4 Steps to Registering Your Vessel in Florida

Florida law requires all motorized boats that operate on its public waterways to be titled and registered with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You have 30 days after buying the boat to title and register it, but until the process is complete, be sure to keep a proof of purchase (which includes the date of sale) aboard at all times, as operating an unregistered boat after 30 days is a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida.

Below is an overview of the steps involved in registering your vessel.

1. Visit your local license plate agency or county tax collector

You must apply for titling and registration at your local license plate agency or county tax collector.

2. Title the vessel

A Florida Certificate of Title must be issued prior to registration. In addition to the appropriate titling fee, you have to present the following documents:

  • For new vessels: a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin. If it was built in a state that doesn’t require this certificate, you may present an executed dealer’s bill of sale instead. Any proof of ownership must include a complete description of the boat, including its hull identification number and the name of the manufacturer.
  • Used vessels titled in Florida: documentation confirming that title was transferred to you.
  • Used vessels titled out of state: out-of-state documentation confirming correct title transfer

If you bought a used boat from a state that does not require titling, such as Connecticut, Georgia, or Tennessee, you may present current registration from the state and a bill of sale from the party named on that registration.

3. Register the vessel

You have the option of registering your vessel for either one year or two years. When applying for registration, you must prove ownership by presenting at least one of the following:

  • A manufacturer’s statement of origin
  • A builder’s contract
  • An executed bill of sale
  • Federal marine documentation

4. Pay sales tax (if applicable)

If you haven’t yet paid sales tax on the boat, you must do so at the time that you title and register it. If it has been paid, present a receipt to the agent processing your application.

Additional steps that may be required:

  • If you built or purchased a homemade vessel that is 16 feet or more in length, it must be inspected by a member of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Upon satisfactory completion, the officer will provide you with a completed Certificate of Inspection, which you will present along with the other titling and registration documentation.
  • If you found an abandoned vessel and want to claim and title it, you must first report the boat to law enforcement, which will attempt to find the owner. If this party does not claim the vessel, the police may transfer it to you, along with the investigation report and a bill of sale. You may then apply to have it titled in your name.

While you can register your Florida vessel yourself, working with a professional can ensure that the process goes more smoothly, especially in cases that aren’t straightforward. The Marine Documentation Division at Howard S. Reeder provides both domestic and foreign registration services that simplify the process of vessel ownership. For more information please contact us today.

Written by Howard S Reeder Inc

Howard S. Reeder, Inc is a family-owned business which has been in operation since 1940 when Howard S. Reeder Sr. founded our customs brokerage company and began helping importers bring products into the United States. Now on our third generation of ownership, both our company and our areas of expertise have greatly expanded over the more than 75 years since our inception.