Learning About Dirt Bikes and All Terrain Vehicles

Legally Required Boat Decals: What Kind Of Decals Do You Need For Your New Boat?

Boat decals can make any vessel look good, but some decal considerations have nothing to do with looks. Before you can legally use your boat, you will have to apply the proper decals. You also need to make sure you apply the decals in the right way to make them viable. Here is what you need to know.

The Legally Required State Decals

Generally, all boats require identifying information clearly visible on them. The information required can vary slightly from state to state. However, most places will require some combination of the boat's name and registration information.

Usually, your decals will have to follow some form of the following rules:

  • Information readable from left to right
  • All characters at least 3-inches high
  • Color of decal information must contrast with the boat for legibility
  • Official state registration info must have permanent attachment
  • Official state registration on front half of boat only

Make sure you learn the requirements before attempting to launch your boat. A state title will allow you to boat on your state's waters.

If you bring a boat to another state's waters, there's a chance you may have to register it in that state. This often happens if your boat is in that state for a specific amount of time. You will have to redo the decals to match the new registration.

The Legally Required Federal Decals

The requirements become more standard when you register your boat with the Coast Guard. USCG documented vessels require:

  • Durable markings indicating the boat name and hailing port
  • Characters no less than 4-inches high
  • Info clearly visible on hull

If your boat is for recreational purposes, you only need the name and hailing port on one side. If you will use your boat for any commercial reasons, the name and hailing port must go on both sides.

Your boat can only have a state title or federal documentation, not both. If you start with a state registration, you must remove the state info in favor of the federal information.

Adding Decals for Looks

Deal with the legally required decals before adding any custom or decorative decals to your boat. In this way, you can choose cosmetic decals later that won't clash with or invalidate the space you need for your legal decals.  

While decals may not represent your main concern when looking for boats for sale, they're definitely worth considering early on. Make sure you know what you're required to put on your boat to legally have it out on the water.