Do inflatable kayaks need to be registered

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In some states, you need to register your inflatable kayak, but this is not a common requirement.

Most states do not require the registration of an inflatable kayak. The size of your inflatable boat, whether or not it has a motor, and the type of motor it has all play into whether or not you need to register it. Some states have stricter boat regulations than others as well. 

Key Takeaways

  • You may need to register your inflatable kayak depending on your state, the type and size of your boat, and where you use it.
  • Check with your state’s DMV or DNR to find out the specific registration requirements and fees for your inflatable kayak.
  • You will need to provide some basic information about your boat, such as the length, make, model, HIN, and type of propulsion, to register it.
  • You’ll then receive a registration number, sticker, and certificate that you need to display on your boat according to your state’s rules.
  • You can use stencils and paint or vinyl stickers to put your registration number on your inflatable kayak.

Do You Have to Register an Inflatable Kayak?

While it might sound rather odd, in some states you are required to register your inflatable kayak much like the way you would register a motor vehicle you drive on the road.

You might be wondering why anyone would need to register an inflatable kayak. After all, they pack into a small bag, inflate and deflate rather quickly, and are super affordable. Why might a boat like an inflatable require all the official paperwork associated with registration? 

Well, the answer boils down to safety. In some states, all water vessels require registration, whether they are inflatable or not. When you register your inflatable boat, you will be given a special Hull Identification Number (or HIN). 

This number is what is used by officials including the coast guard to identify your boat. In the event of an emergency, this can literally be a life saver. 

To make matters just a tad bit more complicated, inflatable kayak registration is not the same from state to state. In fact, not all states require you to register your inflatable boat.  Whether or not your kayak is motorized can also determine whether or not it should be registered.

Today, we’ll get into the nitty gritty of whether you need to register your inflatable motorized and non motorized boats. We will also explore the basic steps that go into your typical kayak registration process. 

How Can I Tell If I Need to Register my Inflatable Kayak?

The first step to determining whether or not you need to register your inflatable boat is by contacting your state’s Department of Motor vehicles (or DMV). In some instances, you may also need to contact the Department of Natural Resources (or DNR) as well. 

There are several factors that are taken into consideration with inflatable boat registration. Whether or not an inflatable boat is motorized is one of the main factors. The length of the boat is also taken into consideration. 

In some states, additional details, including when you purchased the boat, proof of purchase, and the boat owners (if there are multiple), are also required. 

There are two ways you can go about registering any watercraft in the U.S. The first is via the registration process with your state. Your state will give you a registration number and sticker that goes directly onto your boat. 

The second method is by federally documenting your vessel with the U.S. Coast Guard. This process can be done online through the Vessel Documentation Management System. USCG documented boats, motorized canoes and kayaks, and non motorized inflatable kayaks that are documented with the USCG are also subject to state laws. 

Let’s take a closer look into some of the main factors that the DMV and DNR take into consideration for inflatable boat registration.  

What About Motorized Kayaks?

Whether or not your kayak has a motor and even the type of motor you use is one of the main factors that is looked at with boat registration. The USCG documentation route requires that all motorized vessels must be registered in the state of principal use. 

The most common exception when it comes to boat registration is inflatables that do not use a motor. While most states don’t require you to register a non motorized inflatable, localities including Ohio, Delaware, and even Washington D.C. will require you to register your manually powered inflatable kayak. 

In some states, boat regulation is dependent on the type of motor your inflatable kayak has. Some states only regulate gas powered motors while other states including Iowa and Massachusetts regulate electric trolling motors

Then there are states like Minnesota that don’t discriminate and regulate all types of inflatables with motors, no matter the motor type. 

Does the Length of My Kayak Matter?

The length of your kayak is another important feature taken into consideration. If your boat is under a certain length then it can also be exempt from boater registration. For example, in Minnesota, if your boat is under 10 feet long, you do not have to register it. 

It’s important to note that, although you may not need to register your kayak, you may still be subject to other boating regulations in place by local authorities. 

The tricky thing to remember with boat length is that length requirements differ from state to state. It’s important to consider your state’s own regulations when determining whether or not it should be registered. 

Additionally, in most states, the longer your inflatable watercraft is, the more you can expect your registration fees to be. 


Where you will use your boat will also determine whether or not you need to register it. The location may also determine whether or not you need to follow additional registration laws as well.

