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How to Find Out If a Person Owns a Boat

Find out who owns a boat using public records.
Allan Baxter/Photodisc/Getty Images

Every state requires that boat owners register their vessels in order to operate them, just like every state requires that car owners register their vehicles. However, not every state uses the Department of Motor Vehicles as the boat registration office. Some states use their Department of Recreation or Department of Fish and Wildlife as the repository for boat registration. The state's boat registration records are the key to finding out whether someone owns a boat.

Determine which state office registers boats in the state where you think the person lives. Start by calling the local Department of Motor Vehicles or the county tax commissioner's office if you need direction.

If you know the person's name and state of residence, contact the state's office that registers boats. Give them the full first and last name of the person you are investigating. Ask for a listing of all vehicles and vessels listed under that name.

If you don't have the person's name, but you can view the boat, look for the boat's registration ID number. It will be printed or painted on the rear or side of the boat. The registration ID will also indicate the state of registration. Contact that state's boat registration office and ask for ownership information related to that ID number.


Only boats with motors are required to be registered in most states, so you might not be able to determine ownership for a row boat or skiff. Also, remember that just because you see the boat in a state, that doesn't mean the boat is registered in that state. Check the boat's registration ID number to know where the boat is registered.


  • Some states might charge you for access to boat registration information.
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