Boat Registration

All motorized boats in the state of Virginia are required to be registered. Upon registration, the boat owner will be issued a Certificate of Number and validation decals.

Certificates of Number can be obtained through the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Boat owners must submit an application and pay a fee in order to register their boat. The Certificate of Number must be carried on board the boat at all times while the boat is being operated.

A Certificate of Title must also be obtained for boats that are propelled by machinery, including gasoline, diesel and electric motors, as well as sail-powered boats that are over 18 feet in length.

Boat registrations are valid for 3 years. Renewals will be mailed to the last known address of the boat owner, approximately 45 days prior to expiration.


  • Boats that have been registered in another state and are operating on Virginia Waters for 90 consecutive days or less.
  • Human-powered craft.
  • Boats that have been documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Boats that have a valid temporary registration.

Boat Registration Number and Decal Placement:

  • The numbers must be painted or otherwise permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s bow (no other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow).
  • The color of the registration number must contrast with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers must be in plain block letters and be at least 3 inches high.
  • The numbers must be read from left to right.
  • The numbers and letters must be separated by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • Decals must be affixed to each side of the boat, within 6 inches and in line with the registration number.
  • These placement requirements also apply to personal watercrafts (PWCs). 

Other Boat Registration Info

Boat owners must notify the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, within 15 days if:

  • The boat is abandoned or destroyed.
  • The boat is sold, or the ownership is transferred.
  • There is a change of address.