Registering Your Boat or Personal Water Craft

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All boat operators are required to obey laws that regulate your boats registration, operation and boater education.

Georgia Certificate of Boat Registration

You must have a Georgia Certificate of Boat Registration and a validation decal to legally operate your boat or personal watercraft on public waters in Georgia. The only exceptions are:

  • Sailboats under 12 feet in length
  • Canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rubber rafts that have no mechanical propulsion (i.e., are paddled, poled, oared or windblown)
  • Boats operated exclusively on private ponds or lakes

The Certificate of Boat Registration and validation decal are obtained by submitting by mail the proper application and fee. (learn more about applying)

Image of a Certificate of Boat Registration

This certificate (pocket-sized plastic card) must be onboard and available for inspection by an enforcement officer whenever the boat or PWC is operated.

The registration number and validation decal must be displayed as follows:

Image showing proper placement on a boat of the registration number and validation decal

  • Number must be painted, decaled or otherwise affixed to both sides of the bow
  • Number must read from left to right on both sides of the bow
  • Number must be in at least three-inch-high block letters
  • Numbers color must contrast with its background
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen: "GA 3717 ZW" or "GA-3717-ZW"
  • No other numbers may be displayed
  • Decals must be displayed on each side of the bow, before the prefix letters of the registration number

Other Facts About Registering Your Boat Or PWC

If a boat owner changes address, he or she must notify the DNR Boat Registration Office by mail or phone within 15 days of change.

If you abandon or destroy your boat, you must report it to the DNR Boat Registration Office within 15 days and surrender your Certificate of Boat Registration.

If you lose or destroy your Certificate of Boat Registration, you may obtain a duplicate online, by phone or mail. 

Boats bearing valid registration from another state need not be registered in Georgia unless they are used in Georgia for more than 60 consecutive days.

A recreational boat, owned by a U. S. citizen, may (at the option of the owner) apply for a U.S. Coast Guard's "Certificate of Documentation" if it weighs 5 or more net tons. Call the U.S. Coast Guard Documentation Center at 1-800-799-8362 for more information.