Boat Registration in Texas

There’s no shortage of options for the avid boater in Texas. Not only does Texas have 367 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline but it also has 5,607 square miles of inland water. Not bad for a state known primarily for its land mass. 

But before you try to figure out where you’ll take your boat first, you need to get it registered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife office. If you’ve never done this before, it can be quite cumbersome. Have no fear though! This guide explains everything you need to know about registering your boat in Texas.

Key takeaways:

  • All motorized boats need to be registered
  • All non-motorized boats 14ft+ in length need to be registered
  • All motorized boats, outboard engines, and non-motorized boats 14ft+ in length need to be titled.
  • Registration is valid for 2 years

Do all boats need to be registered in Texas?

Pretty much every single boat that floats on Texas water needs to first be registered with the Texas Parks and Wildlife office. Specifically, any boat with a motor, any boat without a motor but 14ft or longer in length, and any US Coast Guard documented vessel that is less than 115 ft in length. 

However, there are some vessels that are exempt from registration. Non-motorized canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and rubber rafts regardless of length do not need to be registered. Also, any vessel under 14 feet in length that will never have a motor attached to it is exempt. 

Finally, boats that are registered and titled in states other than Texas can visit the Lone Star State for up to 90 days without having to transfer their registration. After 90 days though, they must register their vessel with Texas Parks and Wildlife.

How do I register my boat for the first time?

Boat registration and title forms can be accessed online at the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Unfortunately, online registration is not available the first time you register your boat, so you should complete these forms, print them out, and either mail the application in or deliver it to one of these TPWG offices

Every boat owner will need to complete the Texas Parks and Wildlife Title and Registration application. In addition, you will also need to submit certain documents that vary depending on how you purchased your boat. For instance, a brand new boat requires different documentation than a used boat. To find out what documents you need to gather, review the guides for specific transactions here

Finally, you will also need to pay your registration and titling fees at the time you submit your registration application. More on those fees below.

Do I also need to have a Texas title in my name for my boat?

If you purchased a vessel that meets the Texas boat registration requirements, you are also required to obtain a certificate of title for that boat. All motorized vessels, non-motorized vessels that are 14 feet or longer in length, and all internal combustion outboard motors must be titled.

A certificate of title is purchased at the same time you are registering your boat. In fact, you apply for your title within the same form you apply for your registration. New owners must submit this application along with the bill of sale or, if the vessel is purchased new from a dealership, the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO).

If you purchased a pre-owned boat or outboard engine, you will also need to submit the current title signed over to you by the seller(s). On newer formatted titles, there’s a spot for the seller to sign and date on the back. Then the seller must also complete the tax affidavit portion of the boat application form or outboard motor application form.

The title and registration application should be submitted to the Texas Parks & Wildlife offices no later than 45 working days from date of purchase. If submitted later, you could be subjected to tax penalties and interest.

What type of fees should I expect?

A Texas certificate of title is a one-time payment of $27. You will not have to purchase another Certificate of title for this vessel for as long as you own it. The only exception is if the title is lost or destroyed and you need to get a replacement.

As for your registration fee, that is determined by the length of your boat.

  • Vessels less than 16ft in length = $32 
  • Vessels between 16ft and <26ft = $53 
  • Vessels between 26ft and <40ft = $110 
  • Bessels 40ft or longer = $150

These fees cover two years of registration. At that point, you will need to renew your registration and pay the same registration fee again.

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

Texas standards for boat number and decal placement are similar to most other state specifications. 

Registration numbers should either be painted or displayed via vinyl stickers on each side of the bow. The registration number should appear 3 inches in height and its color should contrast with the hue of your boat. The registration number should also read from left to right and a space or hyphen should separate letters from numbers.

Then your validation decals, which are given to you by the Texas Parks and Wildlife office, should be placed adjacent to the registration number, closer to the stern than the top of the bow. 

Finally, the registration Certificate of Number document is required by law to be kept aboard your vessel in case of inspection. We recommend either laminating this document or sticking it in a waterproof envelope and then storing it away somewhere near the wheel.

How do I renew my boat registration?

Three months prior to the expiration of your 2-year registration, TPWD will send you a notification that renewal is upcoming.

The good news is that renewals are much easier than first time registrations. Renewals can be achieved entirely online if you so choose. Visit the TPWD’s online portal and provide all the relevant information to renew your registration. You will then be prompted to make payment via credit or debit card. 

Once completed, a new registration certificate and decals are mailed out to you. You must replace your old registration certificate with this new one onboard and then swap out your old decal stickers for your new ones. The registration number you affixed to both sides of your boat stays the same.

Like new registrations, renewals have a life-span of two years.

Do I have to register my boat trailer in Texas?

Boat trailer registrations are not processed through TPWD. However, they are mandatory.

 As on-road conveyances, trailers are registered through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). As a convenience, the application for a trailer can be brought to either a DMV office or to the county tax collector. The application, known as Form 130-U, consists of owner information and trailer data, including make, model, color, and weight. Should the trailer plus boat weigh over 4,000 pounds, it must also be titled. The Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin (MCO) is a prerequisite for obtaining a certificate of title.

Do I need to complete a boater education course to operate my vessel?

Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 who wishes to operate a boat with over 15 horsepower or a sailboat over 14ft must complete a boater education course first. Learn more about how to complete a TPWD-approved course here.

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

You are ready to take to the water -- and there is plenty of it! Go scuba diving off the Texas Gulf Coast, wakeboarding on Lake Powell, or fishing in the Rio Grande. 

Wherever you go though, make sure that when you come back to shore, you tie your boat up at a reputable marina. Here’s a list of the best marinas in Texas that have availability to host you for one night or an entire season.

Additional Resources