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West 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 West 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

West Virginia issues both registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the Division of Motor Vehicles in Charleston. Outboard motors are not titled or registered separately, but can be listed on boat registration records. Boat trailer registration and titling is required in West Virginia.

Exemptions from registration include boats which are non-motorized such as canoes, rowboats, or sailboats that do not have an auxiliary motor. Coast Guard documented boats are not subject to registration. A complete list of requirements and exemptions can be found on the Boat Registration website link in WikiTags.

There are approximately 31,018 boats registered in the State of West Virginia. This accounts for 0.5% of all nationwide registrations.

Numbering and Marking

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

Recording Methods

Ownership and security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Division of Motor vehicles. These will be shown on the registration and title certificates when applicable. Boat 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 West Virginia are maintained in a database which is administered by the Division of Motor Vehicles. Such records are available to owners, owner authorized and certain privileged parties. Insights on  how to conduce boat registration or title lookups and obtaining record copies and historical data in in West Virginia 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 against the owner, 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 West Virginia. Visit the Department of Revenue website link in WikiTags for more information.

West Virginia does not require insurance for boats operating on its waters.

Operating and Safety

Boat operator licensing is required in West Virginia. Those born after December 31, 1986, must pass a boater safety course and carry a boater education card.

Transfers of ownership, 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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