Boat Registration and Titling Requirements

Boat registration requirements vary from state to state. The state of North Carolina requires all motorized boats that are operated on public waters to be registered. Upon registration, boat owners will be issued a North Carolina Certificate of Number and validation decal. The Certificate of Number must be carried on board the boat operated and be available for inspection by law enforcement if required. The validation decal must be affixed to the vessel.

This includes:

  • Boats powered by electric trolling motors.
  • Personal watercrafts (PWCs).
  • Boats documented by the Coast Guard that are operating in North Carolina for more than 90 consecutive days.
  • Sailboats used on public waters that are greater than 14 feet in length (at the load waterline).
  • Boats registered in other states that are operating on North Carolina waters for more than 90 consecutive days.
  • Boats that are titled.

Exemptions:

  • Human-powered boats.
  • Sailboats that are 14 feet in length or less.
  • Boats documented by the Coast Guard that are operating in North Carolina for less than 90 consecutive days.
  • Boats registered in other states that are operating in North Carolina for less than 90 consecutive days.

A North Carolina Certificate of Number will be valid for either 1 or for 3 years. The Certificate of Number must be renewed on or before the first day of the month following the month of expiration shown on the validation decal. Owners of registered boats can expect a renewal notice to be mailed to them 60 days before their date of expiration. You can renew over the telephone by calling 1‑800‑628‑3773.

If the boat owner has a change of address, or if the boat is destroyed or abandoned, the boat owner must call or write the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) within 15 days.

If a Certificate of Number or validation decal is lost or destroyed, you must apply to the NCWRC and submit a processing fee to obtain a replacement. If a boat is lost or stolen, the boat owner must notify the NCWRC and local law enforcement authorities immediately.

Registration Numbers and Decal Placement:

  • The numbers must be painted or permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s bow, where it can be easily seen (boat owners are not permitted to display any other numbers in this area).
  • The numbers must be affixed above the waterline, where they can be easily seen.
  • The number must be read from left to right.
  • The number must be in block letters that are at least 3 inches high and in a color that contrasts with the color of the boat.
  • The numbers must be separated from the letters by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • Validation decals must be displayed on the starboard bow of the boat for which it was issued, within 6 inches following the registration number.
  • These placement requirements also apply to personal watercrafts (PWCs).

Boat Titling Requirements

All motorized boats, including personal watercraft (PWCs) and sailboats that are 14 feet in length or greater, are required to be titled in North Carolina.

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