Registration and Titling

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission offers various services to vessel owners to promote safety, establish ownership, and ultimately support the public's enjoyment of water sports and recreation. This site provides information about vessel registration and titling requirements, fees and frequently asked questions.

Renew a vessel registration using one of the following options:


  • Online using a VISA or MasterCard .
    Printer recommended.
  • By telephone at 800-628-3773, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • In person, at select  wildlife service agents.
  • Registration &Titling prices include an administrative surcharge as mandated by NCGS 75A-5.2(c).

How to Purchase, Sell, Register and Title Vessels

Purchasing a new vessel

To properly register and title a new vessel you will need to submit the following:

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • The original Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) properly assigned and notarized or a Dealer’s bill of sale. The submitted proof of ownership document must contain the vessel’s 12 digit hull identification number.
  • The appropriate fee.

New vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years and any vessel 14ft in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled. You may register and title your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.

 

Purchasing a used vessel

To properly register and title a used vessel you will need to submit the following:

Purchasing a titled vessel from an individual

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • The original North Carolina title properly assigned with the seller’s signature notarized in the transfer section. If you are purchasing this vessel from out of state you will need to submit the original out of state title properly assigned and notarized. If the original out of state title does not require notarization of the seller’s signature our office will accept it as a valid proof of ownership document as long as the transfer section of the title is completed properly by the seller.
  • The appropriate fee.

Purchasing a non-titled vessel from an individual

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • Notarized bill of sale. Click here for an Example Bill of Sale (PDF).  If you are purchasing this vessel from a non-titling state you will need to submit a copy of the seller’s out of state vessel registration card as proof they were the last registered owner of the vessel.
  • The appropriate fee.

Purchasing a titled or non-titled vessel from a Dealership

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • Dealer’s bill of sale. The bill of sale must contain the vessel’s 12 digit hull identification number.
  • Original North Carolina title or original out of state title or if coming from a non-titling state a copy of the out of state registration card.
  • The appropriate fee.

Used vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years and any vessel 14ft in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled. You may register and title your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.


Registering your U.S. Coast Guard Documented Vessel in North Carolina

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) documented vessels that have been in North Carolina for more than 90 consecutive days, must be registered in the state. However, federal law restricts states from issuing titles for documented vessels since the USCG issues a Certificate of Documentation (COD) to owners of documented vessels which supersede a state title. To register your documented vessel you will need to submit the following:

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • Copy of your Certificate of Documentation. Do not send the original COD as this document should be kept for your records.
  • Appropriate fee for registration only.

USCG Documented vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years but cannot be titled. You may register your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.

If you have purchased a U.S. Coast Guard documented vessel, please follow the link listed below for additional instructions.



Purchasing a used vessel that is U.S. Coast Guard Documented

A vessel Documented with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is required to be registered in North Carolina to operate on public waters. However, federal law restricts states from issuing titles for documented vessels since the USCG issues a Certificate of Documentation (COD) to owners of documented vessels which supersede a state title. If you have purchased a USCG documented vessel you will need to submit the following:

If you choose not to document the vessel with the US Coast Guard

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • The Original Certificate of Documentation properly assigned with the seller’s signature notarized in the transfer section. If the original COD has been submitted to the USCG by the previous owner for the purpose of canceling their documentation, the U.S Coast Guard should issue the new owner a “Deletion Letter” which can be used in lieu of the original COD as proof of ownership. The “Deletion Letter” must state that the USCG has received proof that you are now the owner of the vessel.
  • Appropriate fee for registration and titling.

If you choose to Document your vessel with the US Coast Guard

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • A copy of your Certificate of Documentation obtained from the USCG upon completion of the documentation process.
  • The appropriate fee for registration only.

USCG Documented vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years but should only be titled if USCG Documentation is canceled. You may register your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.


Renewal of vessel registration

Upon receipt of the Renewal Notification, you may renew using any one of the four methods listed below.  You may renew at any time 60 days prior to the expiration date of your registration.  Receipt of the Renewal Notice form is not required to renew.

Replacing registration cards and decals

If your Registration Card or Decal has been lost or destroyed, follow one of these procedures to purchase a duplicate.  Processing fee applies.


Dealing with lost title certificates

To obtain a duplicate title please submit the following.  All title only transactions must be completed by mail or in person at our WRC Headquarters in Raleigh.


To sell a titled vessel when the title has been lost you must give the purchaser the following:


If you are selling your vessel out of state you will need to obtain a duplicate title as no other state will recognize our Seller’s Statement of Lost Title Form.




