How Much Is It to Register a Boat in California?

California boasts a stunning coastline, gorgeous lakes, and countless opportunities for aquatic adventures. If you’re joining the wave of boaters in the Golden State, you’ll need to register your vessel with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). But before you hit the water, understanding the associated costs is crucial.

This guide dives deep into the fees involved in California boat registration, ensuring you’re prepared financially and ready to cruise worry-free.

The Breakdown: Essential Fees

The core registration cost depends on two factors: your residency status and the year you apply. Here’s a clear breakdown:

  • Original Application Fee:
    • Residents:
      • Even-numbered year: $37
      • Odd-numbered year: $65
    • Non-Residents:
      • Even-numbered year: $65
      • Odd-numbered year: $93
  • Renewal Fee (every two years on odd-numbered years): $20 (residents and non-residents)

Additional Costs to Consider

While the core fees cover the basics, there might be additional costs depending on your situation:

  • Transfer Fee: $15 (if buying a used boat from another party)
  • Duplicate Registration Fee: $15 (in case of lost or damaged registration)
  • Statement of Facts Fee: This applies in specific situations like gifting a boat. The fee varies based on the vessel’s value. Check the DMV website for details.
  • Use Tax: If you’re purchasing a new boat, you’ll likely owe use tax based on the purchase price and your location.

Mussel Fee: A Quirky Extra

California enforces a mandatory Mussel Fee to prevent the spread of invasive mussels. The fee amount depends on the year you register:

  • $8 (original registration on even-numbered years)
  • $16 (original registration on odd-numbered years and renewals)

Making the Most of Online Resources

The California DMV website offers a wealth of information on boat registration, including fee schedules, downloadable forms, and online registration options ( This is a valuable resource to ensure a smooth and efficient registration process.

Beyond the Fees: Required Documents

Remember, registration fees are just one part of the equation. To register your boat, you’ll also need to gather the following documents:

  • Completed Application for Vessel Certificate of Number (BOAT 101) form
  • Proof of Ownership: This could be the original California Certificate of Ownership (title) or an out-of-state title (if previously registered elsewhere)
  • Hull Identification Number (HIN): A unique identifier for your boat, typically located on the transom (rear) of the vessel

Final Thoughts: Smooth Sailing with Preparation

By understanding the registration fees and requirements, you can ensure a smooth and cost-effective boat registration process in California. With the proper documentation and fees in hand, you’ll be ready to set sail and explore the stunning California waterways in no time.

Boating Ahead: Additional Tips

Here are some bonus tips for a successful boating experience:

  • Take a Boating Safety Course: California requires a boater education card for certain vessels. Check the DMV website for details.
  • Boat Insurance: Consider obtaining boat insurance to protect yourself financially in case of accidents.
  • Be Familiar with Boating Regulations: California has specific regulations regarding boating safety, equipment requirements, and designated operating areas. Familiarize yourself with these rules before hitting the water.

With proper preparation and knowledge of registration costs, you can embark on a journey of fun and adventure on California’s beautiful waters!

Happy Boating!

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