Typically speaking, if you are boating in private waters like a private lake you do not need to register your inflatable. However, once you enter public waterways, that’s when you need to adhere to boat registration laws. 

Another layer to consider is whether or not you will be boating in national or state parks as well. The office in charge of the specific national or state parks you are boating in may have additional boating laws or requirements you need to follow before you launch your boat. 

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Which States Require Registration of Inflatable Boats?

The good news is that a majority of states exempt non motorized vessels from boat registration. Other states however require that all vessels regardless of how they are powered be registered. The following states have some of the most comprehensive boating laws in place with specific laws that offer little wiggle room when compared to other states:

  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Washington DC

Some states are strict,  while other states give lots of leeway for boat registration. It’s important to check in with your state’s DMV to see what the boat registration rules are for your locality and the type of boat you have. 

If you are traveling or are in doubt about whether or not you can use your inflatable kayak on a specific type of water way, contact your local DMV or DNR office. 

How to Check if Your Inflatable Kayak is Registered

Depending on your state, a second hand inflatable boat or kayak may also require kayak registration. 

If you have purchased your inflatable kayak from someone else, it’s important to know whether or not the kayak has been registered. Knowing so can save you time and money as you won’t have to go through the registration process all over again.

If your inflatable boat’s previous owner is unable to tell you whether or not the boat has been registered, you can find out by calling the DMV. 

If you purchased the kayak in a different state and are taking it back to your home state, the previous registration card may not be valid. You can call your state’s DMV to see if you can fill out a registration renewal form to get a new registration card valid for your state. 

Different states may have different processes in place for transferring kayak ownership as well.

How Much Does It Cost to Register a Kayak? 

The cost of kayak registration differs from state to state. However, you will typically find that the cost for registering an inflatable boat runs anywhere from $25 to $250. Factors that will determine the cost largely depend on the type of boat you have and the length of the boat. 

Inflatable boats, however, along with motorized inflatables, are typically the cheapest type of boat to register. In some states, there may be additional costs associated with registering your inflatable kayak. This can drive up the cost of registration as well. But for the most part, any additional registration fees will be on the lower end as compared to other vessels.

How to Register an Inflatable Boat or Kayak

Whether you have a brand new inflatable kayak or are looking to transfer ownership after purchasing one second hand, you will need to register your inflatable. In all states that require registration, the process usually starts at your DMV. 

Once at the DMV you will need to provide some basic information in order to get your boating registration card. Let’s take a look at specific inflatable kayak registration requirements. 

After you register and pay the registration fee, you will receive your registration number, sticker, and certificate.

In nearly all states, you should be able to apply for a kayak registration online as well. This will keep you from having to actually go into the DMV to register your boat, saving you time and money.  

What Information Do You Need To Register A Kayak? 

Regardless of which state you are in, inflatable kayak registration requirements are typically the same. Before you begin your inflatable kayak registration, you need to collect the following information: 

  • The length of the kayak – If your inflatable kayak falls under the required boat length for registration, then you may be exempt from registering your inflatable boat. 
  • Make and model of the kayak – While the make and model won’t impact the price, this information will be made visible on your registration card and is required by all boat registration laws. 
  • Hull Identification Number (HIN) – This is the unique number that helps to identify your unique watercraft. The HIN is the boat equivalent of a Vehicle’s Identification Number (VIN). 
  • Type of propulsion used (manual or motor powered)  – You will need to indicate whether or not your boat is motorized and the type of motor it uses. Pedal boats powered by a pedal motor typically fall under manual power. In some states, a lack of a motor may offer an exemption from needing to register your inflatable boat. 
  • Bill of sale and/or proof of ownership – Almost all states will require you to provide proof of ownership and purchase. If you purchased your inflatable kayak second hand, then you will need to provide a bill of sale that includes the date and price you purchased the boat. 

Once you have registered your kayak, it’s important to ask about any additional requirements that you may need to follow for your specific state. In some states, there are additional local boating laws that you may also need to follow. 

How To Put Registration Numbers on Your Inflatable Kayak 

Once you have registered your inflatable kayak, you will receive a registration card. This card reflects important information including the details of your boat, proof of ownership, and the validity of the registration. 

All states will require you to put your registration number and sticker directly onto your boat. The details of where the number should be placed can vary slightly from state to state. Typically though, the number will be found on the front of the boat. 

With most non inflatable boats, the registration number and sticker easily adheres to the side of your boat. However, the material of inflatable boats  can make it difficult for a registration number and sticker to stay on. 

