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.

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC):

The PFBC is responsible for regulating the state boating laws in Pennsylvania.


All vessels propelled by machinery, including gasoline, diesel and electric motors, and principally operated on Pennsylvania waters must be registered and issued a Pennsylvania Boat Registration Card by the PFBC. Documented recreational vessels such as yachts also need to be registered as well as sailboats that use gasoline, diesel or electric motors for auxiliary power.

You are not required to register your boat if it is unpowered - unless used at a Fish & Boat Commission access area or lake, or at Pennsylvania state park lakes; or required by the owner (one example is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Also note that the boat owner is required to obtain their boat title before they can obtain their Certificate of Boat Registration. This requirement applies to the following:

  • Vessels propelled by an outboard motor which were manufactured in 1997 or later measuring 14 feet or greater.
  • Vessels propelled by an inboard motor or personal watercraft which were manufactured in 1997 or later.

A certificate of title is a legal document proving ownership.

To obtain a boat title the boat owner must contact the PFBC. The fee for issuance of title is $15 and an additional encumbrance fee of $5 may apply if there is a lien against boat. The cost of a duplicate title is $5.

Titling your vessel also offers certain advantages. Having your boat titled may make it easier for you to secure a loan and may act as a deterrent to boat theft. Similarly, in the event you were ever to sell your vessel, a title assures potential buyers that you are the clear owner.

Certificate of Ownership

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.

Certificate of Pennsylvania Boat Registration

Boat owners must have at least a 60 day temporary Certificate of Boat Registration before they can operate in state waters. Upon receipt of the Certificate of Boat Registration please note the following:

  • Vessel registration must be signed and carried onboard when operating the vessel.
  • Vessel registration is valid for two years and expires on March 31st of the second year.
  • The PFBC must be notified within 15 days if the boater changes residences.
  • The PFBC must also be notified within 5 days if the boat is stolen, sold, destroyed or recovered.

If you have proper vessel registration in another state, you are not not requires to have a Pennsylvania registration as long as they are operating on Pennsylvania waters for no more than 60 consecutive days.

The Certificate of Boat Registration, validation decals and title are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to an authorized Pennsylvania boat registration agent or to:

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
Licensing and Registration Division

P.O. Box 67000
Harrisburg, PA 17106-7000

Successful registration results in a Certificate of Boat Registration, physical boat registration numbers and a decal. Boat numbers must:

  • Read from left to right
  • Be painted or permanently attached to each side on the forward half of the vessel where no other number may be displayed.
  • Be of bold, block letters in good proportion
  • Be of a contrasting color to the color of the boat
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen equal to the width of any letter or number except "I" or "1".
  • Be nearly as vertical as possible and easily observed.
  • Be at least 3 inches high.

For example: PA 1234 BX. This is a federal and state requirement.

Color coded validation decals issued to you by the PFBC and must be displayed within 6 inches of the boat number on the same level (before or following the number).

Please note that canoes are in fact required to display the boat registration numbers as well as the validation decals, whereas kayaks, sculls and sailboards are only required to display the decal itself. In the case of inflatable vessels, they are permitted to display their boat registration number and validation decals on planks which must be securely attached to both its sides.

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

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

*Content provided by www.BoaterExam.com