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North Carolina Boating Registration

North Carolina law prohibits the sale, transfer or purchase of watercraft without a valid title issued in the seller's name to assign over to the purchaser at the time of sale.

Boat Titles

The following watercraft are required to have a current title and registration:

  • All motorized boats and watercraft; except exempted vessels.
  • All sailboats 14 feet or longer must be titled
  • If you choose to title any other vessel, you are also required to register it.


The following watercrafts are exempt from having to be titled in North Carolina:
  • documented vessels
  • windsurfers
  • Sailboats less than 14 feet
  • canoes, kayaks and other manually propelled boats.

Boat Registrations

The following vessels must be registered before being operated on North Carolina's public waters:

  • All motorized vessels
  • All sailboats 14 feet or longer must be registered
  • Out-of-state vessels using North Carolina waters for over 90 consecutive days


The following watercrafts are exempt from having to be registered in North Carolina:
  • documented vessels
  • Rowboats, canoes, and rafts moved only by oars, paddles
  • A vessel used only on a private pond
  • Ship's lifeboats or dinghies are exempt from registration only if they are used for emergency lifeboat purposes.

Boat Classifications

Your boat's classification is determined by its length and type of propulsion. The class will determine applicable laws, required equipment and the registration fees you will pay upon initial registration and at renewal.

To find your boat's length, measure the straight line distance from the foremost part of the boat (bow) to the rearmost part of the boat (stern), excluding any protruding attachments. Your measurement must be exact.

Class A Vessels (less than 16’ in length)
Class 1 Vessels (16’ to less than 26’ in length)
Class 2 Vessels (26’ to less than 40’ in length)
Class 3 Vessels (over 40’ in length)

How to Obtain Your Title and Registration

The Certificate of Number (Registration number) and validation decal are obtained by submitting the proper application and fee to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).

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

Find the location of the Wildlife Service Agent nearest to you.

Once a proper application is submitted with the required fee, you will receive a Title and Certificate of Registration and one (1) validation decal. The Certificate of Registration must be carried on board when boat is in use. The registration numbers and validation decal must be affixed to the boat. See below for placement instructions.

Numbering Your Vessel

Once your boat has been assigned a registration number and decal, you must display them on your boat correctly. The registration numbers must be painted or permanently affixed and displayed on each side of the bow, read from left to right and in a position to be distinctly visible. The letters and numbers must be of a plain BLOCK design, at least three (3) inches tall and of a color that contrasts to the color of the hull. There must be a letter size space or hyphen between letter and number groups:

Correct: NC 1234 YZ or NC-1234-YZ
Incorrect: NC1234YZ

The validation decal must be displayed on the starboard bow ONLY. The decal must be placed six inches after and in line with the registration number. This means the decal is placed 6” after the registration number toward the bow on the starboard (right) side.

Upon renewal, the old registration decal is to be removed and the current one applied.

Home-Built Vessels

Before you can register your homemade boat, you must first apply for a Hull Identification Number (HIN) with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).

You can find how to affix the HIN here.

How to Renew Your Boat Registration

Approximately 60 days before the expiration of your one-year or three-year term of registration, the Wildlife Commission will print a Renewal Notification form. This will be mailed to the first owner listed on the registration at the latest address on file.

Upon receipt of the Renewal Notification, you may renew using any one of the four methods listed below.

Renew In Person

To renew in person, visit the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission office during normal business hours at

1751 Varsity Drive,
NCSU Centennial Campus
Raleigh, NC 27606-2576

Or Find the location of the  Wildlife Service Agent  nearest to you.

Renew By Phone

Call 1-800-628-3773, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. and renew your registration with your Visa or MasterCard.

Renew By Mail

To renew by mail, complete the Renewal Notification form, enclose a check or money order, and mail back to the Wildlife Commission. With this method, you can update your name or address and have a choice of one-year or three-year renewals. Your new Registration Card and Decal will be mailed from the Wildlife Resources Commission office within fifteen business days. 

Wildlife Resources Commission
Transaction Management
1709 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1709

Renew Online

Renew online using your renewal number from the Notification Form.

How to Replace Your Lost Registration

Complete the VL-1 form, including names, current addresses, and signatures of all owners, the Registration Number, and Hull ID number. Notarization of signatures is not required. Enclose a check or money order for the $5 "Duplicate Registration" fee, and mail to the Wildlife Commission Transaction Management Department at the above address.

Resources for this page include:
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC)
National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)
North Carolina Legal Code
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
United States Coast Guard (USCG)