Florida Boating Requirements
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June 7, 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 Florida. 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
Florida issues both registrations and titles for non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The home office in located in Tallahassee and there are regional service centers located throughout the state. Outboard motors are not titled or registered in Florida. Boat trailer titles and registrations are handled through the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, titles are not issued on those under 2,000 lbs.
Boat titles are issued in the State of Florida on all registered boats except for those which are Coast Guard documented. However, they are optional on boats 24' or less in length. Florida has an electronic titling program in lieu of paper certificates on boats which are financed. All boats unless otherwise exempted must be registered in Florida, including U.S. Coast Guard documented boats. Exemptions may include non-powered boats under 16', those visiting from another state for less than 90 days, and lifeboats. A complete list of exemptions may be found by visiting their boat registration website.
There are procedures for acquiring titles on abandoned boats in Florida. The state does not, however, offer provisions for conditional or bonded boat titling. A court order is required where proof of ownership can not be otherwise established.
Florida has adopted the Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act (UCOTVA) which basically sets the same nationwide standards for boat titling as those for vehicles. However, it is not yet fully compliant. This state also participates in the Vessel Identification System (VIS) where boat registration data is shared among government agencies throughout the nation.
There are approximately 959,816 boats registered in Florida which account for 8.1% of all nationwide boat registrations.
Numbering and Marking
Boat registration numbers in Florida begin with an "FL" 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. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "FLZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. Hull identification numbers must be inspected by a Florida law enforcement official if there is a discrepancy.
Security interests in non-documented boats which are state titled in Florida are recorded with the Department of Motor vehicles. These will be shown on both the registration certificate and title when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party unless part of paperless title program. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database or perhaps recorded as Uniform Commercial Code filings. 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 lender's 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. A UCC financing statement must be filed if the boat is neither titled or documented.
Database- Record Searches
Boat title and registration records in Florida are administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This agency does facilitate online searches for the general public which shows a limited amount of information about the vessel's title status and secured interests. However, it does not list the registered owner's name or address. Full record printouts are available to owners and qualified parties by submitting a boat record request form They will also verify registration information by telephone if you have a copy of the registration in hand. Security interests on non-titled and non-documented boats may be identified by implementing a Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) search.
Bulk vessel registration records are available from the State of Florida, Bureau of Records, Division of Motorist Services. However this will entail a special contractual arrangement and limited usage of ownership data.
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. Given these disparities, it may be worth obtaining the services of a public record vendor that has access to a broad range of personal property lien recordings. Information about business entities that own boats registered, titled, or documented in Florida can be obtained by searching the Secretary of State business records online. This includes corporations, Limited Liability Companies and other legal entities.
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. Ordering information can be found in the above WikiTags.
Taxes and Insurance
Sales or use tax is levied on all first time registrations and ownership transfers in Florida. Tax rates vary by county. A documentary stamp tax is also required for boat loan contracts which are executed within the State of Florida.
Liability insurance for boats is not required by the State of Florida.
Operating and Safety
Florida does not require a boating license, however, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 is required to either have completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boating education course or have passed an equivalent course or temporary certificate examination.
The sale, abandonment, theft, or destruction of a Florida registered boat must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 30 days.
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
Jun 7, 2023 - Page revised.