Buying A Used Boat Privately

buying used boat privately purchase tips

There are a few steps to buying a used boat and transferring Documentation or Title. If you are buying a boat or yacht that is greater than 25ft. in length on coastal waters that has a name and hailing port on the transom (back of the boat), it is likely that it is Coast Guard Documented and not Titled. Boats cannot have both a Title and Certificate of Documentation at the same time. Documentation transfers can be completed online, but most registration and State Title transfers will need to be completed at the appropriate DMV or State Registrar. 

The transfer of ownership documents required to complete the sale of a Coast Guard Documented boat are the notarized CG-1348 Bill of Sale and the completed webform application for Transfer of Ownership. You may file the application via the link below 

This webform will permit the upload of the notarized Bill of Sale and other pertinent ownership documents, such as Trust, Corporation, LLC, Partnership or joint ownership documents. Requirements for corporate ownership are clearly outlined on the webform application. 

NOTE: The transfer of ownership application may take 4-16 weeks to process, depending on the workload and staffing of the National Vessel Documentation Center. There is no way to expedite this process, unless a Priority Request is approved, which is only in extremely rare and unique circumstances. 

Prior to purchasing a used boat privately, it is strongly recommended that you hire a licensed Marine Surveyor to inspect the vessel for damage, equipment issues, and required Coast Guard safety equipment. 

Required safety equipment for boating and some other watercraft includes the following: 

• Life Jackets (33 CFR 175) 
• Visual Distress Signals (33 CFR 175.101) 
• Fire Extinguishers (46 CFR 25) 
• Ventilation (33 CFR 175/183, 46 CFR 25) 
• Backfire Flame Control (46 CFR 25/58) 
• Sound Producing Devices (33 CFR 83) 
• Navigation Lights (33 CFR 83) 
• Pollution Regulations (33 CFR 151/155) 
• Marine Sanitation Devices (33 CFR 159) 

Prior to the completion of the sale, it is strongly recommended that you request an Abstract of Title for the vessel to be sure that it is free and clear of mortgages, liens or other encumbrances. The Abstract of Title process generally takes 2-3 business days to complete, so it is recommended that you file the request with enough time to complete the sale or escrow. On the Abstract of Title, you will see a complete chain of ownership, along with satisfied mortgages, paid off liens and other encumbrances. 

You may request an Abstract of Title via the web address below: 

If you do not know the vessel’s Official Number or Hull Identification Number, you may look up that information via the Coast Guard Port State Information Exchange (PSIX) via the web address below: 

If you are not a US-citizen, federal law prohibits you from owning a US Coast Guard Documented vessel. If you are purchasing a boat that is Documented, you will need to have the seller file for a Deletion from Documentation prior to the completion of the sale. This will allow you to transfer the registration of the boat from Documentation to State Title. 

If you are purchasing a seafaring vessel that is held in a sole-asset LLC that the seller wishes to include in the sale, you may not need to process the transfer of Documentation. Usually, all that is required is an ownership change for the LLC, usually processed by a licensed attorney.

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