The state of Georgia does not require boats to have titles. However, all watercraft operated on public waterways in the state must have a current registration from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Some vessels, like small sailboats and boats with no motorized propulsion, are exempt. When applying for a Georgia boat registration, the state requires title as proof of ownership if the vessel comes from a title state.
Vessels and Waterways in Georgia
Georgia requires vessels with motorized propulsion and sailboats over 12 feet long to have current registration when used on the "waters of this state." This term describes bodies of water within state boundaries, the waters adjacent to Georgia, and on the sea when traveling to or from Georgia.
A "vessel" is every type of watercraft used as transportation in Georgia, including inflatable rafts and homemade watercraft. Seaplanes and sailboards are exempt from this definition. Not all vessels need a registration; certain watercraft are exempt:
- Sailboats shorter than 12 feet long with no mechanical propulsion.
- Vessels operated by paddling, poles or wind with no mechanical propulsion, such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rubber rafts.
- Boats used only on private lakes or ponds.
Types of Watercraft Registration in Georgia
In Georgia, there are three types of boat registrations:
- New Registration: A boat or watercraft that has never been registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
- Renewal Registration: Renewal of Georgia registered boats with the same registration number and owner.
- Transfer Registration: Occurs when a vessel changes hands. The current owner transfers the existing registration to the new owner's name.
Georgia Vessel Registration Dates
The new owner will get a new registration date, which is the last day of their month of birth during the final year of the vessel's registration. New boat owners with unexpired registrations must apply to transfer the state registration into their name, as they cannot use the previous owner's registration.
Vessel registrations last for three years in Georgia. They expire on the last day of the owner's birth month in the final registration year. When renewing a boat registration with a service center operator, owners should indicate any changes to their contact information. They can also note contact changes on their mailed renewal form.
Marine Toilets and Registration Fees
Owners of boats with marine toilets can send their Vessel Registration Application with the fee included to the address on the form or call 800-366-2661 and pay using a credit card. The state bases registration fees on boat length.
- Boats greater than 16 feet long: $35.
- Boats from 16 to under 26 feet long: $70.
- Boats from 26 to under 40 feet long: $140.
- Boats that are 40 feet in length and over: $210.
- Duplicate Vessel Registration: $11.
- Marine Toilet Certificate (with registration): $5.
- Marine Toilet Certificate (without registration): $15.
- Expired registration late fee for renewal: $10.
- All registration applications have transaction fees: $10 for filing applications via mail, phone or online and $8 for renewals online.
A vessel with a marine toilet must have a permit as well as a registration card. The DNR gives boat owners a decal to show they have a Marine Toilet Certificate, which must be affixed to the hull of their boat next to the registration number. The certificate is transferable to subsequent owners of the vessel.
Documents Needed to Register a Vessel in Georgia
When registering a vessel or watercraft in Georgia, owners must prove that the boat is indeed theirs. All documents should include information about the watercraft, such as its registration number, a hull ID number (HIN), length, make, year and construction materials. These documents include:
- Bill of sale.
- Dealer's invoice.
- Transferred title to the new order, if the vessel comes from a title state.
- Proof of a lottery prize, raffle, gift or donation, such as a statement of gift, a winner's notification or other legal documents.
- Divorce decree or proof of spousal transfer, such as a bill of sale or court order showing the vessel's transfer.
- Legal documents showing the transfer from a deceased owner or an inheritance.
- If the vessel is from a lien holder, repossession, or bankruptcy, the owner must show a court order or other legal document giving the seller the authority to sell the vessel.
- Insurance claim (proof can include the seller's bill of sale with a theft or loss report).
- Pawn shop claim (proof can include the seller's bill of sale with a pawn shop affidavit or ticket).
Submitting a Vessel Registration Application
When someone registers a boat online, the application does not require a signature. Instead, applicants check an electronic agreement box. If they register by phone, they can use their online account to electronically verify the application or get a pre-printed application to sign. They can also ask the DNR service desk for a physical application.
When applying using their online customer account, boat owners can upload a photo or scanned image of their application to GoOutdoorsGeorgia.com. They can also email the application to: documents@GaBoat.com. The DNR allows owners to fax their documents to 678-515-9470 or mail them to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 934943 Atlanta, GA 31193-4943.
Documents Requirements for Special Circumstances
Depending on the circumstances, the DNR may require additional proof of ownership. For example, if a watercraft has a paper title, the old owner must transfer the original to the new owner and keep a copy for themselves. If they cannot complete a transfer of the paper title, they must file an Affidavit of Vessel Ownership.
An owner of a new boat that has never had a registration must include the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin with their application and keep a copy for themselves. An owner registering an out-of-state vessel must submit its title if it came from a title state, or registration card copy if it came from a non-title state.
Homemade watercraft that has never had a registration certificate requires an HIN number. If the vessel doesn't have one, the DNR will physically inspect it before issuing a number. Owners can request the inspection after applying and paying the registration fee, but they must be the vessel's builder and keep it only for their their own use. Georgia does not allow for the transfer or sale of homemade watercraft to another owner.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.