Thursday, April 22, 2021

Boat Registration in Florida


Flotilla 95 Staff Officer John Moyer checks the boat registration during a free Vessel Safety Inspection. Photo by Keith Wohltman

Flotilla 95 Staff Officer John Moyer checks the boat registration during a free Vessel Safety Inspection. Photo by Keith Wohltman

Registering a boat is like registering a car. In Florida, all motorized boats used on Florida’s public waterways must be registered. There are few exemptions, such as U.S. Government owned boats; boats used strictly as lifeboats; and non-resident boats used for 90 days or less on Florida’s public waterways. Other exemptions are non-motorized boats that are less than 16 feet; non-motorized kayaks, canoes, racing shells, or rowing skulls of any length; and boats used exclusively on private lakes or ponds.



The Florida Certificate of Registration and Validation Decal to are issued by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. You have 30 days from the time you purchase a boat to obtain the registration. During that period, you must carry the purchase receipt with you when operating the boat.

Registration is done in person or by mail by submitting the required information and fee to your county tax collector’s office. On Marco Island, the tax collector’s office is located at 1040 Winterberry Drive. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM. You need a completed registration application, a manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO) or equivalent, a sales receipt showing you paid any required sales tax and a fee payment. The MSO will be included with your boat’s papers if buying a new boat. That information will be included on the previous owner’s title if you are purchasing a used boat and transferring the title. The MSO includes the Hull Identification Number (HIN), similar to a car’s VIN, and the engine serial numbers.

You must keep the Certificate of Registration on board whenever you operate the boat.

Displaying your registration and validation decal:

You must display the registration
numbers on the left and right sides of
the bow (forward part) of your boat.
These numbers must be painted,
applied as a decal, or otherwise
attached to the boat.
They must be maintained in legible
The numbers must read from left to
right on both sides of the boat.

Numbers must be at least three inches
high in bold BLOCK lettering in a color
that contrasts with the background
color of your boat.
Letters must be separated from the
numbers by a hyphen or a space equal
to one letter width, as displayed here:
FL 1234 AB or FL-1234-AB.
The validation decal, from your
registration, must be attached to the
port (left) side of the boat within six
inches of the registration numbers.
Other important points to know:
Boats must be registered and numbered
within 30 days of purchase.
The Certification of Registration is
valid for one or two years. Renewal
period begins on the first day of the
owner’s birth month.
The owner of a registered boat must
notify the county tax collector within 30

days of a change in address.
The owner of a registered boat must
notify the Florida Department of
Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
within 30 days if the boat is sold, stolen,
lost, abandoned or destroyed.

Form HSMV 82050 must be submitted if you sell your boat. The form is available at the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website

If your boat has a current registration in another U.S. state or territory, you may operate it in Florida for 90 days before you are required to register it here.

Larger recreational boats (five tons or over) have the option of being documented by the US Coast Guard. Documented boats operating on Florida waters must have a current boat registration from Florida or another state. To be documented a boat must be owned by an American citizen or an American corporation. The captain and officers must be American citizens also. Crew members do not have to be citizens.

For more information about safe boating courses, contact Joe Riccio at 239-384-7416 or email To schedule a free Vessel Safety Check contact John Moyer at 239-248-7078 or or call the Coast Guard Auxiliary Station – Flotilla 95 at 239-394-5911. Interested in joining Flotilla 95, USCG Auxiliary? Call Bob Shmihluk at 215-694-3305.

Keith Wohltman retired to Marco Island from New Jersey, where he spent decades on the water. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to help make boating safer around Marco and the 10,000 Islands. He has served as the Flotilla Commander and a Coxswain and is currently the Public Affairs Staff Officer for Marco Island’s Flotilla 95.

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