How to Recover a Lost or Stolen Boat Title in Texas

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When someone loses their boat title in the state of Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is the agency that gives them a new one. The owner can obtain a duplicate title if there is no lien on the vessel. If there is, the lien holder is the only entity that can hold the title until satisfaction of the lien is complete.

Vessel/Boat Title Requirements in Texas

The state requires the following vessels and outboard motors to have a title:

  • Motorized vessels of any length, including sailboats with auxiliary engines.
  • All nonmotorized vessels that are 14 feet long or longer.
  • All internal combustion outboard motors, including those that are gasoline, diesel or propane-powered.
  • Boat trailers must also have a title and registration.

An owner can replace a lost title online unless it has a lien. Only the lien holder can hold the title of a vessel until the fulfillment of the debt occurs.

Submitting a Texas Title Application

To obtain a Texas boat title, an applicant must submit an application form, a signed bill of sale and a Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) if their vessel or outboard motor is new. If it isn't, they must submit an original signed title to obtain a new one. A potential owner should not make a purchase without getting the signed, original title and signed bill of sale from the former owner or their legal representative. A title applicant must have a copy of documentation stating that the legal representative can act on the owner's behalf and submit their application no later than 45 days from the vessel purchase date.

Transfer of a gift or purchase of a vessel or outboard motor that does not have a title, statement of gift, or a signed bill of sale will not occur immediately. Title transfer can happen through a more costly and lengthy process requiring further documentation. An abandoned vessel or outboard motor can receive a title through this process.

Replacing a Lost Title Online

To replace a title online, an owner will need certain information:

  • Visa, Mastercard or Discover card.
  • Identification number, known as the TX Number from the TPWD. The owner can locate this on their title. The number consists of four digits and two letters.
  • Primary owner's last name and business name, if applicable.
  • Serial or title number to report a change of address found on the title consisting of a mix of 12 digits and letters. Boats built before 1973 will have their number on the upper right-hand corner of the title.
  • Identification numbers from a driver's license, ID and date of birth or Employer Identification Number.

Replacing a Title in Person

An applicant can also ask for a replacement title in person or via standard mail. They can go to either TPWD headquarters in Austin, one of TPWD's many field offices or a county tax assessor-collector office in their area.

Replacement state titles take about 21 days to process. Those who wish to have their order expedited (a "quick" title) can do so for an additional fee. If they do, the order will take about a day to process and mail from TPWD headquarters. State registration fees for replacement titles are:

  • Certificate of Title for a Vessel or Outboard Motor: $27.
  • Certificate of Title/Transfer for a Vessel or Outboard Motor: $27.
  • Certificate of Title - Standard Replacement for Destroyed or Lost Title: $27.
  • Certificate of Title - "Quick" Expedited Replacement Destroyed or Lost Title: $64.
  • Certificate of Title - Correction: $27.
  • Certificate of Title - Bonded Title: $37.

Vessels Exempted From Titling

Some vessels in Texas do not need a title, such as United States Coast Guard documented vessels, nonmotorized canoes, punts, kayaks and rowboats. Rubber rafts of all lengths or other vessels under 14 feet long when oared, paddled, poled or windblown also do not need titles.

Non-United States Coast Guard vessels with a current registration but no title must have a title when transferred to a new owner. The process for titling remains the same.

Requesting a Lien Release

Sometimes when an owner satisfies the terms of their lien, the TPWD does not know about it and so refuses their request for a replacement title. For whatever reason, it may not have received notification of the lien's fulfillment. In this instance, the vessel owner must add a Release a Lien Form PWD 403 when asking for a replacement title. They must also submit at least one of these documents:

  • Title with the lien holder's signature in the lien release section.
  • Section N on the Release a Lien form completed by the lien holder and notarized.
  • Separate notarized and completed form from the lien holder.

After the owner submits the form and the accompanying information and fees to TPWD headquarters or their county tax assessor-collector office, the agency will mail the replacement title to them. This will take about 21 days to process. The owner can request an expedited replacement title for an extra fee.

Registration Decal or Certificate of Number ID

An owner who lost their registration decal can replace it through the TPWD website or submit a PWD 143M Form with fees to TPWD headquarters or a county tax assessor-collector office in their area. If they can't get the decals themselves, they may authorize someone else to do so by completing a Letter of Authorization form PWD 581.

If they lost their Certificate of Number ID card, it can be replaced by going online through the TPWD website or submitting a PWD 143M to TPWD headquarters or the county tax assessor-collector office in their area. Someone else can pick up their ID if they have a Letter of Authorization from the owner.