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Montana 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 Montana. 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

Montana issues registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered through the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks in Deer Lodge. This state does not title or register outboard motors. However, motor information can be listed on the boat registration records.

Unless otherwise exempt, sailboats 12 feet long and longer and all motorboats and personal watercraft must be registered in Montana. Non-motorized sailboats less than 12 feet long and manually propelled boats, regardless of length, are exempt from registration and taxation. Coast Guard documented boats are exempt from registration. Boats duly registered in another state or country are exempt for 90 consecutive days. Visit the DFWP website for a complete listing.

There are approximately 51,207 boats registered in the State of Montana. This accounts for 0.4% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Montana boat registration numbers begin with an "MT" 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 state registration numbers. However they must display 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 "MTZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. An inspection of the boat must be performed by a Montana law enforcement official if there is a hull number discrepancy.

Recording Methods

Montana issues titles on all registered boats except for those which are Coast Guard Documented. This state also has provisions for bonded titles and conditional registrations when there is insufficient proof of ownership.

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. These will be shown on both the registration and title certificates when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party. Security interests in boats that are neither titled or USCG documented are recorded with the Secretary of State as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. Tax liens may be flagged on boat registration records, recorded as UCC 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 state titled boats.

If the vessel is USCG documented, a lender's security interest must be perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center and priority is attained according to the date filed. Other maritime liens can be filed in the same manner although they function as notifications only. All mortgage and lien filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.

Record Searches

Boat title and registration records in Montana are maintained in a database which is administered by the Motor Vehicle Division. Access to such information is available to owners and certain entitled parties. Insights on how to go about boat registration search  lookups and obtaining boat registration or title records can be found in WikiTags.

Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State. However, if there are any suspected state or federal tax liens, it may be advisable to use a public record vendor as they have a much broader access to such filings.

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

Montana assesses an annual registration fee in lieu of sales or use tax. Visit their Department of Revenue website link in WikiTags for more information.

Montana does not require liability insurance for boats operating on their waters.

Operating and Safety

Montana requires motorized boat and PWC operators who are 13 or 14 years old 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

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



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