Illinois Boat Registration Summary
Illinois boat registration summary is a free resource designed to inform the boating public about registration requirements, recording methods, and title search guidelines for the State of Illinois. The data is maintained as an open wiki forum where readers are encouraged to participate by sharing knowledge and experiences with this particular state. Simply click on the "Wiki-Share" link to contribute further details or suggest a revision.
This information is subject to change and should be confirmed with the respective agency.
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State of Illinois
Department of Natural Resources
Boat Registration Website
Registration OverviewIllinois issues registrations and titles for all non-exempt boats operating within their jurisdiction. These are administered through the Department of Natural Resources in Springfield. Outboard motors are not titled or registered in Illinois. Boat trailer registrations are handled through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Illinois does not issue registration or title certificates on outboard motors. Boat trailers must be registered and titled through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Boats purchased new or used from manufacturer's lending institutions or dealers are subject to sales tax. Use tax is also owed when a watercraft is acquired by gift, donation, transfer, or non-retail purchase. There are approximately 216,175 boats registered in the State of Illinois. This accounts for 1.8% of all nationwide registrations.
Registration RequirementsAll boats must be registered in Illinois except sailboards, boats used exclusively as a ship's lifeboat, boats while competing in any race approved by the Department, non-powered boats owned and operated on water completely impounded on land belonging to the owner of the watercraft, or a canoe or kayak which is owned by an organization which is organized and conducted on a not-for-profit basis with no personal profit inuring to anyone as a result of the operation. Registration is also required for Coast Guard documented vessels. There are no provisions for conditional registrations. All registered boats are titled in Illinois except those documented with the U.S. Coast Guard. There are no provisions for bonded titles where the owner can not provide sufficient proof of ownership. Illinois has specific procedures for registering or titling boats which are subject to mechanic's or storage liens.
Marking RequirementsBoat registration numbers in Illinois begin with an "IL" designation which is followed by four numbers and then two letters. These must be displayed on all non-documented boats along with registration sticker tabs. Coast Guard documented vessels may not display the state registration numbers. However they must display the state registration tabs, an owner designated vessel name, and a hailing port. An official documentation number must also be affixed to a visible interior location in the hull itself or an integral part of the hull. All vessels manufactured after 1972 are required to have a 12 digit hull identification number affixed to the vessel by the manufacturer. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "AKZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. Hull number inspections are not required.
Ownership and LiensSecurity interests in registered boats which are non-documented must be recorded with the Department of Natural Resources. These will be shown on both the title and registration certificates when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, filed with a county clerk's office, the department of revenue, or perhaps recorded as Uniform Commercial Code filings. There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against registered boats which are not documented. If the vessel is USCG documented, a lender's security interest may be perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center with the earliest submissions taking priority. Other lien claims can be filed in the same manner although these function as notifications only. All such filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title. Secured interests in non-documented and non-titled boats must be secured through a Uniform Commercial Code filing.
Boat Title SearchesBoat title and registration records in Illinois are maintained by the Department of Natural Resources. The agency does not facilitate online searches for the general public due to strict privacy laws. However, record printouts may be obtained by an owner or otherwise qualified party by submitting a boat record request form. Although designed for vehicles, this form also applies to boats. It is also reported that the DNR will provide telephone verifications on information shown on boat title or registration certificates in hand. State and Federal tax liens on boats are not always recorded in a consistent manner and are therefore difficult to identify. They may show up as a red flag on state registration records, as UCC filings, in state revenue records, in a county clerks records, or on a vessel's abstract of title for documented boats. Given these disparities, it may be worth obtaining the services of a public record vendor that has access to a broad range of personal property lien recordings. Ownership, mortgage, and lien search recordings for USCG documented vessels can be obtained by ordering an abstract of title and a copy of the certificate of documentation from the National Vessel Documentation Center. However, these are encoded and can be difficult to interpret, especially on older vessels with numerous recordings. It may be worthwhile to contact a professional boat title company for assistance in this regard. Non-recorded maritime liens may also be a factor when conducting boat title research in Illinois. These include liabilities for items such as services, equipment, fuel, storage, parts, supplies, and damages which can become attached to the boat itself regardless of ownership. One of the most useful tools for doing this kind of research is our premier boat history search database. It is a gathering of eight nationwide databases into a single interface which can be searched by numerous criteria. These include records for stolen boats, marine lien claims, boating accidents, pollution incidents, auctioned boats, factory recalls, and boat manufacturers. Yacht brokers, documentation companies, and attorneys do not warrant or guarantee titles. There is also no such thing as boat title insurance in the marine industry. It is therefore incumbent on the owner to stand behind any such representations. Of course it will be of no consolation if a guarantor is insolvent, non-cooperative, or can not be located. This calls for a thorough background check to ensure the owner's wherewithal for making good on any hidden liens or title deficiencies.