Moving to North Carolina and Registering and Titling Your Out of State Vessel

To properly register and title a vessel in North Carolina that is registered and titled in your name in another state you will need to submit the following:
  • The original out of state title. All owners listed on the out of state title must complete the VL-1 form to be added to the North Carolina registration and title or submit a notarized statement relinquishing their interest in the vessel. If your out of state title is currently held by a lien holder you will need to work with them to submit your application since the original title is required.
  • The appropriate fee.
 
To properly register and title a vessel that is registered but not titled in your name in another state you will need to submit the following:
  • A copy of the out of state registration card. All owners listed on this card must complete the VL-1 form to be added to the North Carolina registration and title or submit a notarized statement relinquishing their interest in the vessel.
  • The appropriate fee.

Vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years and any vessel 14ft in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled. You may register and title your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.


Purchasing a vessel that belongs to someone who has passed away

To properly register and title a vessel that belongs to someone who has passed away you will need to submit the following:

  • Completed VL-1 Form (PDF).
  • The original title properly assigned and with the signature of the seller (administrator or executor of the individual’s estate) notarized. If the vessel was not previously titled a notarized bill of sale should be submitted.
  • Documentation from the Clerk of Courts office in the county in which the last registered owner passed away naming the seller as the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate.
  • The appropriate fee.

Vessels can be registered for a period of 1 or 3 years and any vessel 14ft in length or greater or a personal watercraft (i.e. jet ski) is required to be titled. You may register and title your vessel by mail or in person at a local Wildlife Service Agent.

Removing a vessel owner, who has passed away, from your registration card/title

To properly remove a vessel owner from your registration card/title who has passed away you will need to submit the following. These transactions can only be processed by mail or in person at the WRC Headquarters in Raleigh.

Titled Vessel

  • Completed Vessel Title Request Form (PDF).
  • The original vessel title. If the original title has been lost please indicate so on the application form.
  • Documentation from the Clerk of Courts office in the county in which the deceased owner passed away naming the surviving owner as the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. If the surviving owner is not the executor of the deceased’s estate then our office will need a notarized statement from the named executor or administrator releasing the estate’s interest in the vessel.
  • The appropriate fee for a duplicate title.
  • If you wish to purchase a duplicate registration or need to renew the registration you will need to include the additional fee.

Non-Titled Vessel

  • Completed Vessel Renewal-Duplicate Registration Request Form (PDF).
  • Documentation from the Clerk of Courts office in the county in which the deceased owner passed away naming the surviving owner as the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. If the surviving owner is not the executor of the deceased’s estate then our office will need a notarized statement from the named executor or administrator releasing the estate’s interest in the vessel.
  • The appropriate fee for a duplicate registration. If the registration has expired you will need to submit the renewal fee.

Updating Name Information on Your Vessel Registration/Title

If you have changed your name and need to update your vessel record, submit the following. These transactions can only be processed by mail or in person at the WRC Headquarters in Raleigh.

Updating a titled vessel

  • Completed Vessel Title Request Form (PDF).
  • Document indicating legal name change (Copy of Marriage License, Court Document, or updated NCDL)
  • The original vessel title. If the original title has been lost please indicate so on the application form.
  • The appropriate fee for a duplicate title and duplicate registration.

Updating a non-titled vessel



Updating lien information on your title certificate

To properly add a lien to your vessel record you will need to submit the following.  These transactions can only be processed by mail or in person at the WRC Headquarters in Raleigh.

Adding a lien to a titled vessel

  • Completed Vessel Title Request Form (PDF).
  • The original vessel title. If the original title has been lost please indicate so on the application form.
  •  All previous liens listed on the face of the title or in our database must be released or approval from the first lien holder that a second lien may be added must be submitted.
  • The appropriate fee.

Adding a lien to a non-titled vessel



Taking ownership of an abandoned vessel

Definition: “Abandoned vessel" means a vessel that has been relinquished, left, or given up by the lawful owner without the intention to later resume any right or interest in the vessel. The term does not include a vessel that is left by an owner or agent of the owner with any person or business for the purpose of storage, maintenance, or repair and that is not subsequently reclaimed.

A person finding an abandoned vessel can become the registered and titled owner of the vessel, provided that the previous owner(s) cannot be located and that they have not reported the vessel missing or stolen.

