The Exact Paperwork Requirements For Selling a Boat

Written by Desiree Vilar in Own a Boat

Selling a boat entails a list of processes such as cleaning, placing ads, negotiating prices, and, most importantly, completing the paperwork. Failing to provide the necessary paperwork can result in legal problems and a delayed sale. In this article, we'll break down the exact paperwork requirements, so you can confidently have your boat sold.

Before listing your boat for sale, you need to complete the paperwork requirements, including the bill of sale, the boat title, registration documents, and any maintenance records. You may also need to provide a certificate of seaworthiness, proof of loan repayment, pricing verification, and an invoice receipt.

In the bill of sale, you will need to write a detailed and accurate boat description to help build trust with potential buyers. Let's take a look at how you'd be able to obtain a bill of sale, and what other information you need to include.


  • The bill of sale shall include relevant information such as the names and addresses of the buyer and seller, the sale price, and a description of the boat.
  • The boat title must be transferred to the new owner upon the sale of the boat.
  • Log on a spreadsheet all the maintenance and repairs that have been performed on the boat, such as oil changes, filter replacements, and tune-ups, as well as any repairs that were necessary due to damage or wear and tear.
  • The boat's owner or operator needs to provide documentation such as proof of insurance, crew licenses, and safety equipment certifications to get a Certificate of Seaworthiness.
  • Having a pricing verification document can serve as evidence of the fair market value of the boat and can help to prevent disagreements or legal disputes.

Completing the Paperwork Required for Selling a Boat

Below is a complete list of paperwork needed before you sell a boat:

Document Estimated fee
Bill of sale $10-$20
Boat title $20-$100
Registration documents $20-$100
Maintenance records $0-$50
Warranty documents $0-$50
Certificate of seaworthiness $500-$1,000
Proof of loan repayment $0-$25
Pricing verification $0-$50
Invoice receipt $0-$10

Let's discuss each one in detail below.

Obtain A Bill Of Sale

The bill of sale is a legal document that proves the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. It must be signed by both the buyer and the seller to be considered valid.

A bill of sale should include the following information:

  • The date of the sale
  • The names and addresses of the buyer and seller
  • The purchase price of the boat
  • The HIN (Hull Identification Number) of the boat (Here's how to read/decode the HIN of a boat)
  • Detailed description of the boat
  • Any warranties or guarantees provided by the seller
  • Any conditions of the sale, such as a deposit or payment plan

To obtain a bill of sale when selling a boat, you can use a template or create one yourself. Some states may have specific requirements for the content of the bill of sale, so try to check with your local authorities. In the US, their standard form for the bill of sale is this one.

Some templates can be found online for free, while others may cost a small fee. If you choose to have a legal professional create a bill of sale for you, the cost will depend on their hourly rate and the complexity of the document. The estimated fee for a bill of sale typically costs around $10-$20.

Provide The Boat Title

The boat title proves ownership of the boat and functions similarly to the title of a car or other vehicle. The title includes information such as the following:

  • Boat's make
  • Boat model and year
  • Boat's HIN
  • the owner's name and address
  • If there are any liens or encumbrances on the boat, the lienholder's information will also be included.

In most states, a boat title is required to register the vessel with the state and to transfer ownership to a new owner. If you're buying a boat, you should always ask the seller for the title to ensure that they are the legal owner of the vessel and that there are no liens or other issues with the title.

To obtain a boat title, you will need to contact your state's boating authority or Department of Motor Vehicles. The process for obtaining a title involves filling out an application and providing documentation such as proof of ownership and payment of any applicable fees. The cost of obtaining one can vary by state but is usually in the range of $20 to $100.

Present Registration Documents

Depending on the state, you may need to provide registration documents to transfer ownership of the boat. These documents usually include a registration application, proof of ownership, and payment of registration fees.

To obtain registration documents, you will need to submit a completed application form, proof of ownership, and payment of registration fees to the appropriate state agency. Proof of ownership may include a bill of sale, title, or other documentation that shows you are the legal owner of the boat.

In general, smaller boats will have lower registration fees than larger boats. It also depends on whether you are registering a new or used boat. The estimated fee for boat registration typically ranges around $20-$100.

Some boats can also be exempted from having registration requirements, such as non-motorized boats that meet a certain length or criteria.

Submit A Log Of Maintenance Records

You may want to keep track of all maintenance and repairs that have been performed on the boat including routine maintenance such as oil changes, filter replacements, and tune-ups, as well as any repairs that were necessary due to damage or wear and tear.

Maintenance records provide a history of the boat's maintenance and repairs. It can help increase the value of your boat and make it more attractive to potential buyers. These records should include the following information:

  • Date and type of service performed
  • Name of the service provider
  • Cost of the service

Keeping accurate maintenance records can also help you identify any potential issues with the boat and address them before selling. You can keep track of maintenance records using a logbook or spreadsheet, or by saving receipts and invoices from service providers.

