The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources retains the records of a boat’s certificate of title, the manufacturer’s certificate of origin and all certifications of its title for a period of five years. Non-motorized boats are not required to register. In Wisconsin, individuals inquiring about a boat’s registration must have its identifying serial information. There are three identifying serial markings located on Wisconsin boats. These are the boat’s registration decals, the Hull Identification Number and the engine’s serial number found engraved on the engine.
Examine the boat for proof of identification and write down the black decal registering numbers. A boat purchased from a private owner in Wisconsin will have registration number decals displayed in black on both sides of the forward part of the boat. Wisconsin requires the numbers displayed to be at least 3 inches high in bold letters.
Examine the back of the boat for the Hull Identification Number (HIN). Boats manufactured after 1972 have a HIN found at the back of the boat. The HIN is a unique, 12-character number that the state uses to identify boats along with their assigned registration numbers.
Look for the boat engine's serial numbers for additional identification. Registration title applications in Wisconsin require detailed information on the boats for identification purposes. The boat’s engine serial number is an important boat identification number.
Gather the boat's physical specifications for further identification in case there is a need to clarify the registration record. Information such as the boat’s name, its manufacturer and the engine manufacture make and size is information required on the state’s Registration and Titling Form 9400-193. The boat’s physical specifications help confirm the registration information the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provides.
Call the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources at 608-266-2621 and request the boat’s registration information as an “Open Records Request”. The department can provide individuals with lien and owner information over the phone. Wisconsin does not require lien holder information or title for registering boats under 16 feet. As a result, individuals seeking lien holder information will not be able to obtain this data through a registration inquiry. They will need to write to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for a title search request. Individuals seeking a written verification of boat registration can request verification in writing from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources either by mail or online through their website. There is a charge of $3 for written boat registration verifications.
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Form 9400-193 Boat Registration and titling
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: 2010 Wisconsin Boating Regulations and Handbook
- State of Wisconsin Statutes: Chapter 30 – Navigable Water, Harbors and Navigation
- DMV.org: Boat Registration and Licenses in Wisconsin
- State of Wisconsin: Boat Registration and Titling
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