Because of this, the best alternative to placing your registration number is by painting the numbers directly onto your inflatable boat.

Let’s take a look at how you can easily and effectively get your registration number and sticker on your inflatable kayak. For this process, you will need numbered stencils and marine compatible spray paint. 

To make your life easier, you can even purchase an inflatable stencil kit that will include everything you need to get your numbers painted on. 

In addition to painting the numbers on, we will also take a look at using vinyl stickers as an alternative method to display your registration numbers. 

Step 1: Prep the Boat

Before you can paint any numbers onto your inflatable boat, you first need to prep the surface. Start by inflating your boat to its proper capacity. Then, take a clean rag and wipe down the area where you are going to paint the numbers on. 

Get the area as clean as possible so that no dirt or debris interferes with how the paint goes onto the surface. 

When you are attaching the stencils and painting the boat, it’s important that your boat stays inflated throughout the whole process. This will allow you to see the finished product and tweak it as you need to while you work.

Step 2: Secure The Stencils Together

Now that your boat is prepped and ready, it’s time to get the stencils ready. Start by putting together the numbered stencils that reflect your registration number. Secure the stencils together using Scotch tape. 

By securing the stencils together beforehand, you won’t have to deal with lifting up a stencil in order to tape on the next one. Taping all the stencils together and then taping them on the boat will give you a nice clean finish as well. 

Step 3: Tape The Stencils to The Boat

Once you have arranged the stencils to reflect your registration number, it’s time to tape the entire stencil onto your boat. Make sure that you tape the stencil to the boat very well so that the stencil does not move or fall out as you paint or while the boat is drying.  

If you find that the stencil lifts up around the curve of the boat, you can cut the stencil a bit and tape it down at different parts. Your goal is to make sure that the stencil is flush with the boat and that the stencil doesn’t lift up. 

Step 4: Paint On Your Numbers

Once your stencil is flush on the boat, it is time to paint on your numbers. You have a couple of options when it comes to painting. The easiest option is to use a black permanent marker and fill in the stencil. 

If you prefer not to use a permanent marker, you can also use spray paint designated for marine use. 

Over time, both the permanent marker and spray paint will need to be touched up as the elements can cause the paint to fade.

When opting for spray paint, use a color that contrasts the color of your boat. If your boat is all white, then you will want to use black spray paint. However, if your inflatable boat is a dark color light navy blue or dark gray, then you will want to use the color white instead. 

Step 4: Wait for The Paint to Dry 

Allow the paint or the permanent marker to dry completely before you remove the stencil. If you remove the stencil too early, you will be left with drip marks that will ruin the overall finish of your painted registration number. 

Step 5: Add Sticker

The final step is to add your sticker. Add your sticker directly onto your inflatable, right next to the registration number. Be sure to place the sticker on an area that has been thoroughly cleaned and dried. This will allow your sticker to stay on.  

In some states, you may be required to place the sticker in a designated area. Be sure to check with your state’s registration rules. 

Alternative Method: Vinyl Stickers

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of using numbered stencils and painting them on, then a good alternative is vinyl stickers. Vinyl letters can offer you a really nice and clean look and are great for individuals who want to create a really nice, clean registration label on their boat. 

Step 1: Prep the Boat

Prepping your boat so that the surface is clean is critical to having effective vinyl stickers. 

Clean the surface of your inflatable boat so that there is no dirt or debris. Unlike paint, vinyl stickers can become loose over time if there is debris stuck under them. If you need to, you can use a mild soapy solution to clean the hull of your inflatable.

Step 2: Peel and Stick the Vinyl Stickers

Next, cut out the vinyl stickers so that they read your registration number. You can then peel and stick the stickers directly onto your inflatable. 

It can be tricky to stick the stickers so that they are evenly spaced and in a straight line.

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Although boat registrations can be cumbersome and tedious, especially when you’re talking about an inflatable watercraft, the overall learning process can be helpful. This is especially true if you are someone who enjoys the water and plans on upgrading your inflatable boat at some point. 

An important thing to keep in mind is that boating laws do change over time. It’s important to check in with your state on an annual basis to make sure you are up to date with boat registration guidelines.  

Whenever it is time to renew your boat registration, make it a habit to ask questions about any changes regarding inflatable watercraft.

Be sure to let us know in the comments section what unique laws exist for your locality’s inflatable boat regulations. 

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