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How to Get a Title for a Boat Without a Bill of Sale

Are you looking to obtain a title for your boat but find yourself in a situation where you don't have a bill of sale? Don't worry, navigating through the process without a bill of sale might seem challenging, but it's not impossible. In this article, we'll guide you through the steps to acquire a boat title even without a bill of sale. Whether you've misplaced the bill of sale or purchased a boat without one, we've got you covered. Let's dive in and explore how you can ensure your boat is properly titled.


Securing a proper title for your boat is essential for establishing legal ownership and ensuring a smooth transfer of ownership in the future. While having a bill of sale is the most straightforward way to prove ownership, situations arise where this crucial document might be missing. In such cases, alternative methods can be employed to verify your ownership and obtain the necessary title.

Understanding the Importance of a Boat Title

A boat title serves as a legal document that establishes your ownership of the vessel. It includes important information about the boat, such as its hull identification number (HIN), make, model, and year. Having a valid title is essential not only for proving ownership but also for registration, insurance, and potential resale.

Exploring Alternative Documentation

Affidavit of Ownership

An affidavit of ownership is a sworn statement that attests to your rightful ownership of the boat. This document can be particularly useful if you're unable to locate the bill of sale. It may require you to provide details about the purchase and any other relevant information.

Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO)

If you purchased a new boat, the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) can serve as a substitute for the bill of sale. The MSO is issued by the manufacturer and contains vital details about the boat. It's crucial to keep this document in a safe place.

Gathering Proof of Ownership

Photos and Documentation

Take detailed photographs of your boat, showcasing its unique features. Collect any documentation you have related to the purchase, maintenance, or repairs. This could include receipts, invoices, and communications with the seller.

Witness Affidavits

If you bought the boat from a private seller, consider reaching out to them for a witness affidavit. This document would confirm the transaction and verify your ownership.

Contacting Your Local DMV

Reach out to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to understand the specific requirements for obtaining a boat title without a bill of sale.

Required Forms and Fees

The DMV will provide you with the necessary forms to apply for a title. Be prepared to pay the applicable fees, which can vary based on your location and the value of the boat.

Researching State Requirements

Varying Regulations

Each state has its own regulations regarding the process of obtaining a boat title. Research and familiarize yourself with your state's specific requirements to avoid any delays.

Title Bond Option

In some cases, states offer the option of obtaining a title bond as a way to secure a title. A title bond functions as a type of insurance that protects any future title claims.

Providing Proof of Identification

Valid ID and Residency Documents

Prepare your valid identification and residency documents as required by the DMV. This could include your driver's license, passport, and utility bills.

Visit the DMV in Person

Scheduling an Appointment

Schedule an appointment with your local DMV to submit your application for a boat title. This step is crucial, as it ensures you have the dedicated time to complete the process.

Submitting Your Application

During your DMV visit, submit all the required documents, forms, and fees. Be sure to provide any alternative documentation you've gathered to establish your ownership.

Waiting Period and Follow-Up

Processing Timeframes

The DMV will review your application and documentation. There will be a processing period during which they verify the information provided.

Checking Application Status

You can inquire about the status of your application during this waiting period. Keep your reference number handy for easy tracking.

Consultation with a Title Company

Professional Assistance

If the process seems overwhelming or you encounter obstacles, consider seeking assistance from a title company that specializes in securing titles for various assets.

Title Search and Resolution

A title company can conduct a thorough title search to identify any existing liens or claims on the boat. They can also help resolve any issues that might arise during the process.

The Importance of Bill of Sale

Future Transactions

While you're working to secure a title without a bill of sale, remember the importance of obtaining one for any future transactions. A bill of sale provides a clear record of ownership transfer.


Obtaining a title for your boat without a bill of sale may require some extra effort, but it's certainly achievable. By exploring alternative documentation, reaching out to your local DMV, and potentially seeking professional assistance, you can successfully establish your ownership and ensure a smooth sailing experience on the water.


  • Can I register and insure my boat without a title? Yes, some states allow boat registration and insurance without a title, provided you can provide alternative proof of ownership.

  • What is a hull identification number (HIN), and why is it important? A HIN is a unique identifier for your boat, similar to a vehicle's VIN. It helps track the boat's history and ownership.

  • Is a bill of sale always necessary for boat transactions? While not always mandatory, a bill of sale is highly recommended as it serves as a legal record of the transaction.

  • Can a title company help me with other ownership-related concerns? Yes, title companies can assist with various ownership-related matters, including title transfers and dispute resolution.

  • How long does the process of obtaining a title without a bill of sale usually take? The timeline can vary based on factors such as your state's regulations and the completeness of your documentation. It's best to inquire with your local DMV or a title company for an estimate.

Reference: How to Get a Title for a Boat Without a Bill of Sale (

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