Do You Have To Register A Kayak? – Everything You Need To Know

Do kayaks need registering

Can you paddle with your kayak freely across any state? And if the kayaks need registration, what about the inflatable ones?

We’re sure you don’t need a reminder of the hefty fines you have to pay if you ever drive a car without registration and a license plate. In fact, the registration process is probably one of the first things on every car buyer’s mind.

The same goes for motor-powered boats and vessels venturing on the high seas and even federal lakes. This fact might leave you wondering whether you have to register for a kayak.

If this is your first time owning a kayak, the registration process might seem a bit unsettling. However, there’s no need to fret. Similar to how you can get plenty of resources on buying a kayak, this article will walk you through registering a kayak.

What Is Kayak Registration?

recreational kayaksKayak registration implies that your kayak is ready and authorized to navigate in local water bodies.

If your kayak needs registration, it means that you cannot launch it in federal waters without completing the process beforehand. Basically, it is illegal to operate a kayak without authorization.

You can even consider kayak registration similar to that of a vehicle. For example, your car has a decal, registration papers, and license plate. Well, a kayak has all these too.

If you are navigating your registered kayak in public waters, you have to number it appropriately. Therefore, you should carry a certificate of number or registration card while using the kayak. Not to mention, the current state decal is mandatory as well.

Here’s what we mean when we say ‘number it appropriately’:

  • You have to use a different color for the license number in contrast to the hull’s color
  • You must include hyphens and spaces between the letter and numerals
  • The ideal location for affixing the decal is the starboard and port sides of the kayak
  • Make sure to capitalize the letters on the license plate

If you forget to bring the required documents on board or fail to follow the guidelines, it can land you in trouble. The most likely outcome would be that you’ll have to bear a ticket.

Another similarity between boats and cars is the boat title. This is a one-time sale document given to the present owner of the boat as proof of the vessel’s ownership.

Which Watercraft Need Registration?

As a paddler or recreation kayak operator, you must ensure that your boat complies with the state regulations. This also means that you should equip your kayak with the necessary safety equipment.

One of the crucial state regulations is boat registration. Any watercraft vessel meant for transportation or recreation purposes, having diesel, gas, trolling motors, or electric motor, needs to undergo a registration process.

If your kayak uses a motor or any other mode of mechanical propulsion, it is bound by registration laws. It might sound simple right now, but there’s a lot more to it.

Some of the states also require you to register human-powered watercraft. These unpowered vessels include kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes.  As a result of these disunited laws, several US-based paddlers often face confusion.

Do Inflatable Kayaks Also Require Registration?

The above information brings us to the question, “do you have to register an inflatable kayak?”

When you buy an inflatable kayak, getting it registered is probably the last thing you think of. Many people assume that inflatable kayaks are not subject to boat regulation because of their structure and form.

Well, they’d be correct, and this is excellent news for all inflatable kayak owners! Most states exempt inflatable kayaks from boat laws and regulations.

However, not all states are as flexible with their laws. For example, several of them require you to register inflatable kayaks, even if they lack motors.

You should bear in mind that each state has a different rule book for inflatable watercraft. In addition, they consider various aspects of the kayak for the registration process.

Here are some factors that determine whether or not your inflatable kayak will need registration:

  • If you are going to use it on state-owned lands
  • The length of your inflatable kayak
  • If it has mechanical or manual propelling methods

Therefore, you should make sure to understand the site-specific rules when venturing into state-owned lands.

What About Kayaks With Motors?

Once again, all motor-powered boats need registration with the local boat state department. Only in case of explicit exemptions can you operate the kayak without a license.

Similar rules apply to trolling motors as well. Furthermore, it is better to contact the state authorities if you’re confused regarding any step of the process.

Local Boating Registration Regulations

What Is Kayak Registration?Now that we’ve dipped our toes in the laws for boat registration, let’s look at how the process works in different parts of the US.

As you are already aware, the watercraft registration regulations vary from location to location. This section talks about registrations and local boating laws in different states.

Kayak Registration Requirements In Washington, DC

Boating laws in the District of Columbia state that all boats must have a title and registration. This applies to all vessels, regardless of whether they’re paddle-powered or motor-powered.

