How To Register A Boat in North Carolina

North Carolina is a great state to be with many sightseeing attractions. More so, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission allows boat users to register their vessels to establish ownership, promote safety, and support all forms of recreational enjoyment and water sports. With the level of care, they administer to their waterways, you would want to cruise around with a boat. 

If you are a boat owner in North Carolina, it is important that you register your boat. Many people assume the process could be challenging and that it involves many processes. You should read this content to know more about how easy it is to register your boat. Also, the content answers basic questions you may have about fees, requirements, and other important details.


Boat registration is inevitable if you want to enjoy the public water of the State. As a boat owner, you must register your boat or other vessels before using the water because there are different types of vessels. They include; 

    • Motorized vessels like jet skis or sailboats must be as long as 14 feet 
    • US Coast Guard documented vessels that have been in operation for at least 90 days. 
    • Sailboats that are longer than 14 feet 
    • Any vessel that has an active lien
    • Vessels already registered in a different state from North Carolina for over 90 days at a stretch. However, this does not apply to military personnel that has been temporarily stationed to be in North Carolina. 

On the other hand, there are exceptions to boat registration in North Carolina. The conditions include;

    • Boats that are kept and used on a dry land 
    • Canoes, rowboats, rafts, and kayaks moved only by paddles, oars, or the current 
    • Vessels that are used only in private ponds 
    • Ship dinghies and lifeboats if they are designed for lifeboat purposes 

Once you are sure you should register your vessel, then you should attempt to do that. You may have to go to North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to register the boat. There are two options for boat registration in North Carolina. They are;

    1. By mail 
    2. In-person at any Wildlife Service Agents in the State or the major office – North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission office 

You can choose any of the methods but you need to complete a form for the NC Vessel Registration and Title Application. If the boat is not from North Carolina, you will need to submit an original title showing it is an out-of-state vessel. More so, you can register your boat if it has no title, all you have to do is to produce your copy of its registration card. 

If your application is approved by the registration office, you will be given a Registration Number that identifies your boat. More so, you will receive a registration card and registration decal. The registration can be valid for up to 3 years – it depends on the terms you chose while registering your boat. 

In addition, when it is time for renewal, you will receive a notification for renewal. The notification of the renewal comes two months before the expiration of the current registration. Also, you can choose to renew the registration via mail, in person, or online.

How can I Title my Boat in North Carolina?

Titling a boat in North Carolina has the same process as registering a boat. Also, you can choose to explore the physical approach, use mail, or online. In addition, you need the following;

    1. Proof of ownership of the vessel 
    2. Completed VL-1 form 
    3. The correct fee 

The Vessel Title Request form is necessary if you want to get a replacement title for your boat.

Do I need to register my boat trailer as a resident of North Carolina?

If you are a resident of North Carolina and you have a boat trailer, you should get the title and register it. A boat trailer is similar to a car. You can walk into the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to complete the registration. Your registration is valid for a year.

What is the cost of boat registration in North Carolina?

The cost of boat registration in North Carolina largely depends on the size of the vessel. Their respective prices with the size are as follows;

For a vessel with title

      1. If the vessel is less than 26 feet in length and with a title – you will pay $70 for a year or can go for a three-year plan by paying $130. 
      2. If the vessel is at least 26 feet in length and has a title – you will pay $90 for a year or can go for a three-year plan by paying $190. 

For a vessel without title 

      1. If the vessel is at least 14 feet in length and has no title – you will pay $35 for a year or can pay $95 for three years. 
      2. If the vessel is a US Coast Guard documented vessel that is less than 26 feet in length but has no title – you will pay $35 for one year or can pay $95 for three years. 
      3. If the vessel is a US Coast Guard documented vessel that is at least 26 feet in length but has no title – you will pay $55 for one year or can pay $155 for three years. 

NB: It is important to say that you should accompany your application with a copy of the Certificate of Documentation.

Are there vessels with no charge?

The answer is straightforward, yes. Government properties can be permanently registered at no cost. Also, titling is crucial for these vessels. You may need some volunteer emergency services to proceed with the permanent registration of the boat if it is used majorly for rescue and search. All documents are processed at the headquarters of NCWRC in person or by mail.

Can I transfer the boat ownership to my new vessel?

You can transfer ownership to your new boat without much ado. Firstly, you have to register the new boat in North Carolina. However, this is dependent on how you purchase it. If the purchase is from an individual, you need; 

    1. Completely filled out the VL-1 form
    2. An original copy of the North Carolina title. The title must be notarized and assigned to the seller’s name. If the purchase was outside the state, you should appropriately fill out the document. 
    3. The required fee 

However, the requirements are different if you are getting a non-titled boat from a person. They include;

    1. Completely filled out the VL-1 form 
    2. A notarized bill that shows sales. You will need a registration card if your purchase is from out of the state
    3. The required fee 

If the boat is from a dealership, you need;

    1. Completely filled out the VL-1 form 
    2. A bill of sale from the dealer 
    3. An original copy of the North Carolina Title. You can also use a registration card. 
    4. The required fee 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are some frequently asked questions people may ask about boat registration in North Carolina. Some important ones have been answered above but here are other questions we should examine. 

Do I need an educational course for boater safety? 

Every boater in North Carolina that is born on or nay moment from January 1, 1988, is expected to take and complete a boater safety education course. After successful completion, you would be awarded an ID card. 

The course is much fun as they contain details that will help to pass every boating safety test. Also, it is no big deal as an average boater only needs three hours to become certified. 

What are the other facts I need to know if I want to register my vessel in North Carolina? 

North Carolina like other states has registration numbers for its vessels. You should display the numbers on each side of the boat. The numbers have contrasting colors and are in block lettering which is to be read from left to right. They are at least three inches in their size. 

As a resident of North Carolina, your boats should be titled and registered with the state. You need to know the laws and regulations for a safe boating experience. You will know these during your educational course. 

Every titled vessel must be registered – highly important to note this. 


To register a boat in North Carolina should no longer be a rigorous activity. You would agree that there are three options to title and register your boat. You can choose which option works for you best. Also, renewal is not hard as you can renew immediately before its expiration date. 

The goal of boat registration is to ensure the maximum safety of its users. Talking of safety, you can check out the list of specially curated boating accessories to give you the best experience on your adventure. Don’t forget to always stay safe as you have fun. 

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