How To Register A Boat In Virginia?

Navigating the Process: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Register a Boat in Virginia

Registering your boat is a crucial step in ensuring legal compliance and enjoying a worry-free boating experience in Virginia. Whether you’re a new boat owner or recently moved to the state, understanding the boat registration process is essential. In this article, we will guide you through the steps to register a boat in Virginia, along with important information about the required documents and fees. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to navigate Virginia’s waterways with confidence and in full compliance with state regulations.

1. Gather the Necessary Documents

Before beginning the boat registration process, ensure you have the following documents ready:

  • Proof of Ownership: This can be a manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO), a bill of sale, or a previously issued title if the boat was previously registered.
  • Photo Identification: You will need a valid driver’s license or state-issued ID.
  • Completed Application: Fill out the boat registration application, which you can obtain from the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) website or a regional DWR office.

2. Verify Boat Requirements

Ensure that your boat meets the requirements for registration in Virginia. The boat must be at least 16 feet in length, measured from the tip of the bow to the stern, to be eligible for registration.

3. Record the Boat’s Information

Gather essential information about your boat, including its make, model, year of manufacture, hull identification number (HIN), and the type of propulsion (e.g., inboard, outboard, sail).

4. Complete the Application

Fill out the boat registration application accurately and completely. Double-check all the provided information before submitting the form to avoid delays in the registration process.

5. Pay the Registration Fee

Calculate the registration fee based on the boat’s length and type of propulsion, and make the payment. The fees collected contribute to conservation efforts, ensuring that Virginia’s waterways remain pristine and enjoyable for all boaters.

6. Submit the Application

Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, completed the application, and paid the registration fee, submit the application to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. You can do this by mail or in person at a regional DWR office.

7. Receive Your Registration Certificate

Upon approval, you will receive a registration certificate, which serves as legal proof that your boat is registered in Virginia. The certificate should be kept on board whenever you’re operating the vessel.

8. Renew Your Boat Registration

Boat registrations in Virginia are valid for three years. Make sure to mark your calendar for the renewal date and follow the same process to renew the registration when it’s due. Keep your contact information up to date with the DWR to receive renewal reminders.

9. Display Your Registration Numbers

Once you receive the registration certificate, you’ll also receive two sets of registration numbers. These numbers must be displayed on both sides of the boat’s bow to comply with Virginia’s boating laws.

10. Comply with Boating Safety Regulations

While registering your boat is essential, equally important is adhering to boating safety regulations. Always carry the required safety equipment, including life jackets, fire extinguishers, and distress signals. Familiarize yourself with Virginia’s boating laws and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience.


Registering your boat in Virginia is a straightforward process that ensures you can enjoy your boating adventures legally and responsibly. By following the steps outlined in this guide and providing the necessary documentation, you’ll have your boat registered and receive your registration certificate promptly. Remember to comply with boating safety regulations and respect the environment to help preserve Virginia’s waterways for generations of boaters to come.


  1. Can I operate my boat in Virginia without registering it? No, all motorized boats used on Virginia’s public waters must be registered, including boats with electric trolling motors.
  2. Is boat registration transferable to a new owner in Virginia? Yes, boat registration can be transferred to a new owner, but it must be done within 15 days of the boat’s sale.
  3. What if I change my address or contact information? Notify the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources of any changes in your contact information to ensure you receive important updates and renewal reminders.
  4. Are non-motorized boats required to be registered in Virginia? No, non-motorized boats, such as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, are not required to be registered in Virginia.
  5. What should I do if my boat’s registration is lost or damaged? Contact the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources to request a duplicate registration certificate.