Provide Warranty Documents

If the boat is still under warranty, warranty documents will be necessary to transfer the warranty to the new owner. These documents include information such as the warranty period, what is covered under the warranty, and any restrictions or exclusions.

Providing warranty documents can give the buyer peace of mind knowing that they are protected in case of any defects or issues with the boat. To obtain these documents, you may contact the manufacturer or dealer from whom you purchased the boat.

They should be able to provide you with a copy of the warranty, which you can then provide to the new owner. Some manufacturers may provide the documents free of charge, while others may charge a fee.

Secure A Certificate Of Seaworthiness

A Certificate of Seaworthiness is a legal document that certifies that a vessel is fit and safe to operate at sea. It is issued by a recognized authority or classification society, and it indicates that the vessel has been inspected and meets certain safety standards.

The certificate typically includes the following information:

  • Boat's dimensions, construction, and equipment,
  • Date of the survey and the name of the surveyor who conducted it
  • Any recommendations or requirements for repairs or improvements that need to be made before the boat can be considered seaworthy

In some countries, a Certificate of Seaworthiness is required by law for all vessels that operate at sea. The certificate may need to be renewed periodically, and the vessel may need to undergo additional inspections to ensure that it remains seaworthy.

Generally, a vessel will need to meet certain safety standards related to its construction, equipment, and crew. The vessel's owner or operator may need to provide documentation such as proof of insurance, crew licenses, and safety equipment certifications.

You can find different types of licenses in this article, as well as how to get one.

To obtain a certificate of seaworthiness, you will need to have the boat inspected by a certified marine surveyor. The estimated fee typically costs around $500-$1000.

Show A Proof Of Loan Repayment

If the boat was purchased with a loan, you will need to provide proof of loan repayment to transfer ownership. This can be in the form of a lien release or a letter from the lender confirming that the loan has been paid in full.

Proof of loan repayment is a document that shows that a borrower has paid back a loan in full or in part. It typically includes the following:

  • Name of the borrower
  • Name of the lender
  • Amount of the loan
  • Date the loan was taken out
  • Date of repayment
  • Method of repayment

The most common form of proof of loan repayment is a loan payoff statement or a loan satisfaction letter, which is issued by the lender once the loan has been paid in full. This document confirms that the borrower has met all the terms of the loan agreement and that the lender has released any liens or claims on the collateral.

Other forms of proof of loan repayment may include bank statements, canceled checks, or receipts showing payments made towards the loan. In some cases, a credit report may also show that the loan has been paid off.

To obtain proof of loan repayment, you might need to contact your lender or loan servicer and request a loan payoff statement or loan satisfaction letter. This document will confirm that you have paid off your loan in full and that the lender has released any liens or claims on the collateral.

You may be able to request this document online or by phone, or you may need to submit a written request to the lender or loan servicer. The document may be provided to you free of charge or there may be a fee for processing the request.

Acquire A Pricing Verification Document

Pricing verification involves checking the price of the boat to ensure that it is being sold at a fair market value. While it is not a required document when selling a boat, it is highly recommended.

A pricing verification document can help establish a fair market value for the boat and can be used to negotiate the sale price with potential buyers. It can also help to build trust with buyers by demonstrating that the seller has done their due diligence in determining the value of the boat.

Additionally, if a dispute arises over the price of the boat, having a pricing verification document can be helpful in resolving the issue. It can serve as evidence of the fair market value of the boat and can help to prevent disagreements or legal disputes.

One common approach to verify the price of a boat is to research similar boats that are for sale in the local area. This can be done by checking online listings, visiting local boat dealerships, or attending boat shows.

You may want to check out our article on the average cost of buying and owning a sailboat, as we have listed pricing for new and used sailboats based on size. For a more detailed discussion of the prices of used sailboats, refer to this article instead.

Another option is to use online pricing tools, such as NADA or Boat Trader. These tools allow you to enter information about the boat, such as its make and model, year, and condition, and then provide an estimated value based on market trends and other factors.

In most cases, there is no fee associated with pricing verification. However, if you choose to use an online pricing tool, there may be a fee to access certain features or data. But to save on costs, try using other free methods on the web.

Provide An Invoice Receipt

An invoice receipt serves as proof of payment for the boat. It typically includes information about the items or services purchased, the price paid, and the payment method used.

In the case of a boat purchase, the invoice receipt would serve as proof of payment for the boat, and would typically include details such as:

  • Purchase price
  • Date of sale
  • Names and signatures of both parties

This document is important for both the buyer and the seller, as it can help to prevent disputes and ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of the terms of the transaction.

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