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Virginia 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 Virginia. 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

Virginia issues both registration and title certificates for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the Department of Wildlife Resources in Richmond. Outboard motor titles and registrations are not available from this state. However, they can be listed on the boat registration records. Boat trailer registration and titling is required.

Virginia registers all non-exempt boats that operate within their jurisdiction. This includes all watercraft propelled by machinery, including but not limited to, gasoline, diesel, and electric motors. Sailboats with no motor over 18' are titled but not registered. Coast Guard documented vessels may become registered but this is not required. Exemptions includes watercraft visiting Virginia which are registered in another state for up to 90 consecutive days. A complete list of requirements and exemptions may be found on the Boat Registration website link in WikiTags.

Virginia has adopted the Uniform Certificate of Title Act for Vessels Act (UCOTVA) which basically sets the same nationwide standards for boat titling as those established for vehicles. Boat registration applicants must accordingly declare any known damages that may have affected the hull's integrity. This includes collisions, submersions, fires, running aground, and similar occurrences. This state is also a participant in the Vessel Identification System (VIS) where boat registration data is shared among other government agencies throughout the country.

There are approximately 230,195 boats registered in the State of Virginia. This accounts for 1.9% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

Virginia boat registration numbers begin with a "VA" 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 when applicable, 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 "VAZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. The boat must be inspected by a Virginia law enforcement official if there is a discrepancy with the hull identification number.

Recording Methods

Virginia issues titles on all registered boats except for those which are Coast Guard Documented. This includes certain sailboats which are exempt from registration. This state has defined procedures for titling or registering boats when there is insufficient proof of ownership. There are also procedures for titling abandoned boats.

Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Department of Wildlife Resources. These will be shown on both the registration and title certificates when applicable. This state has a paperless or electronic system for titles when there is 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 Virginia are maintained by the Department of Wildlife Resources. This agency provides a free online boat record search database, however it is necessary to set up a login account. Individual record printouts may be obtained by submitting a boat record request form. It is also reported that their office will check for hull numbers by telephone or verify information shown on boat title or registration certificates in hand.

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 tax applies to boat transactions in the State of Virginia. Visit the Virginia Department of Taxation website link in WikiTags for additional information.

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

Operating and Safety

Personal water craft operators age 14 and older and all operators (regardless of age) of motorboats with a 10 hp or greater engine must complete a boating safety course.

Transfers of interest, abandonments, destructions, and thefts must be reported 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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