Boat Registration in Minnesota

Though affectionately called the “land of 10,000 lakes,” Minnesota actually has far more lakes than that. Counting lakes it shares with Canada, this midwestern state is home to 14,380 lakes.

With all this water access, it’s no wonder Minnesota leads the nation in most registered boats per capita.

If you’ve decided to follow suit and purchase your own boat, there’s a few things you need to take care of before you can join your fellow Minnesotans out on the water. The most important being to register your boat with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. If you’ve never done this before, have no fear. This guide will take you through the MN boat registration process and have you out on the water in no time.

Key takeaways:

  • All motorized vessels need to be registered
    Non-motorized vessels over 10 feet in length need to be registered
    Most boats over 20 feet in length need to also be titled
    Boat registrations are valid for three calendar years after issuance

Do all boats need to be registered in Minnesota?

Minnesota requires residents to register all motorized vessels and any non-motorized vessel over 10 feet in length.

Types of watercraft that are exempt from registration include:

  • Non-motorized watercraft 10 feet in length or less.
    Boats that are currently registered with another state and will only be operated on Minnesota waters for up to 90 consecutive days.
    Boats documented with the United States Coast Guard.
    Boats owned and operated by the government.
    Waterfowl boats that will only be used during waterfowl hunting season.
    Rice boats used during harvest season.

Also keep in mind that Minnesota also requires you to register your boat within 15 days of purchasing it.

How do I register my boat for the first time?

If you’re purchasing a boat longer than 16 feet from a dealership, your dealer will apply for your registration and title on your behalf. It is required for them to take care of this for you.

If you’re purchasing your boat outside of a dealership, you can register your boat in person or by mail. 

If registering in person, visit a deputy registrar of motor vehicles office that can complete DNR registrations. A list of offices can be found here. If registering by mail, paperwork can be mailed to: 

  • DNR License Center
  • 500 Lafayette Road
  • St. Paul, MN 55155

No matter what submission process you proceed with, they both require you to complete or collect this paperwork:

  1. Fill out a Watercraft Title and Registration Application or Form LB014
  2. Gather proof of ownership documents, which are different for new and used vehicles. 
    1. For used vessels, provide the boat’s current certificate of registration as well as the title with signatures from every previous owner.
    2. For new vessels, provide the manufacturer’s statement of origin
  3. Obtain a sales receipt to show that you have paid sales tax on your purchase
  4. Provide payment for registration fees. 
Pro tip: One benefit of applying in person is that you will receive your registration card and decals on the spot. This allows you to get on the water right away. If you apply by mail, you will have to wait several weeks for your card and decals to arrive.

When I register my boat, do I also need to apply for a certificate of title?

In addition to being registered, most boats over 16 feet in length are also required to be titled. A title provides proof of ownership and will be a very important document to have should you ever decide to sell your boat in the future. 

Here are the types of boats exempt from titling: 

  • Boats 16 feet or less in length
  • Boats that are currently registered with another state and will only be operated on Minnesota waters for up to 90 consecutive days.
  • Boats manufactured before August 1st, 1979
  • Boats used solely for testing purposes by a manufacturer
  • Boats owned by the United States federal, state, or local government
  • Boats used only for waterfowl-hunting season 
  • Boats used only for  wild-rice-harvesting season

Minnesota uses the same application for boat registration and titling, Form LB014, so you can apply for a title while you apply for your registration.

What type of fees should I expect?

Registration fees are determined by boat type and length. Here are the fees you can expect:

  • Non-motorized vessels above 10ft in length like canoes, kayaks, sailboards, and paddleboards = $10.50
  • Personal watercrafts, which are categorized as any vessel a rider sits or stands on like a jet ski = $37.50 
  • Pleasure crafts less than 17 feet = $18
  • Pleasure crafts between 17 feet and 19 feet = $27
  • Pleasure crafts over 19 feet but less than 26 feet = $45
  • Pleasure crafts between 26 feet and less than 40 feet = $67.50
  • Pleasure crafts 40 feet and over = $90

All new registrations also include an issuing fee of $8.50 as well as an aquatic invasive species surcharge of $10.60.

The registration fee covers boat registration for 3 calendar years. Once three years have passed, you will need to renew your registration.

Titling fees are much more straightforward than registration fees. All boats required to be titled must pay $15 for the certificate of title plus a $7 issuing fee. The good news is that this is a one-time payment. The title remains valid for as long as you own the boat.

What do I do with the registration certificate, number, decal?

Once you successfully register your boat, you will receive your registration card, registration decals, and if applicable, your certificate of title.

Sign your registration card and then store it somewhere safe on board your watercraft. 

You will then have to affix your registration license number to each side of the bow of your boat. Your number, made up of a combo of letters and digits, needs to be at least 3 inches high, in block characters, and in a color that contrasts with your boat. You can paint these numbers on yourself or opt to purchase them from a marine supply store like West Marine. 

You then need to affix your expiration decals 4 inches away from the registration numbers on the side closest to the stern.

How do I renew my boat registration?

Boat registrations are valid for three calendar years after issuance. You will receive official notice from the Minnesota DNR when it is time for you to renew.

Renewing your boat registration is way easier than first-time registration. You are encouraged to renew your boat registration online at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website..

The fees for registration renewal are the same as when you first registered except that the issuing fee is $6 for renewal instead of $8.50

Do I have to register my boat trailer in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, if your trailer has an outstanding lien, it needs to be registered. In addition, if your trailer plus boat weighs 4,500 pounds or more, it too needs to be registered. 

To register a trailer, you will need to provide proof of ownership documentation, such as the certificate of title or registration card. If you do not have these, you will need a signed bill of sale as well as a signed Statement of Facts and Statement of Protection. 

Bring these forms, a completed Application to Title and Register a Motor Vehicle, and payment to a DVS office. Expect to pay a titling fee of $8.25 and a filing fee of $11, as well as a $10 transfer tax if applicable.

What do I do once my boat is ready for open waters?

With your boat registered and titled, you are ready for open waters! Now you can take your boat to Lake Superior, the largest lake in America, or begin cruising down the 661 miles of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.

And when you are ready to come back to shore, dock at one of these marinas in Minnesota. They have been visited and reviewed by boaters like you. Whether you’re looking to tie up for just one night or lease an entire season, these Minnesota marinas have availability.

Additional Resources