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Illinois Boating Requirements


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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 Illinois. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular jurisdiction. Simply click on the above WikiShare link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.

Registration and Titling

Illinois issues registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within their jurisdiction. These are administered through the Department of Natural Resources in Springfield. Outboard motors are not titled or registered in Illinois. Boat trailer registrations are handled through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Illinois does not issue registration or title certificates on outboard motors. Boat trailers must be registered and titled through the Division of Motor Vehicles.

All boats must be registered in Illinois except sailboards, boats used exclusively as a ship's lifeboat, boats while competing in any race approved by the Department, non-powered boats owned and operated on water completely impounded on land belonging to the owner of the watercraft, or a canoe or kayak which is owned by an organization which is organized and conducted on a not-for-profit basis with no personal profit inuring to anyone as a result of the operation. Registration is also required for Coast Guard documented vessels.

 All registered boats are titled in Illinois except those documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. There are no provisions for bonded titles where the owner can not provide sufficient proof of ownership.

 Illinois has specific procedures for registering or titling boats which are subject to mechanic's or storage liens.

There are approximately 216,175 boats registered in the State of Illinois. This accounts for 1.8% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Boat registration numbers in Illinois begin with an "IL" 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 "AKZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. Hull number inspections are not required.

Recording Methods

Security interests in registered boats which are non-documented must be recorded with the Department of Natural Resources. These will be shown on both the title and registration certificates when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, filed with a county clerk's office, the department of revenue, 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. Secured interests in non-documented and non-titled boats must be secured through a Uniform Commercial Code filing.

Record Searches

Boat title and registration records in Illinois are maintained in a database administered by the Department of Natural Resources. Access to such records is available to owners and qualified parties. Insights on how search for boat title, registration and historical records can be found in the WikiTags for this page.

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.

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

Boats purchased new or used from manufacturer's lending institutions or dealers are subject to sales tax. Use tax is also owed when a watercraft is acquired by gift, donation, transfer, or non-retail purchase. Visit the use tax link in WikiTags for more information.

Liability insurance is not required for boats operating on Illinois waters.

Operating and Safety

Any person born on or after January 1, 1998, operating a vessel powered by a motor of more than 10 hp is required by law 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.

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3/29/2022 - Page initiated by Team BoatWiki.



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