Boat Registration

Tennessee law requires that all mechanically powered vessels (including documented vessels) and all sailboats which are principally used in Tennessee must be registered. Mechanical propulsion includes electric trolling motors but does not include boats powered only by oars or paddles. Boats which require registration must be properly registered before using them upon any public water of Tennessee. Exception: Sailboats brought into Tennessee by persons from states that do not require numbering of sailboats are exempt from registration provided that Tennessee is not the state of principal use. State of principal use means the state on whose waters a vessel is used or to be used most, whether moored or underway, during a calendar year.

Persons who wish to register a boat must complete a certified Application for Boat Certificate of Number, acquired through a Tennessee county clerk’s office or from the dealer that sold you the boat.  This will include a yellow temporary registration that is valid for 60 days from the date of certification to allow for processing.

How to Register a Boat

Please bring a Complete Bill of Sale that Includes:

  • Date of Sale
  • Price
  • Full description of vessel including – year, make, model and HIN
  • Name, Address, telephone number, and signature of both buyer and seller.

What to bring in order to obtain the application if the boat is in your name in another state but you would like to register it in Tennessee:

  • Documents to prove the vessel was registered to you in another state.
  • If applicable, proof that sales tax was paid in another state in order to receive credit for all previous taxes paid.
  • Taxable basis is fair market value of the boat as of the date it was moved to TN.