The finder of an abandoned vessel should call (1-800-628-3773) or write to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Transaction Management, 1709 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC, 27699-1709 to request a “Vessel Owner Information Request Form.” This form must be submitted prior to WRC releasing vessel owner information. Once the applicant has obtained the last registered owner information, that individual must perform the following steps:

  • prove he/she has made all effort to contact the last registered owner(s) to indicate they have relinquished, left, or given up any right or interest they have in the vessel;
  • send a Certified Letter, return receipt requested, to the last registered owner(s) to demonstrate to WRC that this letter was not deliverable or the last registered owner(s) would not respond;
  • provide WRC with a written police report stating that the abandoned vessel has not been reported missing or stolen in the area where it was found;
  • send a notarized statement to the WRC summarizing when and where the vessel was found; the attempts to locate the owner; the available evidence that the vessel is abandoned; and statements from any other persons knowledgeable about the history of the vessel;
  • complete a VL-1 form to request registration and/or a title and mail it, along with the above listed documentation, and fee to the address shown on the form.
WRC will consider the evidence presented and will consult all available records. If WRC deems the vessel has been abandoned, WRC will register and/or title the vessel into the ownership of the applicant.
For more information regarding abandoned vessels, call 1-800-628-3773.

Registering a homemade vessel

Proof of ownership is not required of an applicant when the vessel has been built by the applicant. However, if a vessel is homemade and it is sold, the buyer must present a notarized bill of sale from the seller when applying for a vessel registration. The homemade vessel will be assigned a HIN at the time of registration.

Note: Homemade vessels can only be registered via mail or in person through our office. Wildlife Service Agents do not offer this service.

New Registration Requirements for Homemade Vessel:
  • Completed VL-1 form (If this is serving as their proof of ownership it must be notarized.)
  • Notarized Statement if VL-1 form is not notarized
  • Fees

How to sell a vessel

The seller of a vessel must provide the purchaser with a "proof of ownership" document at the time of sale. The purchaser cannot get a vessel registered in his/her name without submitting the proper "proof of ownership" documentation.

New Vessel
  • If the seller is the manufacturer of the vessel, the purchaser should receive a completed "Manufacturer's Statement of Origin".
  • If the seller is a vessel dealer, the purchaser should receive a "Manufacturer's Statement of Origin" and/or a "Dealer's Bill of Sale" with the vessel's Hull Number on it.
Previously Owned Vessel
  • If the seller is a vessel dealer, the purchaser should receive a "Dealer's Bill of Sale" with the vessel's hull number on it. If the previous owner had the vessel titled—in NC or another state—the Title Document or information that would allow the purchaser to obtain the Title Document should be provided to the purchaser.
  • If the seller is an individual, and if the vessel is titled in North Carolina or another state, the purchaser should receive the title and/or a "Title Certificate" with the "Assignment Of Title" section completed and notarized by the seller. If a lien is listed on the "Title Certificate", the "Release Section" must be signed and notarized by the lender showing the "Lien As Released". The seller can then give the purchaser the Original Title Document as proof-of-ownership.
  • If the seller is an individual and the vessel is registered in North Carolina or another state, but not titled, a notarized "Bill Of Sale" is proof-of-ownership. A "Bill-Of-Sale" can be typed or handwritten on plain paper. It must include the registration number, the hull ID number, and a vessel description. It must also include the name of the seller(s) and purchaser(s), and must include notarization of the seller's signature(s).

Affixing registration numbers and decal

Download instructions: Affixing registration numbers and decal (PDF)

Affixing hull identification number

Download instructions:  Affixing hull identification number (PDF)

Change of address form

Download instructions:  Change of address form (PDF)

Registration, Titling Information and Requirements

What is a vessel registration?

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is legally responsible for Vessel Registration in North Carolina. Vessel Registration is a system of record-keeping and identification for all motorized vessels and large sailboats operated on North Carolina public waters. Registration helps the Commission's Enforcement Division protect vessel owners against theft and against irresponsible actions by other vessel operators.

  • Registration puts a vessel owner's name, address, and vessel description into the records of the Wildlife Commission. In turn, the Commission issues a Registration Number to identify the vessel; a Registration Decal to indicate when the term of registration expires; and a Registration Card which names the owner and describes the vessel.

  • There are three categories of vessel registrations – "civilian", "dealer", and "public agency". Approximately 98% of registrations are civilian, 1% are dealer, and 1% are public agencies.

  • Registration Numbers always have three parts. The first part is two letters that identify the state, for example, "NC" for North Carolina. The second part is four digits. The third part is one or two letters. An example civilian Registration Number is "NC-0000-AB".

  • Special Registration Numbers are set aside for boat dealers and public agencies. Dealers are issued numbers of form "NC-0000-X", where the third part is always the letter "X". Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and rescue squads, are issued Registration Numbers of form "NC-0000-P", where the third part is always the letter "P".

  • The wallet-size Registration Card must always be carried aboard the vessel when operating it, and shown to Wildlife Enforcement Officers when they request it.

