Registering a Boat in Alabama: A Comprehensive Guide

Registering a Boat in Alabama

Alabama is an attractive home state for boaters. With thrilling boat events, tranquil lakes and the glittering Gulf of Mexico at its coastline, Alabama is perfect for boating.

The idyllic life of an Alabama boat owner starts with boat registration. In Alabama, you must register your boat. If you’re a beginner boat owner or a boater new to the state, this article will guide you through Alabama boat registration.

What Is Needed to Register a Boat in Alabama?

All new Alabama boat owners must obtain the Alabama boat registration application form, titled “Application for Boat Registration, Transfer, Replacement and Duplicate,” and submit it to their county license office.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency can process boat registration renewals online. However, transferred ownership and new registrations must be completed through the County License Office.

This form requires your personal information, information about the seller, the boat’s specs and its Hull Identification Number (HIN). Depending on how you acquired your boat, you may require different supporting documentation.

What Do You Need to Register a New Boat?

Along with the registration application form, if you have bought a new boat from a licensed dealer, you must supply a Title Application if a title is required for your boat in Alabama and a Bill of Sale that describes the vessel, including:

  • HIN
  • Sale date
  • Year, make and model
  • The price paid, including sales tax
  • Motor serial number and horsepower
  • Name, address and signature of the buyer and seller

What Do You Need to Register a Second-Hand Boat?

The supporting documents you’ll need if you bought your boat from an individual in Alabama are:

  • A Bill of Sale with all the particulars noted in the section above, except that sales tax will not be applicable
  • The latest registration certificate in the seller’s name

What Do You Need to Register a Boat You Made Yourself?

The required supporting documents for a homemade vessel are:

  • A hull serial number, which you receive after a Marine Police Division inspection
  • Proof of inspection by the Marine Police
  • A statement in which you declare your boat is homemade, what the build cost you, the date you finished, your address and your signature

What Do You Get When You Register?

After successful registration, you’ll receive a registration certificate, Alabama Certificate of Number and boat validation decals. The registration number and decals must be attached to your vessel.

Check the guidelines for attaching your registration number and decals to ensure you know where and how to display them.

How to Register a Boat in Alabama Step-by-Step

Once you know what documents you need, registering a boat in Alabama is straightforward. You can do so by following these seven steps:

How to Register a Boat in Alabama

  1. Gather all the necessary documents.
  2. If any of the requirements seem unclear, contact your County License Office for help.
  3. Complete the registration form and supporting documents.
  4. Print the forms and submit them to your County License Office.
  5. Pay the registration fees plus any sales tax or other fees required for your boat.
  6. Wait for approval and to receive your certificates, registration number and decals.
  7. Apply the registration number and decals to your vessel.

Which County License Office?

While renewals can be processed online, you must submit a registration application for a newly purchased or newly built boat to the County License Office.

You can submit new registrations, ownership transfers or renewals to any County License Office in Alabama. Your local office is probably your most convenient choice. You can submit the forms in person or by mail.

What Does Registering a Boat in Alabama Cost?

When registering a boat in Alabama, you’ll need to pay a registration fee. The fee varies based on the length of your boat. Here are the current rates for new boats:

  • Boats under 16 feet: $25
  • Boats 16-25 feet: $30
  • Boats 26-40 feet: $80
  • Boats 40 feet and up: $105

There may also be other costs, depending on the boat’s status:

  • If you bought a boat already under a valid registration, you only need to pay a $5 transfer fee plus sales tax.
  • If you bought a boat with an expired registration, you must pay the registration fee, $5 transfer fee and sales tax.
  • If your boat needs to be titled and currently does not have a valid title, you must pay a $25 fee for it to be titled.

Boat sales tax should be paid in the county where you keep the boat. The total sales tax comprises the county rate plus the state rate. Sales tax varies according to your location in Alabama, so be sure to confirm the amount you owe.

Where Does My Registration Fee Go?

Your registration fee contributes to the preservation and maintenance of Alabama’s waterways.

Registration Fee

By paying the annual registration fee, you help keep Alabama’s waters safe, clean and ecologically healthy.

Navigating Special Cases

While some boats in Alabama require titles and registration, most only need to be registered. A few require neither titling nor registration.

This next section will help you navigate title requirements and exceptions from the registration mandates.

How to Register a Boat in Alabama With No Title

You only need to have your vessel titled in Alabama if:

  • It was built after December 31, 2023.
  • Alabama is the state of principal use on or after January 1, 2024.
  • It is less than 18 feet but powered by an engine of at least 75 horsepower.

You do not need to title your boat in Alabama if:

  • It was built before December 31, 2023.
  • It is still under construction.
  • It is already documented.

If you want to register a boat that needs a title but lacks one, submit an online vessel title application form to the Alabama Department of Revenue (ALDOR). Submit this form before applying for registration. The $25 total title fee is payable along with it.

If you want to register a boat that needs a title but the title is lost, you can apply online to ALDOR for a replacement title for your vessel. The replacement fee is $15.

Do You Have to Register a Boat With a Trolling Motor in Alabama?

Alabama law requires the registration of all motorized boats, including those with trolling motors.

It is popular to add a trolling motor unit to human-powered boats like kayaks, canoes and inflatable vessels. These would generally be exempted from registration. However, attaching a motor means you have assembled a powered boat and must register it.

