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Boat Documentation and Registration

Boat History Report Documentation and Registration is a service we offer to our community of boat buyers to help them with US Coast Guard Documentation and State Registration. As the owner of a boat, it’s imperative to work with an expert who will ensure your boat is documented or registered perfectly and we can help make this a seamless process.

What is US Coast Guard vessel documentation?

US Coast Guard Documentation is a way to establish ownership of a vessel, which is similar to a state boat title, but at a Federal level. Recreational vessels over five net tons have the option to document their vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard and obtain a Certificate of Documentation. Documenting your boat provides evidence of the nationality of the vessel if you will be using it outside of the U.S., i.e. Canada, Bahamas/islands, etc. and also helps boat owners like yourself that may seek to finance a vessel by providing lenders the benefit of preferred mortgage status.

What is State Registration of a vessel?

A state-issued title of a vessel also serves to establish ownership of the vessel, but only within a particular state.

Should I document my boat with the USCG or register/title it with my state?

There are a few factors to consider when making this decision:

  • How big is your boat? Only vessels five net tons and over (generally around 25ft and larger) can be documented. If you are purchasing a boat smaller than 25ft, you will not be able to document your vessel.
  • How will you use the boat? If you won’t be using your boat in oceans or crossing international waters, state titling is a great option and is generally less expensive. However, if you do plan to use your boat in international waters, a Certificate of Documentation is internationally recognized and makes it much easier for an American vessel to access foreign ports.
  • How are you paying for your boat? If you are financing your purchase, lenders generally prefer documentation. Your lender may also be able to offer a better rate if you document your boat.
  • What state are you located in? There are still 9 states that do not title vessels. If you are located in one of these states, documenting a vessel is a great solution to ensure you can always prove ownership. Registration documents and phony bills of sale are common ways to scam owners if there is not a title issued for the boat. By documenting the vessel, you essentially establish a Federal title for the boat proving ownership.
  • A documented vessel does not display state registration numbers on the bow, making the front end of your boat more aesthetically pleasing. Instead, they follow the Coast Guard lettering requirements to display their name and hailing port on the stern of the boat.

How does the cost compare for titling versus documenting?

Initial documentation is generally more expensive than state titling and has to be renewed in five-year increments. State-issued titles are done once and do not need to be renewed. A documented boat is exempt from state titling laws; however, depending on the state you live in, you may still be required to register the vessel annually even if you document your boat. For a list of state documenting, titling, and registration laws, see our Vessel Rules list.

Can I document my vessel myself?

Yes. USCG Documentation is done through the National Vessel Documentation Center. You can find all of the necessary information needed to document your vessel here: https://www.dco.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Deputy-for-Operations-Policy-and-Capabilities-DCO-D/National-Vessel-Documentation-Center/

If you feel USCG documentation is the way to go with your next boat, we can help simplify the process. Simply fill out the information requested below and we will begin the process on your behalf. Let us help you obtain your documentation certificate without the headache of trying to navigate a confusing government website. For more information give us a call at (800) 441-7599 or by email info@boathistoryreport.com.

Beware of services that mail or email you pretending to be the Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. It is legal for companies to do this, however, these companies are not endorsed by the United States Coast Guard. Many times their logos and letters are misleading and they fool people into thinking they are official government entities.

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