Tennessee Boat Registration Summary
Tennessee 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 Tennessee. 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 Tennessee
Wildlife Resources Agency
Boat Registration Website
Registration OverviewTennessee is a boat registration only state and does not issue titles. Registration of all non-exempted boats operating in its jurisdiction is administered by the Wildlife Resources Agency in Nashville. This state does not issue titles or registrations for outboard motors. Titling and registration are optional for boat trailers in Tennessee. Sales tax is required on all boat transactions in Tennessee. There are approximately 246,190 boats registered in the State of Tennessee. This accounts for 2.1% of all nationwide registrations.
Registration RequirementsUnless otherwise exempted, all boats must become registered in Tennessee. Coast Guar documented vessels are also subject to registration. A complete list of requirements and exemptions can be found on the Wildlife Resources Agency website. Tennessee does not have provisions for bonded or conditional boat registrations when there is insufficient proof of ownership. In these cases it will be necessary to petition a local court of law for an award of ownership. Transfers or abandonments must be reported within 15 days.
Marking RequirementsBoat registration numbers in Tennessee begin with a "TN" 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. Owners with older boats may apply with the Marine Police Division for a hull number assignment. State assigned hull numbers prefixed with the letters "TNZ" are available for home made boats and those without factory designations. The boat must be inspected by a Tennessee law enforcement official if there is a hull number discrepancy.
Ownership and LiensTennessee is a registration only state and does not issue boat titles. Registration certificates may however serve as quasi-proof of ownership unless the vessel is Coast Guard documented. Security interests in boats that are neither titled or documented are therefore recorded through Uniform Commercial Code filings. Tax liens are sometimes flagged in the state's registration database, 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 registered boats which are not USCG documented. If the vessel is USCG documented, a security interest is 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.
Boat Title SearchesBoat registration records Tennessee are maintained by the Wildlife Resources Agency. This agency does not facilitate online searches for the general public but registration information may be obtained by submitting a boat record request form. It is also reported that the registration office will confirm hull identification numbers and provide telephone verifications on registration certificates in hand. Tennessee is a registration only state and does not issue boat titles. Security interests in non-documented boats are accordingly filed with the Secretary of State as Uniform Commercial Code recordings. Online UCC searches are available from their web site or by using a public record vendor. 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 vessel title company for assistance in this regard. Non-recorded maritime liens may also be a factor when conducting boat title research in Tennessee. 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 documented vessels. Yacht brokers, documentation companies, and attorneys do not warrant or guarantee titles. 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.