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Pros and Cons of Documenting a Boat

Pros and Cons of Documenting a Boat

When you buy a boat, there are several different things you need to do to make sure that it is ready for the water. One of those tasks is documentation – making a record of the boat’s purchase and sale, as well as all of its important features.

Documentation can provide peace of mind if something happens to your vessel, but it can also be a hassle. Here are the pros and cons of documenting a boat.

Pros and Cons of Documenting a Boat

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Clear Ownership

One of the main benefits of documenting your boat is that it provides a clear ownership record if something happens to it. If there is a dispute over who owns the boat, documentation can be used to prove ownership. This can be especially important if the boat is damaged or destroyed and needs to be replaced.

Protections from the US Coast Guard

If you need to replace your boat, it is important to provide a clear title.

The US Coast Guard regulates documentation and documentation numbers, and the US Coast Guard is also the agency that registers documentation.

It is important to know what you can do if your boat document is stolen or destroyed.

Having a clear ownership record is the only way to ensure that you receive fair and equal treatment from the US Coast Guard if something happens to your boat.

Helps with Insurance Claims

Documentation is essential for insurance claims. This is part of what you pay for when you buy boat insurance – protecting your boat in the event of damage.

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Documentation also helps when you need to replace a lost or destroyed boat. Documentation is proof that you own the boat and, therefore, proof that you can replace it.

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Verification of Legal Use and Exemptions

If you plan to use your boat in certain ways that are exempted from taxes or exempted from specific licensing requirements,

you need to be able to prove your legal use of the vessel to the proper authorities. Documentation can help you do this and show that the boat is not being used in illegal ways.

Privacy and Confidentiality

When you document your boat, you can expect that the information is private and confidential. Boat registrations are not public records.

The US Coast Guard, your local boat dealer, and many other authorized parties have access to documentation information, but it is not available for public review. This ensures that your private information stays safe.

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Establish a History

Documenting your boat provides a track record of the vessel. You can use this documentation to establish a history for the boat,

showing its age, original value, upgrades and repairs over time, and other useful information.

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Cons of Documentation


The main drawback of getting your boat documented is that it can be expensive. Depending on where you live, the cost can vary.

In addition to paying for the actual documentation and numbers, you may also have to pay a tax when you register your boat or when you sell it.

The amount of the tax varies, and you may also have to pay a tax to transfer ownership.

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Legal Requirements

Depending on where you live, you may have to meet certain requirements to get documentation for your boat.

For example, if you are required to register your boat with the state or federal government, you may need to meet specific requirements to do so.

This includes having a valid boat license or vessel safety check. If you must have a license, you may need to take a short course or test to earn your license.

You may also need to have your boat inspected. These things can be costly, especially if you need to buy safety equipment for the boat.

Length of Processing Time

Getting documentation can take a long time, especially if you have to get a federal document. Depending on where you live,

you may have to wait for several days or several weeks to get the documentation you need. This can be problematic if you plan a trip or need to replace your boat.

Written Description Requirement

Not all states require written boat descriptions when you are transferring ownership. However, some do.

This means that if you are selling a boat, you must produce a written description of the boat to give to the buyer.

If you already have documentation for the boat, this may be an easy task. However, it can be difficult if you are not documented and need to get all the numbers.

Report of Sale Form Requirement

Documentation usually comes with a form known as the “Report of Sale.” When you sell a boat, this form must be filed with the documentation office.

Some states require this form even for boats that are not documented.

If you are selling a boat and the buyer does not have documentation, you will need to file the form and surrender your documentation numbers.

Frequently Asked Questions on Boat Documentation

What Does It Mean If a Boat is Documented?

The vessel has been registered with US Coast Guard, and documentation numbers are assigned if a boat is documented. The boat will have a Certificate of Documentation (COD) and a Hull Identification Number (HIN). The owner must keep these documents on board the boat at all times. In addition, the owner must file a “Report of Sale” form when selling the boat.

Do Documented Vessels Need Registering?

Yes, documented vessels do need to be registered. The registration process is used to keep track of boats and their associated documentation numbers. To register a documented vessel, you must provide the documentation office with the boat’s Hull Identification Number (HIN) and Certificate of Documentation (COD).

What Boats Should be Documented?

There is no specific answer to this question, as it depends on the boat and the state’s laws in which it is registered. However, most boats that are used for recreational purposes should be documented. This includes boats such as yachts, sailboats, and motorboats. In addition, certain types of boats are required by law to be documented, such as commercial vessels and boats with a length of more than 26 feet.

Is Documenting a Boat Necessary?

Documenting a boat can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges.

In this blog post, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of documenting your vessel so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to do it.

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