Follow these steps to ensure that you’re legally registered to operate a boat in New York State. 

New York is one of the best places in the world for boating, swimming and relaxing out on the water. With thousands upon thousands of miles of sparkling waterfront, lakes, rivers and ponds, owning and operating a boat in New York is the ultimate sunny day must-have. From fishing to watersports, there’s nothing better than being the proud owner of a New York boat. 

However, if you’re going to take your boat out on New York waters, it needs to be properly registered to ensure legal operation. Here’s BOATsmart!’s guide to getting your boat ready to be legally taken out on the beautiful waters that call New York home.

Illustration of New York boat registration number guidelines.

How Do I Know If My Boat Needs to Be Registered? 

If your boat is even partially motorized, it will need to be registered with New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Boat owners must register any boat partially or wholly motor driven, and any boat operated on public New York waters must be registered with the DMV. 

What Boats Are Exempt From Boat Registration in New York?

Most boats in New York State need to be registered, with some exceptions. You do not need to register your boat with the state if…

  • it is a lifeboat
  • it is a boat racing in competition 
  • the boat is currently registered in another state and will not be kept in New York for more than 90 consecutive days
  • your boat is non-motorized (like a canoe or kayak)

How Do I Register My Boat in the State of New York?

When registering your boat in the state of New York, you’ll need:

  • Proof of identity (a New York driver’s license, learner’s permit or current identification card)
  • Proof of ownership (a manufacturer’s statement of origin, a title, transferable registration or a United States Coast Guard document)
  • Completed Boat Registration/Title Application
  • Bill of sale and/or proof of sales tax clearance
  • Cash, check, money order or credit/debit card payment for fees and sales tax

Register your boat by visiting your local Department of Motor Vehicle office or by mailing the proper materials to your county’s DMV office.

How Much Does Boat Registration Cost in the State of New York?

Those registering their boats in the state of New York will pay a fee for registration along with a fee for boating safety, which all depends on the length of your boat. Approximate registration fees are as follows:

Less than 16 feet$22.50$3.75$26.25
16 feet to less than 26 feet$45.00$12.50$57.50
26 feet or longer$75.00$18.75$93.75

Depending on other factors, you may also pay a $50 title fee. You can be issued a title certificate for your boat if:

  • Your boat is model year 1987 or newer
  • Your boat is at least 14 feet long
  • Your boat is already registered in New York State

How Do I Transfer Boat Ownership to My New Boat?

Did you just buy a boat from another seller? Congratulations! The directions for transferring boat ownership in New York differ depending on the model of your boat and the length of the boat.

If your boat is model year 1987 or newer, and/or your boat is at least 14 ft. long, this is how you transfer boat ownership:

  • Seller with current proof of ownership must provide a bill of sale and sign transfer section
  • If the seller currently has a title certificate that was transferred to them, seller must apply for a new title certificate and transfer that one
    • The buyer’s name must be on the new certificate
    • Ensure that all information on new title certificate is not at all altered

If your boat is model year 1986 or older, and/or your boat is less than 14 ft. long, this is how you transfer boat ownership:

  • The owner can use bill of sale or transferable registration
  • Registration document must be marked as “transferable”
  • The seller whose name is on the transferable registration must sign the back of the registration
NY Boat Registration and Boater Education Card requirements.

Will I Need to Take a Boater Safety Education Course?

Operating a motorized boat in New York State requires the completion of a boater safety education course, which is where BOATsmart! comes in. As a program officially recognized by the US Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, our course is sure to have you educated, knowledgeable and safe on the water.

In New York State, all boat operators will require successful completion of a boater safety education course by 2025. The New York State requirements are as follows:

On or after May 1, 1996Before you can operate a boat in New York
On or after January 1, 1993January 1, 2020
On or after January 1, 1988January 1, 2022
On or after January 1, 1983January 1, 2023
On or after January 1, 1978January 1, 2024

What Else Do I Need to Know About Boat Registration in New York?

Your boat registration stickers should be displayed 18 inches from the bow on both sides of the boat. 

Your boat registration is good for three years in New York, and can be renewed online, by mail or in person.

Every motorized vehicle must be currently registered, so keep up with necessary regulations to stay legal and safe on New York waters. There’s nothing as fun as a boat day — especially one where you’re safe, registered and happy — so use BOATsmart! as your boating safety friend.