Boat Registration in Pennsylvania
Picturesque Pennsylvania borders more than 50 miles of Lake Erie, contains 3 major rivers, and is dotted with more than 2,500 lakes. Needless to say, there are plenty of ways to explore this historic state from the water.
But before you can get out there on your new boat, you’ll need to get a certificate of registration and most likely a certificate of title.
At first glance, registering a boat in Pennsylvania appears to be time-consuming and confusing. Have no fear though. We’ve created this PA boat registration guide to simplify the process. Here’s everything you need to know about registering a boat in Pennsylvania.
- Any boat powered by a motor or uses a motor for auxiliary power needs to be registered.
- Most boats with engines also need a certificate of title.
- Boat registration certificate is valid for 2 years
- Initial boat registration must be mailed in.
- Boat registration renewal can be done online
Do I need to register my boat in Pennsylvania?
By Pennsylvania law, a boat must be registered in its state of primary use or where it is most often operated. This means you must register your boat in Pennsylvania if you plan to take it on Pennsylvania waters more often than any other state’s waters.
Boats that always require registration include:
- Vessels powered by diesel, electric, or gasoline motors
- Vessels that use diesel, electric, or gasoline motors for auxiliary power
- Vessels documented by the U.S. Coast Guard for recreational purposes
Boats without motors such as kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sailboats, and inflatable boats are not required to be registered in PA unless used at Fish and Boat Commission sites or state parks. If you plan to use your non motor-powered vessel at one of these locations, you’ll need to either properly register your boat, or purchase a watercraft launch or mooring permit from the SCNR. These permits can also be purchased online here.
Flotation devices like surfboards and inflatable tubes never need to be registered no matter where you are enjoying them in PA.
One more note. You do not need to register your boat if you do not live full-time in Pennsylvania. Temporary use of your boat in PA waters for up to 60 days is permitted as long as your boat is registered in another state.
How do I register my boat for the first time?
To register a new boat in Pennsylvania, you must complete this Form REV-336. Download this paperwork and mail the completed form to the Fish and Boat Commission.
This application requires signatures from all parties involved in the purchase or sale of a boat. The seller’s signature must be included on Form REV-336 (or on the bill of sale), so it is best to fill your application out when you are purchasing your boat, if possible.
Follow these steps to complete your application for registration:
- Fill out the form in its entirety and sign
- Attach proof of ownership
- Include payment for registration fees
- Mail to:
- PA Fish & Boat Commission
- Division of Licensing & Registration
- PO Box 68900
- Harrisburg, PA 17106-8900
You must include proof of ownership in the form of the boat’s current title, which should also be signed by the seller. If you do not have this, provide a copy of the bill of sale and the manufacturer’s certificate of origin. (You do not need a copy of the bill of sale if the retail value of your boat is less than $2,000.)
While you wait for your application to go through, you can obtain a temporary registration, which will allow you to use your boat. This temporary registration costs $2 and is issued at a Fish and Boat commission office or issuing agent office.
When your application is finally approved, you will receive a certification of registration and decal in the mail. Expect to receive these within 90 days of issuance.
When I register my boat, do I also need to apply for a certificate of title?
Any boat purchased or transferred must be titled or re-titled if:
- The boat is powered by an inboard motor and was built in or after 1997
- The boat is powered by an outboard motor, was built in or after 1997, and is 14ft or longer in length.
- The boat is currently titled in Pennsylvania
- The boat is currently titled in another state
Remember, whenever you are buying a boat, the seller must sign the title and have it notarized for transfer ownership over to you. This step should be done before applying for registration. In fact, do it right at the time of purchase.
What type of fees should I expect?
If the boat you purchased requires a certificate of title, the fees are:
- $15 for the certificate of title
- +$5 lien recording
- +$5 duplicate title
The good news is that the title is valid for as long as you own your vessel. You won’t be expected to purchase another certificate of title until you buy another boat.
In addition to the title, you will need to pay for your boat’s registration. Here are the fees for registering a boat in Pennsylvania:
- All non motor-powered boats: $22
- Motorboats under 16 feet: $26
- Motorboats 16 feet to less than 20 feet: $39
- Motorboats 20 feet and over: $52
- Commercial passenger: $50
- Transfer of Registration Fee - same owner with a current registration buys a new boat: $5
The tallied fee registers your boat in Pennsylvania for 2 years. After 2 years, you will need to renew.
Motorboats owned and operated by the state of Pennsylvania, used for educational purposes by public service organizations, or used to enforce the law and maintain public safety must register but are exempt from the above fees.
What do I do with the registration certificate, number, decal?
Once your registration application has been approved, you will receive your registration certificate, number, and decal in the mail. Follow these steps to display your registration number and decal on your boat:
- Paint or attach the registration number on both sides of your boat’s forward half, with the number reading left to right
- Use block letters measuring 3 inches or more in a color that contrasts with the color of your boat
- Separate numbers and letters with a clear space the same size as a single letter or number (not 1 or I)
- Affix your registration decals six inches away from the end of the registration number.
How do I renew my boat registration?
All Pennsylvania boat registrations are valid for two years and expire on March 31st of the second year.
You will receive a renewal form, Form PFBC-730A, in the mail in December the year before your registration is scheduled to expire. If you do not receive it, you can complete form PFBC-733. These forms will ask questions about your boat’s use since its registration and require you to confirm that your personal information is correct.
You can renew registration online at huntfish.pa.gov for an additional fee of $2.
Do I have to register my boat trailer in
Yes, you need to register your boat trailer. These are considered recreational cargo trailers and require titles and registrations.
You can apply to register your boat trailer by going to a Department of Motor Vehicles office, where you will complete forms MV-1 and MV-1r. After a title and registration have been issued, you can renew them online.
What do I do once my boat is ready for open waters?
When your boat is successfully registered, there’s nothing left to do but to take it out! Cruise down the Delaware River and tie-up in Philadelphia. Or explore lake Erie end-to-end. You’ve earned it!