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Delaware Boating Requirements


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Jul 27, 2023 - This summary is designed to inform the boating public about title options, registration requirements, recording methods, record searches, tax rules, and operational guidelines for the State of Delaware. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular state. Simply click on the above "WikiShare" link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.

Registration and Titling

Delaware is a boat registration only state and does not issue boat titles. All non-exempt boats operating in this jurisdiction are administered by the Division of Wildlife in Dover. Titling and registration is not required in for outboard boat motors in Delaware. Boat trailers are subject to titling and registration.

Delaware requires the registration of all non-exempt motorboats, including those powered by electric motors. Exceptions include vessels which are registered in another state for a period not to exceed 60 consecutive days and Coast Guard documented vessels. Boat registration is available to non-residents only if the boat's principal area of operation is within the State of Delaware or outside of U.S. waters.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife does not have provisions for registering abandoned boats and does not offer bonding or conditional registrations where sufficient proof of ownership can not be provided.

Ownership transfers, thefts, destructions, and abandonments must be reported within 15 days. 

There are approximately 52,711 boats registered in the State of Delaware. This accounts for 1.4% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Boat registration numbers in Delaware begin with a "DL" designation which is followed by four numbers and then two letters. These must be displayed on all non-documented boats along with registration sticker tabs. Coast Guard documented vessels may not display the state registration numbers. However they must display the state registration tabs, an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. An official documentation number must also be affixed to a visible interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull.

All vessels manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. Owners with older boats may apply with the Division of Fish and Wildlife for a hull number assignment. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "DLZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. The hull number must be inspected by an enforcement official if there is a related discrepancy.

Recording Methods

Delaware does not issue boat titles therefore security interests in non-documented boats are recorded through Uniform Commercial Code filings. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, recorded as Uniform Commercial Code filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk's office. There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against registered boats which are not documented. If the vessel is USCG documented, a security interest may be perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center with the earliest submissions taking priority. Other lien claims can be filed in the same manner although these function as notifications only. All such filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.

Databases - Record Searches

Boat registration records in Delaware are maintained in a searchable database administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Division of Fish & Wildlife. Access to current and historical records are made available to owners and certain qualified parties (see WikiTags).

Online UCC searches are not available therefore it will be necessary to use a state approved UCC service provider. The Department of State will also provide UCC search information by telephone.

State and Federal tax liens on boats are not always recorded in a consistent manner and are therefore difficult to identify. They may show up as a red flag on state registration records, as UCC filings, in state revenue records, in a county clerks records, or on a vessel's abstract of title for documented boats.

Information about business and legal entities that own boats registered, titled, or documented in Delaware can be obtained by searching the Secretary of State's business records online.

Ownership, mortgage, and lien search recordings for USCG documented vessels can be obtained by ordering an abstract of title and a copy of the certificate of documentation from the National Vessel Documentation Center.

Taxes and Insurance

No sales, excise, or personal property taxes are assessed on boats registered in Delaware.

Liability insurance is not required to operate a boat in Delaware.

Operating and Safety

Delaware requires any motorized boat operator born after January 1, 1978  to pass a boater safety course and to carry a boater education card.


The information contained herein is subject to change without notice and may contain errors or omissions. Be sure to check with the respective government agency before taking action on any such data. More detailed information about all of these topics can be found in the above WikiTags.

Credits and References

Jul 27, 2023 - Page revised.
Contributor - Vessel Title Services



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