Iowa’s Boat Registration and Titling Requirements
Iowa’s boat registration regulations state that to operate a boat in the state of Iowa, you must obtain a Certificate of Number and validation decals.
- Boats that have been registered in another state, and are temporarily using Iowa’s waters for 60 days or less (within one calendar year).
- Inflatable boats under 7 feet in length.
- Canoes and kayaks that have no motor or sail and are 13 feet in length or less.
Registration certificates must be carried on board the boat at all times while the boat is being operated and must be available for inspection by law enforcement at all times. A registration certificate and registration decals can be obtained through the County Recorder. Boat owners must submit an application and a fee to the Country Recorder in their county of residence, or the county where the boat is primarily used.
Boat registration certificates are valid for 3 years and expire on April 30th of the year indicated.
Boat Registration Number and Decal Placement:
- The number must be applied as a decal, painted or permanently affixed to the boat’s bow (boat owners are not permitted to display any other numbers in this area).
- The number must be affixed where they can easily be seen.
- The number must be read from left to right on each side of the boat.
- The number must be in bold block letters that are at least 3 inches high, and in a color that contrasts with the color of the boat.
- The numbers in the registration number must be separated from the letters by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
- Validation Decals must be affixed to each side of the boat, behind the registration number (towards the stern)and must be within 4 inches, and in line with the registration number.
- These placement requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).
On boats powered by sail, registration numbers can be placed in a position where they provide maximum visibility (including placing the number of the mast of the boat, if required).
Sailboards are not required to display registration numbers, however the decal must be affixed to the bottom surface of the bow.
Other Registration Info
If the registration certificate or registration decals are lost or destroyed, boat owners must pay administrative fees in order to obtain a replacement.
If a registered boat is abandoned or destroyed, or if a boat owner changes their address, or changes their name, the boat owner is required to notify the County Recorder within 10 days of the change.
Owners of boats that require registration must apply for registration within 30 days of purchasing their boat, or within 30 days of a transfer of ownership.
Iowa’s Boat Titling Requirements
Boats that are 17 feet in length or longer must have a title when they are:
- Newly purchased, or;
- Transferred, or;
- A lien exists against the boat.
Inflatables, kayaks, and canoes are exempt from Iowa’s boat titling requirements