between the prefix and the number and between the number and the suffix.


Example: CF 3456 AB

It is important to note that the actual letters and numbers are not supplied by the Commission and the owner is the one responsible for purchasing and displaying the registration number on the boat. You can find the letters and numbers required for your registration decal at most boat dealers and hardware stores, or you can also purchase them online.


How long until you receive the car registration and decals?

It should take a maximum of 90 days for you to get a registration certificate and valid decals. If for whatever reason you do not receive them, the Commission will issue a replacement registration certificate with a new set of validation decals at no extra cost to the customer.

Duplicate registration cards can be obtained from the Commission Licensing and Registration Section. Once you are there, you will need to fill in a form before you can receive a duplicate registration card and/or decals.



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