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

The water in Washington State is truly breathtaking, making it the perfect spot for a day exploring lakes and oceans on the boat. From the lakeshore to the beach to the rivers, there are tons of hidden spots in the state and along the coast for boaters, anglers and swimmers alike—and the state of Washington is famous for it.

In Washington, most vessels have to be properly registered and titled to legally go out on the water, from personal watercrafts to motorized boats. Whether you’re an angler or a floater, make sure your boat is ready to safely and legally hit the Washington waters. Here’s everything you need to know about boat registration in Washington.

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

In the State of Washington, most boats require a title, a registration card and registration decals to be legally navigated, operated, employed or moored.

What Boats Are Exempt From Boat Registration and Titling in Washington?

In Washington State, all boats that go out on Washington waters must be registered and titled with the Washington Department of Licensing, with these exceptions:

  • Canoes, kayaks or other vessels completely human-powered (with no motor)
  • Boats less than 16 feet with a motor of 10 horsepower or less that is never operated on federal waters
  • Boats owned and operated by a resident of another state or country, as long as they’re only used on Washington waters for 60 days or less
  • Military vessels, public vessels of the United States or American Red Cross and vessels owned by a state, county or city used for governmental purposes
  • Vessels registered in another state for up to 60 days

How Do I Register and Title My Boat in the State of Washington?

In Washington State, you must register and title your boat within 60 days of moving to Washington, or within 15 days if you’re already a Washington resident. To title and register your boat, you’ll complete the application and present the required documents and fees to go through the process. You’ll need:

  • A completed, signed and notarized Vessel Title Application
  • Proof of ownership (Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin, current out-of-state registration, out-of-state title, or another option approved by the Washington Department of Licensing)
  • Proof of sales tax paid on the boat
  • A check or money order made payable to the Department of Licensing

You can submit your application in-person at your local vehicle and boat licensing office, or you can submit your application materials by mail to any vehicle and boat licensing office. In Washington State, registration must be renewed annually.

How Much Does Boat Registration and Titling Cost in the State of Washington?

The fees for titling and registering your boat in Washington State can be estimated here, and the following fees are required:

(a) Dealer temporary permit$5.00RCW  88.02.800(2)General fund
(b) Derelict vessel and invasive species removalSubsection (3) of this sectionSubsection (3) of this sectionSubsection (3) of this section
(c) Derelict vessel removal surcharge$1.00Subsection (4) of this sectionSubsection (4) of this section
(d) Duplicate certificate of title$1.25RCW  88.02.530(1)(c)General fund
(e) Duplicate registration$1.25RCW  88.02.590(1)(c)General fund
(f) FilingRCW  46.17.005RCW  88.02.560(2)RCW  46.68.400
(g) License plate technologyRCW  46.17.015RCW  88.02.560(2)RCW  46.68.370
(h) License serviceRCW  46.17.025RCW  88.02.560(2)RCW  46.68.220
(i) Nonresident vessel permitSubsection (5) of this sectionRCW  88.02.620(4)Subsection (5) of this section
(j) Quick title service$50.00RCW  88.02.540(3)Subsection (7) of this section
(k) Registration$10.50RCW  88.02.560(2)RCW  88.02.650
(l) Replacement decal$1.25RCW  88.02.595(1)(c)General fund
(m) Service feeRCW  46.17.040RCW  88.02.515 and 88.02.560(2)RCW  46.17.040
(n) Title application$5.00RCW  88.02.515General fund
(o) Transfer$1.00RCW  88.02.560(7)General fund
(p) Vessel visitor permit$30.00RCW  88.02.610(3)Subsection (6) of this section

How Do I Transfer Boat Ownership to My New Boat?

In Washington, state law requires that the seller tell the Department of Licensing within 5 days of the sale by completing and mailing the Vessel Report of Sale or reporting the sale online.

To transfer boat ownership in Washington, you’ll need proof of sale, proof of ownership, a Vessel Title Application and a Vessel Data/Use Tax form. Contact your local vehicle and boat licensing office to verify your steps, and follow their directions for submitting your transfer.

Will I Need to Take a Boater Safety Education Course?

In Washington State, every boater born on or after January 1st, 1955 is required to obtain a Boater Education Card to legally operate any personal watercraft or boat powered by a 15 hp motor or more.

To get your Boater Education Card, you’ll complete a course like BOATsmart!’s, which is action and info-packed, perfect for all skill levels and designed to engage and educate boaters. With BOATsmart!, you can take your boating safety course on your own time—and trust that you’ll pass the Washington Boating Safety Test.

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

In Washington, you must display your boat registration numbers on both sides of your bow, and they must be in block numbers at least three inches high.

Most boats need to be registered and titled in Washington State, so keep up with the necessary rules and regulations to stay legal, safe and covered on Washington waters. There’s nothing as fun as a boat day on the lake — especially one where you’re safe, registered and happy — so use BOATsmart! as your boating safety friend, and have fun!