  • The stick-on Registration Decal is affixed on the starboard bow of the vessel to the right of the Registration Number and shows the month and year when the registration expires. See How to Affix a Decal.

  • Once a Registration Number is associated with a vessel, it normally remains with that vessel across multiple owners. Even if the vessel is moved and registered out-of-state, the original North Carolina Registration Number is reserved, and is re-assigned to that same vessel if it should ever be moved back to North Carolina.

  • For civilian and dealer vessels, the term of registration is either one year or three years. Two months before the expiration of the term, the Wildlife Commission mails a Renewal Notification to the vessel owner at the latest known address. The vessel owner can obtain one-year or three-year vessel registrations by mail, by visiting the NCWRC office located at 1751 Varsity Drive, NCSU Centennial Campus, Raleigh, NC 27606-2576 (see map and directions - pdf), OR by using a Visa or MasterCard online with information from your renewal notice. Three-year registrations can also be obtained by visiting a Wildlife Service Agent. Upon renewal, a new Registration Card and Decal are issued to the owner .
 

What vessels must be registered?

  • All motorized vessels used on public waters must be registered, including jet skis.

  • US Coast Guard Documented Vessels operating in North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days must be registered.

  • All sailboats used on public waters must be registered if longer than 14 feet at the load waterline.

  •  If a vessel registered in another state is brought into North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days, the registration must be transferred to North Carolina. Active duty military, temporarily stationed in North Carolina, who have a valid out of state registration for their vessel are exempt from this requirement.

  • If you choose to title your vessel, it must be registered as well.

What vessels do not need registration?

Vessels that are unused and kept on dry land do not need registration in North Carolina.

  • Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and rafts moved only by oars, paddles, or the current do not need registration in North Carolina.

  • A vessel used only on a private pond does not need registration in North Carolina.

  • Ship's lifeboats or dinghies do not need to be registered if they are used only for emergency lifeboat purposes. However, if they are motorized and used for non-emergency purposes, they do require registration.

What is vessel titling?

  • The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is legally responsible for Vessel Titling in North Carolina. Vessel Titling is a record-keeping system that provides ownership protection to vessel owners, going beyond the Vessel Registration system. It also protects the interests of financial institutions or individuals that provide loans on vessels. Lenders often require that a vessel be titled as a condition for granting a loan.

  • The Wildlife Commission keeps computerized records on all titled vessels, and issues Title Certificates which document the owner of a vessel and any liens that lenders choose to record on the Title Certificate. Although it is possible to record a vessel lien with a Uniform Commercial Code filing, most lenders choose to record it on the vessel's Title Certificate.

  • A title is available to any North Carolina vessel owner, provided that the vessel is registered in North Carolina; is not simultaneously titled in any other state; and is not Documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. At the time of applying for a North Carolina title, any existing out-of-state title must be surrendered to the Wildlife Service Agent or mailed to the Wildlife Commission.

  • Titling adds the owner's name, address, and vessel description to the records of the Wildlife Commission. It also records the names and addresses of lienholders against the vessel.

  • The Commission issues a Title Certificate which is held by the primary lienholder, if there is one, or otherwise, by the vessel owner.

  • Unlike vessel registration, which has a one-year or three-year term, a Title Certificate remains in force for as long as a person owns a vessel.

  • If a Title is issued showing a lienholder, when the associated loan is paid off the lienholder should sign and notarize the Title Certificate to release the lien, and then mail the Title Certificate to the vessel owner.

  • When an owner desires to sell a titled vessel, the "Assignment of Title" section of the Title Certificate is filled out. The purchaser is named, the owner signs the form and has the signature notarized. The Title Certificate is then given to the purchaser. The purchaser, the boat dealer, or the Wildlife Service Agent must turn in the previous owner's Title Certificate to the Wildlife Commission to apply for transfer of ownership. This must be done even if the title is from another state.

What vessels must be titled?

Anyone who purchases or transfers a motorized vessel or sailboat 14 feet or longer or who owns a personal watercraft (jet ski), will be required to title the vessel effective Jan.1, 2007. In most cases, lenders require a title as a condition for granting a loan on a vessel.

Where to register and title vessels in North Carolina?

Although many vessel transactions are conducted by mail, you have the option of conducting them with over 400 Wildlife Service Agents statewide, or by visiting the NCWRC office located at 1751 Varsity Drive, NCSU Centennial Campus, Raleigh, NC 27606-2576 (see Google map). To obtain information on the location of the Wildlife Service Agent nearest to you, or for any other reason, please call 1-800-628-3773.

