How to Get a Title for a Boat with a Bill of Sale

How to Get a Title for a Boat with a Bill of Sale

by Brette Sember, Esq., November 2018

Buying a boat means plenty of fun ahead. But before you can enjoy getting out on the water in your new boat, you need to be sure the sale is handled legally. To do that, you will need a bill of sale from the seller. A bill of sale legally transfers ownership and also can provide important warranties about the boat itself.

What's Included in a Boat Bill of Sale

A watercraft bill of sale is like a fleshed out receipt. A receipt or invoice contains just the basics: purchase price, brief description, and date of sale. (Do not confuse a bill of sale with a notice of sale. A notice of sale is a document used in real property to give notice of default proceedings.)

A vessel bill of sale provides proof of the sale of a boat that is more detailed than a receipt. It includes the following information:

  • Names and addresses of buyer and seller
  • Date of sale
  • Purchase price
  • Detailed description of the boat or watercraft including make, model, year, color, condition, and hull identification number (HIN)
  • Information on what is being sold along with the boat or watercraft, such as the trailer, life jackets, cover, etc.
  • Information about any warranties the seller is making about the boat
  • Signatures of the seller and buyer
  • Signature by a notary, if required by your state

Warranties on Boat Sales

A warranty on a boat sale is a promise by the seller that the title to the boat is clear and that there are no existing outstanding claims against the boat (such as a loan) at the time of the sale. A warranty gives the buyer protection so that if a claim should arise that existed before the sale, the seller will be liable for it, not the buyer.

It's also possible to sell a boat without making any warranties about title. In this situation, the buyer takes on full responsibility should any claim arise after the sale.

How to Get Title for a Boat with a Bill of Sale

Once the sale is complete, the buyer must apply for legal title with the state agency that handles boat registration. It might be the department of motor vehicles (DMV) or the game and wildlife agency or another agency. Check your state's website to determine where you need to register the boat. Each state will have its own requirements about forms and fees, but, in general, you will be able to use your bill of sale as proof of purchase to obtain the title from the state. You may need to register the trailer separately, so be sure to check the rules for trailers as well.

Where to Get a Boat Bill of Sale

When you buy a boat, the seller will prepare the bill of sale (ask for one, if the seller just wants to give you a receipt). A bill of sale need not follow any specific template, so long as it includes the information required by your state. An attorney can help prepare a bill of sale or an online service provider can be used.

When you buy a boat, the bill of sale is an important document you will want to be sure you receive. It proves your ownership, details warranties by the seller, and is used by the state to legally transfer title.