Close the Deal: Boat Registrations, Titles, and More

Here’s an overview of the paperwork you’ll need to complete any boat sale.

This article originally appeared on Republished by permission. 

Whether you’re selling your family canoe, a large poweryacht, or something in between, finalizing the transfer of ownership will require some paperwork. Make sure you find out exactly what you will need ahead of time so you don’t hold up the final sale. Notarizing all paperwork (to validate your signature) is not always required, but it’s always a good idea.



First of all, check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles (or whatever agency controls boat sales) to find out what documentation you need to give the buyer. Most agencies have a checklist on their website.


The bill of sale must include a description and hull number, purchase date, price, and the signature of both buyer and seller. Usually the seller creates this as a simple document, but there are several automobile templates available online that can be easily adapted for boats.


Titles are issued by state, and a new one is created every time a boat changes hands. If you have an outstanding loan on your boat, the title will include that information and the buyer won’t be able to register the boat until the loan is cleared. Check with your lienholder to see what sort of paperwork will be provided and how much lead time is needed; you may have to pay off the loan first.


Warranty cards, maintenance records, and any other paperwork should also be handed over at the final sale. And once the deal is final, make sure you cancel your insurance. Some companies will let you date the cancellation back to the actual day of sale, even if you call a few days later.


If your boat is on a trailer, your state may require separate paperwork. You may also have to handle the registration separately. Again, the state agency that handles boat sales should have a checklist with this information. With a bit of planning and organization, passing papers to complete a boat sale is only slightly more than a formality. Best of all, it is the last step before your final handshake.


NOTE: The following list is intended as a general guide and may not include every document for your specific situation. For a complete list of requirements, check with the state agency that controls boat sales in your area.

Boat Sales Documents Required To Complete The Boat Sale
Basic boat sales document: all should be notarized
  • Bill of Sale
  • Title
  • Proof of loan payoff
  • Trailer registration
  • Trailer title
Courtesy documents:
  • Warranty cards
  • Maintenance records

After The Sale:

  • Cancel insurance
  • Remove all ads

Happy boat selling.

Written by: Carol Cronin

Carol Cronin has published several novels about the Olympics, sailing, hurricanes, time travel, and old schooners. She spends as much time on the water as possible, in a variety of boats, though most have sails.

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