Registering a Boat in Alabama – Plus Alabama Boat Laws

The Alabama lakes and rivers are perfect for boating. But before you head out, make sure to register your boat. So what is the process for registering a boat in Alabama?

Registering a boat in Alabama is a simple process. You need to see a License Commissioner or a local county judge to register any watercraft. Bring your proof of payment with you. The registration application can be downloaded and filled out before you begin the registration process.

Also, you should be aware of some other Alabama boating laws, for example, PFD (personal flotation device) or lifejacket laws. And boats longer than 16 feet need at least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved seat cushion or ring buoy Type IV PFD.

Read on to learn more about how to register your boat in Alabama, including the process, cost, and other requirements.

Registering a Boat in Alabama

The boating laws in Alabama are regulated by the Department of Natural Resources Marine Police Division. 

All types of boats using motors, including electric, gasoline, or diesel motors, mainly operating on the waters of Alabama, must be registered. The vessels that are exempted from the requirements of boat registration include:

  • Boats using the waters of Alabama temporarily but registered in a country outside of the U.S.
  • Boats for rental and non-motorized boats, not including sailboats
  • Holding a temporary and valid Certificate of Number
  • Boats currently kept and registered in another state
  • Boats owned by either municipal, federal, county, or state governments of the U.S.A.
  • Lifeboat of a ship

You need to see a License Commissioner or a local county Judge of Probate to transfer, register or renew ownership of a watercraft. Proof of sales payment and use tax is also another way of renewing or registering a boat with the office of the Marine Police Division in Montgomery.

A registration application has to be downloaded and filled out before you begin the registration process with the Marine Police Office or Probate or License Commissioner. The following documents need to be attached to the registration application:

  • Bill of sale
  • Proof of payment of sales tax
  • Previous registration

Certificate of Number

You can only legally operate on Alabama waters if you possess at least a temporary but valid certificate of number. You are required to do the following as soon as the registration has been issued:

  • Sign the certificate and bring it with you every time you are on board
  • Notify within 15 days the Alabama Marine Police Division of any change of residence or if the boat has been abandoned, lost, destroyed, or stolen.

The validity of the registration is for a year after it has been issued. The first letter of the owner’s last name is the determinant for the date of required renewal. 

Cost of Registering a Boat in Alabama

Receiving a decal or certificate means you’ve successfully registered your boat. 

The AL letters precede the permanent registration number located on the certificate’s right-hand side. Both sides of the bow of the registered boat must show this number. The number should be positioned in such a way that it is seen clearly at all times.

The number must show:

  • Left to right read. For instance, AL-4567-BX or AL 4567 BX
  • Not less than 3 inches high BLOCK characters that contrast with the boat’s background color
  • A hyphen or space to separate the letters from the numbers

Each side of the boat bow must display the validation decal. The decal must be within 6 inches after or before but must line up with the registration numbers.

Properly documenting and marking the boat is the responsibility of every boat owner. A responsible boat owner should also keep the papers in a waterproof case on board the boat at all times.

Boat to Be RegisteredCharge/Fee 
Class I (16 to 26 ft)$11.00 + Issuance fee of $1.00
Class II (26 to 40 ft)$15.00 + Issuance fee of $1.00
Class III (40 to 65 ft)$30.00 + Issuance fee of $1.00
Class IV (65+ft)$50.00 + Issuance fee of $1.00
Dealer Class VInitial $26.00, every additional dealer tag for $4.00

Boat Transfer of Ownership – applies to boats that need to be transferred to a new owner’s name but has current registration for the year sold: $1.00 + Issuance fee of $0.25.

Renewal/Transfer – if there’s no current registration to the boat, transferring the boat to the new owner’s name needs to pay the designated class fee: $1.00 + Issuance fee of $0.25.

See the below video for an easy online way to get a license:

Regulations and Laws for Personal Watercraft

The same laws apply to personal watercraft despite their small size. This means that the same regulations and rules are required for PWC operators as that of any powerboat operator. This includes carrying a B-1 fire extinguisher on board at all times as well as registering the boat. 

