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North Carolina 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 North Carolina. 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

North Carolina issues registrations and titles for non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the Wildlife Resources Commission in Raleigh. This state does not issue titles and registrations for outboard motors. Boat trailer registrations and titles are issued in North Carolina.

All motorized boats are subject to registration in North Carolina except for sailboats 14 feet or less in length. Registration is also required for USCG documented vessels. Visit their boat registration website for further requirements and exemptions.

This state does not have provisions for conditional registrations.

There are approximately 370,780 boats registered in the State of North Carolina. This accounts for 3.1% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

North Carolina boat registration numbers begin with an "NC" 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 "NCZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. North Carolina does not require hull number inspections.

Recording Methods

North Carolina issues titles on all registered boats except for those which are Coast Guard Documented. This state does not have provisions for bonded titling when there is insufficient proof of ownership. Under these circumstances it will be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership. There are however definitive procedures for taking ownership of abandoned boats.

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Wildlife Resources Commission. 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 filed with the Secretary of State as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements.

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 registration and title records in North Carolina are maintained in a database which is administered by the Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). Such information is made accessible to owners, entitled parties and the general public. Insights on how to go about boat registration record lookups and obtaining record copies or printouts in North Carolina can be found in WikiLinks.

Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State. They also provide an online tax lien search. 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 nationwide.

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. However, these are encoded and can be difficult to interpret, especially on older vessels with numerous recordings. It may be worthwhile to contact a professional vessel title company for assistance in this regard.

Taxes and Insurance

Sales tax applies to boat transactions in North Carolina. Visit their website link in WikiTags for more information about boat taxes.

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

Operating and Safety

Boaters born on or after January 1, 1988 must have a North Carolina Boater Education Card to operate a motorized watercraft of 10 HP or more.

Ownership transfers, abandonments, destructions, and thefts must be reported to the Wildlife Resources Commission within 15 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

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



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