The local boating laws do not exempt any hull length. This means that you must register your boat regardless of the size of its hull. These vessels include USCG documented boats, canoes, kayaks, and any other boats.

One of the only exceptions in the state is if your kayak holds a verified out-of-state registration. Another one will be if your kayak is navigating for less than 50 simultaneous days on waters owned by the District of Columbia.

Moreover, all Washington paddlers should know that these registrations are handled and regulated by MPD’s DC Harbor Patrol.

Kayak Registration Requirements In Ohio

In Ohio, the Division of Parks and Watercraft handles the licensing and registration for vessels. Regardless of whether the recreational boat has a title or not, it needs mandatory licensing.

Recreational boats include kayaks, pedal boats, inflatable boats, canoes, and personal vessels. However, these rules come with a few exemptions.

The kayaks that already hold registration in another state aren’t required to reapply for the same in Ohio. However, if the boats are navigating Ohio state water for more than 60 days, a license is mandatory.

Furthermore, vessels documented with the US Coast Guard find themselves to be an exception to this rule.

Kayak Registration Requirements In Minnesota

The State of Minnesota requires all motorized vessels (regardless of the size) to be registered. However, non-motorized vessels under 10 feet are exempt from these requirements.

All motorized canoes, kayaks, inflatable boats, and SUPs have to be registered. The process is mainly handled by the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota.

Moreover, any watercraft under 10-feet, or registered with the US Coast Guard do not require any license. Also, any out-of-the-state boats visiting Minnesota for less than three months are an exception.

Kayak Registration Requirements In Iowa

In Iowa, paddle-type kayaks over 13 feet long require registration. It’s also worth mentioning that all motorized watercraft must undergo registration. Nevertheless, you can still go kayaking in state-owned waters in Iowa for 60 non-simultaneous days.

The good news is that vessels without mechanical propulsion and conventional kayaks do not have to get registered. However, keep in mind that kayaks with hulls 13 feet or longer are mandatory for registration.

Likewise, inflatable kayaks without mechanical propulsion and under 7 feet do not have to be registered. Apart from this, you can visit the Iowa boat registration site to gain more insight into the matter.

Kayak Registration Requirements In Pennsylvania

If you are navigating in the Pennsylvania forests or state parks, you have to register your watercraft. This rule applies to all big and small boats such as canoes and kayaks, regardless of whether your boat has a motor or engine.

On the flip side, you can also obtain a launching permit for your non-motorized kayak. These licenses are offered mainly by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

States That Only Require Registration Of Powered Vessels

Many of the states identify kayaks to be purposeful for recreational activities. However, the minute you equip them with a trolling motor, they are recognized as “motorized watercraft.”

So, if your kayak has motors, you can’t necessarily expect it to receive the same treatment as a non-motorized boat. Therefore, here is a list of some other states and their varying kayak registration rules:

  • Illinois: Recently, the state made some changes in its guidelines for boating registration, allowing kayak owners to enjoy relaxed laws. As a result of the new rules, the registration of recreational or unpowered watercraft vessels like kayaks is not mandatory in the state.
  • Delaware: Delaware boating registration department only requires registration for kayaks with a mechanical propelling system. Non-motorized boats and out-of-state visitors are exceptions to any such process.
  • Oklahoma: This state exempts canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats from watercraft registration. However, it would help if you still get a boating permit for such a watercraft.
  • Massachusetts: Registration for your kayak is mandatory in this state, even if it doesn’t have any engine for propulsion.

A Walkthrough Of The Kayak Registration Process

Now, you must be thinking of getting started with the registration process. Fortunately, this section of the article entails everything you need for your kayak to operate legally.

Essential Information And Paperworks

The first step to getting your kayak registered should be to research your local boat registration laws. This section lists all the critical information you’ll need to carry out this step effectively.

However, note that these details might vary in different US states. So, first of all, you have to gather the following pieces of information for your kayak:

  • Manufacturer’s certificate of origin and sale receipt
  • Length and size of the kayak
  • Model and maker of the kayak
  • HIN or Hull Identification Number
  • Form of propulsion – motor-powered or manual

Collecting all the information and documents might take some time. However, this information is one of the essential parts of getting your kayak registered.

