How To Register A Boat In Tennessee

Did you know that there’s a basic rule about boat registration in Tennessee(TN) that if you were born after January 1989 and you are a resident, you must take and pass the boater safety course administered by the TWRA (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)? You will take this exam in person as the online course is not available for anyone born before 1/1/1989 You will be awarded a certificate to serve as evidence of completing the Boating Safety Exam. And if you are an out-of-the-state boater born after this date and you want to enjoy the beautiful water bodies in Tennessee, the TWRA will accept any of your approved boating certificates by NASBLA (National Association of State Boating Law Administrators). 

If you’ll feel at sea on this virtual boat, we will work you through the step-by-step guide of how to register a boat in Tennessee. Now, let’s catch this cruise.


First and foremost, you can get a temporary certificate that allows you to use your boat for 60 days after receiving the certificate. However, you should go for a longer option, a permanent registration that you will only have to renew whenever the time comes. 

Tennessee law expects everyone to register their vessels and sailboats. In as much as the vessels are powered mechanically or the sailboats are used in the State, it is a must to register them. Mechanically powered vessels use electric trolling motors (no oars or paddles) for their mobility. You have to register all your vessels before you use them on the Tennessee Waters. 

Every registered boat or vessel in Tennessee can use Tennessee waters. Boats registered in other states will need to register before they can use the water except for boats without numbering – they cannot be used for principal purposes. Principal purpose refers to the state that the boat will be on for a long time. 

If you want to register your boat, you are expected to complete the certificate of application which has the Boat Certificate of Number. You can get to the clerk’s office in Tennessee county to collect the certificate. It has a yellow registration form that you can use for your temporary registration for 60 days while the permanent one is under processing

  • What are the requirements for the county clerk? 

There are important documents that you need while going to the clerk’s office to complete your boat registration. These documents apply to you as the real owner who purchased the boat from another person. 

    • A complete bill that shows sales and has the following info;
      • Date of Sale 
      • Price of Purchase 
      • A full description of the boat – its year, model, make, and HIN
      • Name, mobile contact, home address
      • Signature of the seller and buyer 

However, if there is no HIN (Hull Identification Number) affixed to your boat, or it was made before 1972, or the HIN does not follow the US Coast Guard Format, you may have to include the images. 

If the boat was previously registered in another state and you would love to register the vessel in Tennessee, there are necessary documents to take to the clerk’s office. They include;

    • Documents that can be pieces of evidence to indicate that the vessel was already registered in a different state 
    • You may need to include the proof of sales tax that you have paid in the state. This proof clarifies information of previous taxes you have paid and shows that you can receive credit.

Also, you can speak with the clerk at the county to know the other requirements necessary for your boat registration. 

  • Initial Registration of a Boat in Tennesse

The Tennessee Department of Revenue expects you to register your boat before you cruise around with it. However, if the boat is a new one, you need to provide the sales tax that shows the purchase. They must have all the documents that are necessary for registration at the County. Also, you can upload your registration form on the online portal or go to any of the regional offices. 

If your boat is dated back to or after 1972, you should be able to provide the Hull Identification Number (HIN). If the HIN is not available, you can use the picture of the vessel in its place for your application. 

    • What do you need for your online registration? 

You can explore online registration if you cannot visit a regional office for your registration. The online registration begins with a customer profile. You need the last name, date of birth, another form of identification (to show the DL Number or Last 4 of SSN, TWRA Number). 

If you have never registered for a boat or fishing or hunting license in Tennessee, you may have to create an account profile for yourself. You need to provide your phone number and email address to complete every transaction you perform online. 

    • What can you do after the online registration? 

The online registration confers the following benefits;

      1. Being able to manage or view your current record for your vessel registration. You can know the status of your applications till they are approved. 
      2. You can renew existing registrations without any hassle. You can make a payment with your credit or debit card. 
      3. You can upload the Application for Boat Certificate of Number after you have filled it. This uploading applies to first-timers when they register.
      4. You can submit every Application and make payment online (this application could be to add additional details to your certificate). 
    • How can you renew your boat registration in Tennessee? 

Registration renewal can be physical or online. You can walk into the regional offices at Nashville, Jackson, Morristown, or Crosstown. Online is easier if you have all your details. You can get a temporary registration certificate to use your boat for 2 weeks till your registration card or new decals arrive. 

    • What about Auto-Renewal for your Vessel?

If you want to auto-renew your vessel, sign in to your profile and choose the auto-renew option. Automatically, another year will be added to the registration of your vessel every year. For instance, your boat can be registered for 3 years on July 10, 2018. It will add an extra year by July 10, 2019. Hence, your registration is always at the maximum term. 

You can choose to opt-out of the auto-renewal option with an online click if you sell that particular vessel. You should regularly check your mail because there is always mail sent to your Customer Profile 10 days before the auto-renew date. 

Registration of Boat in Tennessee by Manufacturers and Dealers 

Similarly, manufacturers and dealers can apply for registration and it can be transferred from a vessel to another one. However, you need a copy of the sales tax number and company’s license when applying as a manufacturer or dealer. These vessels are for demonstration and are not operated till someone else purchases them. 

Nonetheless, demonstrated vessels need a Certificate of Number and correctly displayed number for registration. The numbers can be attached temporarily to the vessels. The manufacturers and dealers may need to visit the physical offices to renew this certificate. 

What does the Hull Number Correction Information look like? 

It is compulsory to have a correct Hull Identification Number as mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The Hull Identification Number (HIN) has 12 numbers which are unique to each vessel. The decal numbers are formatted and determined by the US Coast Guard Standards. 

Hull Identification Number is similar to the VIN of a car. Only boats or vessels that have been manufactured before 1973 may not have HIN. Other boats are expected to have their HIN. The HIN is crucial for the registration process of the boat. These numbers can be found on these parts of the vessel;

    1. On fishing and sport boats – you will find the HIN at the back of the vessel. It is oftentimes at the right side and towards the corner. 
    2. On pontoons – you will find the HIN at the right side of the pontoon. It is often beneath the deck.
    3. For personal watercraft – the HIN is located under the seat. On some occasions, it can be at the edge of the footrest. 

Sometimes, one may not be able to recover the HIN on the vessel. You may be asked for the images of the vessels and these areas. If the boat has an invalid HIN, the customer will be expected to renew the boat. It is great to always have the correct order of HIN. 

You can reach out to Tennessee services via 615-781-5270 or via their mail address – to sort out all issues around the HIN of your vessel. 

Fees and Other facts You Need to know

There are fees that you should pay while registering your boat. The fees are mandatory as they are used in the maintenance of the waterways. There are different prices for the registration fee as it could range from $15 to $150. There could be additional charges of $8 or $10 as the application is processed online or by phone. 

Also, it is important to know that the registration decals and certificates are only valid for three years. You will have to renew it after it expires to be able to legally use the Tennessee waterways. 


Boat registration in Tennessee could be a lot without accurate information on how to register it. However, this content provides details and answers your questions on boat registration. Register your boat now and begin to cruise around with your vessel for the next 3 years. Don’t forget to shop for your highly curated boating and fishing accessories – specially selected just for you.


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