Which Boats Are Exempt From Registration in Alabama?

Only a few vessels may be lawfully operated without registration in Alabama. These are the exceptions to the registration requirement:

  • Human-powered boats, apart from rentals and sailboats
  • Boats with a valid, temporary Certificate of Number
  • Boats registered in other countries and only temporarily using Alabama’s waters
  • Boats owned by the U.S. government or a state, county or municipality
  • Ships’ lifeboats

Additionally, boat trailers do not need to be registered in Alabama.

Renewing Your Boat Registration in Alabama

All vessel registrations in Alabama expire each year. Therefore, you’ll need to renew your Alabama boat registration annually.

The month your renewal is due depends on the first letter of your last name. The current boat registration renewal schedule is as follows:

  • January: A and D
  • February: B
  • March: C and E
  • April: F, G and N
  • May: H and O
  • June: M and I
  • July: P and L
  • August: J, K and R
  • September: Q, S and T
  • October: U-Z

Renewing Your Boat Registration

You can renew your Alabama boat registration by completing the online renewal form through the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. You can also submit the renewal form in person or by mail to your County License Office.

The registration fee is due with every renewal. However, the sales tax is only due once for a newly acquired boat. Additionally, the title fee is only due once for boats that require titles, unless you lose your title certificate and need to replace it.

Once you’ve renewed your registration, you’ll receive a fresh registration certificate and decals to apply to your boat. You must put the new decals on your boat before returning to the water.

If you lose your Certificate of Number, apply for a duplicate through the office that first issued it.

Is There a Grace Period for Registering a Boat in Alabama?

Alabama law gives you a window of time called a grace period to register your boat without repercussions under certain circumstances:

  • If you obtain a new boat, you have a 72-hour grace period for registration.
  • If you purchase a boat already registered with valid decals, you have a 10-day grace period for registration in your name.
  • If you purchase a boat with an expired registration, there is no grace period. You must register it before using it in Alabama’s waters.

Other Requirements for Boating in Alabama

Complying with boating laws in Alabama involves more than just boat registration. Here are the additional requirements to start boating in Alabama:

  • Boaters must earn and carry a valid Boat Operator Vessel License.
  • Licensed boaters in Alabama must be at least 12 years old.
  • Boaters under 14 must be accompanied by licensed boaters over 21 who can take over immediately if necessary.
  • License applicants must pass the required safety exam and pay the application and license fees.
  • Boats must meet all the equipment requirements of the Courtesy Marine Examination.
  • Boaters must comply with water traffic laws and safety regulations.

What if You Lose Your Boat?

If your numbered boat is lost, destroyed, stolen or abandoned, you must report it to the Alabama Marine Police within 15 days.

Docks, Ports and Lifts for Boating in Alabama

If you keep your newly registered boat at a property along the shore of one of Alabama’s scenic lakes or waterways, you need a reliable docking solution.

The best dock is one that gives you easy access to clean, maintain, launch and park your boat for years to come. That’s why it’s worth investing in a quality dock, port or lift that suits your boating needs.

Boat Docks

A boat dock lets you safely moor your boat near your home so you can easily enter, exit and maintain it. Your dock is where your boating adventures begin and end. It’s an essential part of your boating experience.

EZ Dock provides durable floating docks made from weather- and rust-resistant materials. Our splinter-proof, rot-proof docks come in customizable configurations to suit your needs and preferences.

With EZ Dock, you get a dock that makes the bookends of your boating journey look better for longer. When you’re on your dock, you should be there to enjoy your boat or come home from a satisfying day out — not to spend hours on dock refurbishment. Our innovative, low-maintenance designs save more time for making marine memories.

Boat Ports

A boat port is a ramp between the water and the land that allows you to drive your boat out of the water and keep it on land when not in use. This is called dry docking. It’s an effective way to extend your boat’s life span by protecting it from the wear that extended exposure to water and waterborne bacteria can cause.

The EZ Dock BoatPort is a simple, drive-on, drive-off docking solution to get your boat in and out of the water. Its flexible, customizable design can adapt to various hull shapes and boat types up to 5,000 pounds, from skiffs and fishing boats to jet boats. Its durable, maintenance-free construction gives you more hours out on the water, season after season.

Boat Lifts

A boat lift is a system that elevates your boat out of the water to prevent corrosion and algae buildup while facilitating easy cleaning and maintenance.

Aegis Boat Lift

EZ Dock’s Aegis 7 Boat Lift uses air-assist pumps to lift boats up to 7,000 pounds and 28 feet long out of the water. It is fully adjustable to adapt to a broad range of hull shapes. Solar-powered and remote-controlled models are available for those seeking added eco-friendliness, convenience or both.

This rugged system is precision-molded to resist the wear of weather and water for years of blissful boating.

Why Choose EZ Dock?

EZ Dock is the creation of water enthusiasts like you. We provide durable, eco-friendly boating solutions that look better and work better for longer to give you more time on the water.

Our pioneering designs have led the industry in strength, sustainability and functionality for over two decades. Our docks and ports offer award-winning accessibility for everyone and enduring quality you can trust, backed by a 10-year warranty for added assurance.

Find an EZ Dock distributor near you to get your docking solution.