Regardless, once this step is over, rest assured that the process will be seamless going forward. The actual kayak registration process starts here and is quite simple:

  • Filling the application forms
  • Provide the certification of title, bill of sale, proof of ownership, and manufacturers’ documents of the kayak
  • Paying the fees for registration

In most US states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) handles kayak registration.

However, in some states, you might notice that the Department of Licensing, Department of Finance, Department of Natural Resources, or Department of Fish and Game take part in regulating the kayak registration process.

If you have any doubts regarding the registration, you can check with the local government and ask for further information.

How Much Does It Cost?

The fee for kayak registration varies significantly with every state. It may also depend on the length and type of kayak you have. Ensure to check on the official website page of your state to get specific information about the registration fees.

On average, the registration fee for kayaking ranges from $25 to $300. The fee amount also has some alterations every year. Regardless, the kayak registration fee is pretty affordable in most states.

How Long Does It Take?

When it comes to the time it can take you to register your kayak, there are a few different answers. Firstly, you can proceed with the registration in three ways: mail, in person, and online. Although you can complete this process through any given mode, the online method is relatively easy.

Getting your kayak registered through this process will likely save you a significant amount of time and effort.

Speaking about the timeline of the process, it could take you an average of 14 to 20 days. If you would like to try out your new kayak in federal waters, you can also apply for temporary registration.

Expiry Duration And Renewal Process

Once you have the HIN and kayak decal, it means your registration is up to date and valid. Similar to the cost and other elements, the expiry duration differs from state to state. However, for most of them, it ranges from 12 months to three years.

Upon expiry, the boat registration department will automatically dispatch a renewal request. In most cases, they’ll send you the form months before the expiry date.

The best part is that you also have the option to renew it online. However, make sure that you’re extra cautious while sending the renewal form. Read over the form multiple times to make sure you haven’t made any errors so that your application can be accepted as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let’s face it, many of us get overwhelmed when it comes to any legal state process. Therefore, we understand that you may still have plenty of questions about getting your kayak registered.

We’ve handpicked some of the most common questions on the topic and answered them below. Hopefully, this section will bring you some clarity.

Q. What should I do if I’m traveling to a destination that requires kayak registration?

If you are traveling to a state that requires kayak registration, you should consider their local laws and guidelines.

Take note that the registration regulations are only applicable to state residents. So, for example, if your primary location is within Ohio, you have to comply with boat regulations and laws of that state.

Furthermore, most of the states also impose reciprocity laws. As a result, they allow watercraft usage and visitations without any additional fee or paperwork.

Generally, most kayak and watercraft visitors have a timeframe of up to 90 days. Once these 90 days have passed, the kayaks will need further registration and paperwork.

Q. What is the process of transferring ownership of kayaks?

If you sell a kayak that already has registration, the new owner doesn’t need a transfer of ownership. However, after 30 days of use, the last registered watercraft owner should notify the state about the sale.

Kayak registration also comes with several benefits. First, in case of any kayak theft, the registration offers some protection. This is so that you can cross-check with your local authorities for any intricate details.

Regardless, here is what you’ll need for the transfer of a kayak’s ownership:

  • The previous owner should sign the proof of ownership for the new owner
  • An original sale receipt
  • Hull identification credentials
  • Applications and documents for transferring kayak ownership

Q. What is the process of transferring ownership on death?

In case of the previous owner’s death, the transfer for kayak ownership is somewhat complicated. Most of the details depend on whether the decedent left a will that includes kayak ownership.

The transfer of this ownership requires the submission of only a few documents. These include:

  • Payment of transferring fees
  • An original receipt of sale
  • Completed certifications of authority
  • Application for transfer of ownership
  • A photocopy of the last owner’s will (if applicable)
  • A photocopy of the previous owner’s death certificate
  • An original seller-signed title

To Sum It Up

So, do you have to register for a kayak? The answer is yes, maybe, and no!

In short, it depends on multiple factors, from the type of kayak to the destined location. Before you embark on a kayaking journey, make sure to read the local boat laws and regulations. After all, no one wants to end their trip by paying hefty fines.

Hopefully, this article answered all your kayak registration questions. Doesn’t the process look much simpler now?

If you want to have a fun-filled and trouble-free kayak trip, you better get going with the registration. Moreover, don’t forget the essential safety equipment for your next trip. Happy kayaking!

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