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Pennsylvania Boat Registration Summary

Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania. 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.

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Boat Registration Agency Pennsylvania Boat RegistrationState of Pennsylvania
Fish & Boat Commission

Boat Registration Website
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Registration Overview Pennsylvania implements both registrations and titling for all non-exempt boats operating within its jurisdiction. These are administered by the Fish and Boat Commission in Harrisburg. Outboard motors are neither titled or registered in this  state. However, such information can be listed on the boat registration and title records. Boat trailer registration and titling are both required in Pennsylvania.
 
Sales tax applies to boat transactions in Pennsylvania.
 
There are approximately 313,478 boats registered in the State of Pennsylvania. This accounts for 2.6% of all nationwide registrations.
Marking Requirements Pennsylvania boat registration numbers begin with a "PA" 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 boats 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 "PA" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. Boats must be inspected by a Pennsylvania law enforcement official if there is a discrepancy with the hull identification number.
Registration Requirements Pennsylvania registration is required on all non-exempt boats powered by a gasoline, diesel or electric motors. This includes sailboats and other watercraft with auxiliary power. Coast Guard documented boats are subject to registration. This state has procedures for registering and titling abandoned boats. There are no provisions for conditional boat registrations when there is insufficient proof of ownership. However, consideration may be given to a special declaration of ownership under certain circumstances.
 
Transfers of ownership, abandonments, destructions, and thefts must be reported within 15 days.
Ownership and Liens Pennsylvania issues titles on all on power-driven boats with a model year of 1997 or newer, except boats less than 14 feet in length that are powered by an outboard motor. Titling is optional on all other boats. Coast Guard documented boats are excluded from titling. There are no provisions in this state for bonded titles when there is insufficient proof of ownership. In this case a petition must be filed with a local court of law for an award of ownership.
 
Security interests in state titled boats are recorded with the Fish and Game commission. These will be shown on both the registration and title certificates when applicable. All titles with active security interests are sent directly to the secured party. Security interests in boats that are neither titled or USCG documented are recorded with the Department of State as Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings.
 
Tax liens may be flagged on boat registration records, recorded as UCC filings, shown on state revenue records, or filed with a county clerk's office. There are no provisions for recording mechanic's liens or other non-secured claims against state titled boats.
 
If the vessel is USCG documented, a lender's security interest must be perfected by filing a preferred vessel mortgage. These are recorded with the National Vessel Documentation Center and priority is attained according to the date filed. Other maritime liens can be filed in the same manner although they function as notifications only. All mortgage and lien filings are indexed on the vessel's underlying abstract of title.
Title Searches Boat title and registration records in Pennsylvania are maintained by the Fish and Game Commission. This 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 DMV offices will provide telephone verifications on information shown on boat title or registration certificates in hand.
 
Uniform Commercial Code searches are available online from the Secretary of State. If there are any suspected state or federal tax liens however, it may be advisable to use a public record vendor as they have a much broader access to such filings nationwide.
 
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 vessel documentation company for assistance in this regard.
 
Non-recorded maritime liens may also be a factor when conducting boat title research in Pennsylvania. 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 offers 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 documented vessels.
Resources Boat History Search Database
Boat Record Request
UCC Search
Public Record Vendors
National Vessel Documentation Center
Vessel Documentation Companies
Wiki Contributors Pennsylvania Fish and Game Commission

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