The specific PWC requirements in Alabama include:

  • The PWC operator and all passengers must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times.
  • Rearview mirrors on both sides must be included in the watercraft if people are to be towed behind. Both mirrors must be 4 inches wide and 2.5 high to achieve a total of 20 inches minimum viewing area.
  • Required lights must be fitted to enable PWCs to operate between the hours of sunrise to sunset.

The following video is older but the Alabama boating laws mentioned within still apply:

Boating Under the Influence Rules in Alabama

A 0.8% or more blood alcohol content with a boater is considered to be under the influence of alcohol. The same under the influence rule applies to:

  • A boater under the influence of any controlled substance
  • Under the influence of any combination of any controlled substances and alcohol
  • Any form of substance that physically or mentally impairs the normal functioning of a person

A period of 90-days revocation of your boat operating privileges is imposed if you’re found to BUI while operating your vessel. The possibility of paying a stiff fine of $2,100 or imprisonment for a year can also be imposed.

A second BUI offense will revoke your operating privileges for a year. The fine is steeper at $5,100, along with possible imprisonment for a year or 30 days of community service at the minimum. 

A third conviction for BUI will revoke your operating privileges for three years. You also can get a fine of up to $10,100. An imprisonment sentence for a year or a maximum of 60 days of community service is a possibility as well. 

Boat Safety Rules in Alabama

  • A wearable PFD or personal flotation device should be worn at all times by a boat operator and all passengers on board. This requirement does not apply to inflatable rafts, personal watercraft, kayaks, and canoes.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD must be worn at all times for passengers being towed behind a watercraft. The PFD must be specially designed for activities such as water skiing, wakeboarding, and more.
  • Children are not allowed to wear inflatable PFDs while boating. Neither is the use of inflatable PFDs allowed in high-impact sports, such as operating a personal watercraft or water skiing.
  • A U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD must be worn at all times if the vessel operates within 800 feet of any navigational dam or lock or a hydroelectric dam. The approved PFDs are types I, II, III, or IV.
  • Wearing of a PFD is required for all passengers or boaters under 8 years old while on board any watercraft. The only exception is when children are in an enclosed cabin or below deck.

Other Laws Regarding Alabama’s Nuisance Species

In addition to registering your boat and following all other laws such as proper life jacket and PFD laws, I want to also just mention another requirement that you may not be aware of.

Alabama waters are experiencing the invasion of non-indigenous aquatic animals, species, fish, and plants. Some of the nuisance species that have been transported accidentally by recreational boaters include:

  • Water hyacinth
  • Hydrilla
  • Zebra mussels
  • Egeria densa

These species are inadvertently transported to Alabama waters from other sites by attaching to hulls, propellers, or intakes. Introducing these non-indigenous pests can rapidly multiply to clog up waterways, displace native species, and impact recreation and navigation. They are also almost impossible to eradicate.

The following actions to help prevent the introduction of these pests to Alabama waters include:

  • Inspecting the boat and disposing of any aquatic plants or animals before leaving a body of water.
  • Clean sea strainers and flush raw-water cooling systems before the boat are moved from one body of water to another.
  • Remove any plant fragments from props, fishing gear, dive gear, trailers, and bait wells. Bait buckets should also be emptied.
  • Dispose of everything on a land garbage disposal.
  • Drain all water from the boat’s live wells, bilge, and motor.
  • Giving the boat a good wash before using it into a new body of water.
  • Report any observed new infestation of non-indigenous aquatic species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Conclusion – Registering a Boat in Alabama

Alabama welcomes every recreational boater who wants to experience boating in their waters. The best way to make the experience fun, exciting, and truly memorable is to conform to the rules and regulations required by the state. 

Registering a boat in Alabama is easy. You just need to follow the above steps and ensure all your ducks are in place.

Responsible boating is always appreciated. Being careful to avoid contaminating the waters of Alabama will benefit not only you but also the environment. 

Related reading:

What Are the Boat Requirements in Arkansas?

Do You Have to Have a License to Operate a Boat in Alabama?

Do You Need a License to Drive a Boat? US License Laws

Do You Need a PA Launch Permit?