Ohio's Registration and Titling Requirements

To operate a boat in Ohio, the boat must be properly registered, numbered and titled, if required.

Carry your valid boat registration certificate on the boat as proof of having  proper registration. You must also display two square registration tags on the boat.

Boat registration certificates and tags can be obtained from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft office. They are valid for up to 3 years and expire on March 1 of the year indicated. Always remove your expired tags.

Boat Numbering:

Every boat that is operated on Ohio’s waterways is required to be numbered by the state of Ohio or by the boat owner’s state of residence. The number must be properly displayed on the boat at all times.

Boat Registration Exemptions:

  • Boats that have been federally documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Boats numbered by another state and operated in Ohio for 60 days or less.
  • Boats from a country other than the United States that are temporarily using Ohio’s waterways.
  • Boats owned by the United States, a state or political subdivision.
  • The lifeboats of a ship.
  • Boats exempted by the chief of the Division of Watercraft.
  • Boats under a waiver issued for a race or special event.
  • Canoes, rowboats and inflatable boats that have Alternative Registration.
  • Sailboards (or wind surfers), kite boards, paddleboards, belly boats and float tubes.

Boat Registration Number and Tag Placement:

  • The numbers must be painted or otherwise permanently affixed to each side of the boat’s 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 number must be read from left to right.
  • The numbers and letters must be separated by a hyphen or by an equivalent space.
  • Registration tags must be affixed to each side of the boat, within 6 inches toward the stern of the registration number.
  • The registration tags must be maintained in order to be clearly visible in normal conditions and affixed prior to operation of the watercraft.
  • These display requirements also apply to personal watercraft (PWCs).
  • Documented boats must display one tag on the port side and one on the starboard side.
  • No other numbers may be displayed on the bow. All tags shall be removed when they become invalid (expire).

Ohio decals 1 Ohio decals 2

Other Boat Registration Info

Boat owners are required to notify the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft office, within 15 days if:

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

Information for New Owners of Used Boats

If a used boat is purchased or transferred to a new owner, the new owner of the used boat must take the previous registration form, even if it hasn’t yet expired, (with the transfer section completed by the seller) to a boat registration agent. However, keep in mind that if the boat requires a title and is transferred to a new owner, it may only be operated for up to 45 days,  if the new owner carries either of the following on board the boat:

  • A temporary boat registration form (from an authorized registration agent).
  • A bill of sale from a boat dealer containing the required information.

Titling of Boats and Outboard Motors

A boat or engine that is required to have a title will not be registered until a title is issued in the new owner’s name. Boat and engine titles can be obtained from any county title office.

The following boats and engines must be titled in order to be sold, purchased or otherwise acquired:

  • An outboard motor of 10 horsepower or greater.
  • A boat that is  14 feet in length or greater,
  • A boat that is under 14 feet in length that has a permanently attached, mechanical engine of 10 horsepower or greater.

Exemptions:

  • Boats that have been documented by the Coast Guard.
  • Human-powered craft (i.e. canoes and kayaks).
  • Boats under 14 feet in length without a permanently attached, mechanical engine.
  • Boats under 14 feet in length with a permanently attached, mechanical engine of less than 10 horsepower.
  • The lifeboats of a ship.
  • Government-owned boats.
  • Boats with motors under 10 horsepower
  • Sailboards (or wind surfers), kite boards, paddleboards, belly boats and float tubes.

Other Boat Titling Info

If you sell a titled boat (and you are not a boat dealer, you (the seller) must complete the transfer section on the back of the title (in the presence of a notary public) before providing the title to the buyer. To complete the transfer, the buyer must take the title to a title office.

Be aware that some boats that require titling may not have required a title at their time of purchase. However, before selling a used boat, the boat owner must obtain a title from a title office, if a title is now required for the type of boat.

These boat types include:

  • Boats or outboard engines that were acquired before January 1, 1964.
  • Boats under 14 feet in length with a permanently attached, mechanical engine of 10 horsepower or greater and purchased on or before January 1, 2000.

Ohio’s Alternative Registration Option

Alternative registration is only an option for human-powered (non-motorized) watercraft, such as canoes, rowboats (including racing shells or rowing sculls) or inflatable rafts.

The boat owner may choose one of the following two options:

  1. Traditional registration: They can have the craft numbered, pay a smaller registration fee and obtain square tags, or;
  1. Alternative registration: They can choose to NOT have the craft numbered, pay a higher registration fee and obtain a rectangular tag. The rectangular alternative registration tag must be securely attached and displayed in one of the following manners:
  • In the upper right corner of the transom.
  • On a deck on the rear half of the boat.
  • On the outside of the boat below the port side gunwale.
  • On the inside of the boat on the upper portion of the starboard side gunwale so that it is visible from the port side of the boat.

Evidence of registration is shown by displaying the rectangular tag. Boaters with an alternative registration have 72 hours to produce the valid registration certificate.

Never choose the alternative registration option if there is a possibility of ever using a motor or a sail with the boat. Alternative registration is issued and renewed through any Ohio Division of Watercraft office.

Exemptions:

  • Boats that are exempt from numbering (not including boats that have been documented by the Coast Guard).
  • Boats with commercial documentation that are only used for commercial purposes.
  • Boats that meet another state’s registration system requirements and that are using Ohio’s waterways for 60 days or less.

Ohio’s Hull Identification Numbers (HIN)

Owners of boats that are homemade and boats that do not currently have a Hull Identification Number (HIN) must obtain one in order to legally operate their boat. In order to obtain a HIN, contact a Division of Watercraft office. Your boat may also require an inspection before a HIN can be assigned.