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South Carolina Boating Requirements


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Aug 23, 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 South 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

South Carolina issues registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the Department of Natural Resources in Columbia. This state also provides registrations and titles on outboard motors of 5hp or greater. Registration and titling are required for boat trailers weighing over 2,500 lbs. They are optional for those weighing less. 

South Carolina registration is required on all non-exempt motorized boats. Coast Guard vessels are not subject to registration. Other exemptions include windsurfers, watercraft, canoes, and kayaks propelled only by human power with oars, paddles or similar devices. Visit the Boat Registration website link in WikiTags for more information.

South Carolina has provisions conditional boat registrations when the boat was previously registered in South Carolina. when there is insufficient proof of ownership. in all other cases it will be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership.

Transfers of ownership must be reported to the registration office within 15 days.

There are approximately 556,226 boats registered in the State of South Carolina. This accounts for 4.7% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

South Carolina boat registration numbers begin with an "SC" 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 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 boats 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 "SCZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. The boat must be inspected by a South Carolina law enforcement official if there is a discrepancy with the hull identification number.

Recording Methods

South Carolina issues titles on all registered boats except for those which are Coast Guard Documented. This state has provisions for bonded titles on boats previously registered in South Carolina when there is insufficient proof of ownership. It will otherwise be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership.

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Department of Natural Resources. 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 Coast Guard 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

Record Searches

Boat and outboard motor registration and title records in South Carolina are maintained by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Access to such data is available to owners, qualified parties and the general public. Insights on how to go about searching the boat registration database and the acquisition of current or historical data can be found in WikiTags.

Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State. If there are any suspected state or federal tax liens however, 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.

Taxes and Insurance

Sales or use tax applies to first time registrations and transfers of ownership. Boats are also subject to property tax. Visit the Department of Revenue website link in WikiTags for additional information.

Liability insurance is not required for boats operation on South Carolina waters.

Operating and Safety

Effective Aug. 18, 2023, the law specifies that anyone born after July 1, 2007, needs to take a state-approved boater education course. Individuals who have completed a course in other states have reciprocity in South Carolina.


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 WikiTags.

Credits and References

Aug 23, 2023 - Page revised.



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