USCG Questions: In What States Must My Documented Vessel Be Registered?

USCG questions

Do you plan on using your documented vessel in a state of your choosing? Are you unsure whether or not you can use it without registering it with the state? In America, we have federalism. States can set different rules in each state (to simplify matters greatly). Thus, in some states, you’ll have to register a vessel even if it’s documented with the USCG, and in others, you won’t. For help with documenting your vessel, utilize our sites. Below are some of the rules in states that our clients have asked USCG questions about. 


In the state of California, according to the DMV, any boat or vessel that travels or is moored in California waters has to be registered with the DMV. That’s true whether it’s documented, that’s true whether you’re on a private lake, etc. Now, you may note that, in California, you check this with the DMV. Boat registration is handled by different governmental entities in different states as well. 


Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is different from California in this regard. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of the few states that changes the rules depending on how you plan on using your vessel. If you plan on using it for recreation, to have a good time with friends and family, then, yes, you must register it. However, if you’re going to use it for non-recreational (i. E. commercial purposes) then you don’t have to register it. 


In Utah, yes, your documented vessel must be registered with the state if it’s been manufactured since the year 1985 and has a motor that is 25 horsepower or greater. That said, you don’t have to display the Utah bow/assigned number if your vessel is documented with the powers that be. 

North Carolina 

North Carolina’s rules are a bit different than some of the other states. In the state of North Carolina, you will have to register your documented vessel with the state if and only if it operates on North Carolina waters for more than 90 consecutive days. So, if you’re just passing through, trailering it in for a weekend, and so forth, then you don’t have to register it. However, if you’re putting down roots, so to speak, you’re going to want to look into this. 

USCG questions

A Place to Answer All of Your USCG Questions and Other Services 

These are some of the questions we’ve received about vessels and vessel registration throughout the states. If we didn’t cover your state above, we encourage you to reach out to the governmental body that covers vessel registration in your state. If you need help with documenting your vessel, we can help. At our site, you can find all of the different forms of vessel documentation (such as renewal, reinstatement, and more) that you might need through the course of vessel documentation. To see how we here at the National Documentation Portal can help, we encourage you to check out our site.