Vessel Registration and Titling Fees

A Vessel Less Than 14 FT Except PWC (Jet Ski)

  • 1 Year New/Transfer Registration Without Title - $35
  • 1 Year New/ Transfer Registration With Title - $70
  • 1 Year Renewal - $33
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration Without Title - $95
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration With Title - $130
  • 3 Year Renewal - $93

Vessel Less Than 26 FT but 14 FT or Greater and PWC (Jet Ski)

  • 1 Year New/Transfer Registration With Title - $70
  • 1 Year Renewal - $33
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration With Title - $130
  • 3 Year Renewal - $93

Vessel 26 FT or Greater/Dealer Registrations

  • 1 Year New/Transfer Registration With Title - $90
  • 1 Year New Dealer Registration - $55
  • 1 Year Renewal/Dealer Renewal - $53
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration With Title - $190
  • 3 Year New Dealer Registration - $155
  • 3 Year Renewal/Dealer Renewal - $153

US Coast Guard Documented Vessels 26 FT or Greater

  • 1 Year New/Transfer Registration - $55
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration - $155

US Coast Guard Documented Vessels Less Than 26 FT

  • 1 Year New/Transfer Registration - $35
  • 3 Year New/Transfer Registration - $95

Adding a title with or without a Lien

  • Adding a Title Without a Lien - $35
  • Adding a Title With a Lien - $35

Duplicate title with or without a Lien

  • Duplicate Title Without Lien - $15
  • Duplicate Title With Lien - $15

Duplicate registration

  • Duplicate Registration - $8

Frequently Asked Registration & Titling Questions

What vessels require registration?

All motorized vessels used on public waters including vessels which use an electric trolling motor must be registered. This requirement also includes jet skis.

All US Coast Guard Documented Vessels operating in North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days must be registered.

All sailboats used on public waters must be registered if longer than 14 feet at the load waterline.

If a vessel registered in another state is brought in to North Carolina for over 90 consecutive days, the registration must be transferred to North Carolina. Active duty military, temporarily stationed in North Carolina, who have a valid out of state registration for their vessel are exempt from this requirement.

All titled vessels must be registered.


What vessels are exempt from registration?

Vessels that are unused and kept on dry land do not need registration in North Carolina.

Rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and rafts moved only by oars, paddles, or the current do not need registration in North Carolina.

A vessel used only on a private pond does not need registration in North Carolina.

Ship's lifeboats or dinghies do not need to be registered if they are used only for emergency lifeboat purposes. However, if they are motorized and used for non-emergency purposes, they do require registration.

What vessels are required to be titled?

Anyone who purchases or transfers a motorized vessel or sailboat 14 feet or longer or who owns a personal watercraft (jet ski) is required to title the vessel.

Any vessel with an active lien is required to be titled. Titles are held by the lienholder until which time the lien has been satisfied.

What is the cost to register and title a vessel?

Cost varies depending on the size of the vessel and the services requested.  Refer to the VL-1 Form for a list of vessel registration and titling fees.

Where can I register and title my vessel?

At select wildlife service agents throughout the state, by mail using a VL-1 Form or at NCWRC headquarters in Raleigh.

How do I obtain a replacement title?

Complete the Vessel Title Request Form and mail to NCWRC along with the appropriate fee.

Can I register and title a vessel which has been abandoned on my property?

Yes, however you must comply with the procedures outlined in the Taking Ownership of an Abandoned Vessel document.

I am interested in selling my vessel, what documentation do I need to provide the buyer?

If your vessel is titled, you must provide the buyer with the Certificate of Title, signed and notarized by all owners listed on the title.

If your vessel is not titled, you must provide the buyer with a Bill of Sale, signed and notarized by all owners listed on the registration.

The buyer cannot register the vessel without one of these notarized documents.

I sold my vessel, moved out of state, or junked an old boat, now what?

You need to notify NCWRC in writing as soon as possible to ensure your vessel record reflects a “sold”, "out of state", or "junked" status. This step is important because it will show you are no longer the registered owner or that you no longer live in North Carolina .

You may notify our office using one of the below methods. It is important to include the following information on your request:
  1. reason for the request;
  2. vessel registration number (i.e. NC 1234 AA);
  3. name(s) and address as shown on the vessel registration card; and
  4. a daytime telephone number where you can be reached.
  • Email:
    vessels@ncwildlife.org
  • Fax:
    919-707-0293
  • Mail:
    NCWRC, 1709 Mail Service Center
    Raleigh, NC 27699-1709

Customer Service


Need assistance with vessel registration and titling? Contact customer service by phone at 800-628-3773 or by email at vessels@ncwildlife.org. Customer service is available Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.