Whether you’re boating on lakes, rivers, or even the ocean, this guide will help you get your feet wet so you know everything you need to know before diving in and setting sail.
In This Guide
Learn what kinds of vessels must be registered, get a hull identification number (HIN) or vehicle registration number (CF number), and more.
Boat/Vessel Registration Renewal
You must renew your boat/vessel registration by December 31 of every odd-numbered year, regardless of how often you use it.
Titles & Transfers
Buying or selling a boat/vessel? Find out what you need to do before, during, and after the sale or purchase.
Review fees related to operating a boat/vessel on California waterways and create an estimate.
Vessel Numbers and CF Numbers
An HIN must be displayed on all vessels registered in California
Forms for Boats/Vessels
From registration forms to vessel verification, find all the boat and vessel related forms DMV has.
Frequently Asked Questions
An undocumented vessel is registered by DMV and does not have a marine certificate issued by the United States (U.S.) Coast Guard.
A documented vessel is registered and issued a marine certificate by the U.S. Coast Guard. It does not require DMV registration. Please see the previous note.
You are required to register your undocumented vessel and pay applicable fees before it is placed in California waters.
Assembly Bill (AB) 2443 (Chapter 485, Statutes of 2012) authorized the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways to require DMV to collect an additional quagga and zebra mussel infestation prevention fee.
Effective December 31, 2013, this fee is due on all vessels subject to registration in the state. The fee is due upon initial vessel registration and biennially upon vessel registration renewal. Vessels used exclusively in marine waters are exempt from the additional fee. Fee-exempt vessels and CF numbers issued to vessel dealers and manufacturers are exempt from the program.
Funds from this additional fee will be used to, among other things, implement and administer non-native dreissenid mussel monitoring, inspection, and infestation prevention programs.
Unless exempt from the program, a unique identifying sticker will be issued for the vessel as evidence of payment of this fee and must be attached to the vessel. The sticker allows the vessel to be operated in all waters of the state unless expressly prohibited. If your vessel is used exclusively in marine waters, you may claim an exemption from this fee by notifying DMV.
Additional information regarding quagga and zebra mussels is available from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways at www.dbw.ca.gov or by calling 1-888-326-2822.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways have adopted emergency regulations to establish the procedures for the collection and use of the quagga and zebra mussel infestation prevention fee as required by California Harbors and Navigation Code Chapter 5, Division 3, Article 1.3 §675 through 676 beginning with vessel registration payable on December 31, 2013. These emergency regulations specify how the fee will be collected and the criteria for administering the grants in accordance with the statutes.
For additional information on the requirements of AB 2443, please consult the chaptered version of AB 2443.
Need something else?
ABCs of California Boating
This guide is based upon the California Harbors and Navigation Code, Vehicle Code, Penal Code and California Code of Regulations.
Division of Boating and Waterways
Get a boating license, discover places to boat in California, and get the latest boating news and alerts from the DBW.
Boating Safety Classes and Courses
If you are a first-time boater or if you just want to learn the latest “rules of the waterways”, you can do it all here.