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.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP):

The MFWP is responsible for regulating the state boating laws in Montana.


In Montana, boat owners must obtain a certificate of ownership(title) and certificate of number (which lists the boat's registration, decal, hull and title numbers).

All motorboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats 12 feet in length and longer must be registered and display decals. The following vessels are exempt from registration:

  • A vessel's lifeboat
  • Non-motorized vessels
  • Vessels registered in other states using Montana waters for 90consecutive days or less
  • Vessels documented with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Please note that the boater's Montana county treasurer must be notified within a reasonable amount of time if the boater changes residence or if the boat is lost, stolen, destroyed, abandoned or sold.

When ownership of a boat changes, the previous owner must sign the back of the certificate of ownership before a county treasurer,deputy county treasurer or notary public. Within 40 days, the new owner must apply for a change of certificate of ownership (title)and registration and validation decals. If the boat is operated during the 40-day application period, a temporary registration permit issued by the county treasurer must be kept on board and shown upon request.


Boat owners must keep their Certificate of Ownership in a safe place.

NOTE On the reverse of the Certificate of Ownership there is an application for the transfer of ownership.


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 when operating.

The certificate of number must be carried on board the boat and be available for inspection whenever the boat is in operation. The boat owner will receive one registration decal as proof of payment of fees in lieu of tax.

Validation Decals

All motorboats, sailboats or personal watercraft that are numbered must display two validation decals as of December 31,2005. Validation decals may be obtained, free of charge, at any Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional or area offices or the Fish,Wildlife and Parks website at Boat Validation Decals.

Numbering Placement

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
  • letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or a hyphen
Montana Registration Decal


For example: MT 123BEX or MT-123-BEX. This is a Federal and state requirement.

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

*Content provided by www.BoaterExam.com