Outdoor recreation can play a vital role in protecting our natural resources. When you register your boat, you do your part in sustaining resources that promote safe and responsible use of our nation's waters. Your registration dollars also help pay for marinas, boat ramps, lake clean up and much more.

California Registration Requirements

California Department of Boating & Waterways (DBW):

The DBW is responsible for regulating the state boating laws in California.


All vessels may be registered at any California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Upon registration the DMV will issue the boat owner: registration stickers, a Certificate of Number as well as a Certificate of Ownership. The following vessels do not require registration in California:

  • Vessels 8 feet or less in length propelled by sail (i.e.sailboards)
  • U.S. Coast Guard Documented Vessels
  • Vessels that are currently registered and kept in another state(after more than 90 days of use, California should be considered the state of principal use)
  • Vessels registered in another country
  • Manually propelled vessels (i.e. canoe, kayak)

Certificate of Ownership

On the back of the Certificate of Ownership is an application for the transfer of ownership, so protect the Certificate of Ownership by storing it in a safe spot.

Certificate of Number

Boat owners must have at least a temporary Certificate of Number before they can operate in state waters. Upon receipt, the permanent Certificate of Number must be signed and carried on-board at all times. All registration fees are paid to the DMV. Vessels are registered for 2 years. After the 2 year period the vessel must be registered again.

Please note that the California Department of Motor Vehicles must be notified within 15 days if the boater changes residences.

Successful registration results in a certificate of number,physical boat numbers and a decal. Your registration MUST be kept on board the vessel at all times. (It is advisable to keep the registration in a dry-bag on board.) Boat numbers must:

  • be affixed on both sides of the bow
  • be block letters, three inches high and contrasting with the color of your boat
  • have spaces or hyphens between numerals and letters

For example: CF 1234 BX or CF-1234-BX. This is a federal and state requirement.

Lack of the correct documentation can result in delays and fines.

Make sure all boats are properly marked and documented. It's important to keep your papers stored safely - be particularly aware when transferring ownership of your vessel.

*Content provided by www.BoaterExam.com