Boating Registration
Motor Boat

Boat owners must register their vessel with the Department of Natural Resources. Vessels registered in Iowa, must display their current registration decals and the Iowa issued registration numbers provided by the County Recorder. In addition, the operator must carry the registration certificate on board. Registrations must be renewed every three years and are nontransferable. These can be acquired starting January 1st of the new registration cycle and are valid for three years.

All Iowa registrations expire April 30th of the renewal year. An example, the current registration expires in April of 2019. A $5.00 penalty is added to the renewal cost for an expired Iowa registration. There is no grace period.

Residents can obtain registrations and renewals from a County Recorder Office. Nonresidents can obtain registration from their home state or an Iowa registration from the County Recorder's in the County of primary use.

Registration Information

Registration Guide

Additional registration information
Vessels properly registered in another state and using Iowa waters for 60 days or less.

Registration Decals and Iowa registration numbers display:

  • The registration number must be painted, applied as a decal, or otherwise affixed to the forward half of each side of the vessel, placed for maximum visibility.
  • No other numbers may be displayed on either side of the bow.
  • Number must read from left to right on both sides of the vessel.
  • Number color must contrast with the background.
  • Letters must be separated from the numbers by a space or hyphen: IA 3717 ZW or IA-3717-ZW
  • Decals must be affixed on each side of the vessel, toward the stern of registration number, 4 inches from and in line with the number.

Ready to register your vessel? You must have the following: 

Where do I send my registration paperwork?
New registration and renewals are sent to the county recorder in the county in which you reside. 
Iowa County Recorders

Needing to store your vessel somewhere for the winter or for the season?
Boating: Affidavit to Store Registered Vessel (Form #542-8048)

Have a vessel that you are unable to obtain the proper paperwork (as listed above)?
Visit our vehicle or vessel bonding page for complete instructions and how to contact the DNR to start the bonding process.

Do you want to be a boat dealer in Iowa?
Boat Dealer or Manufacturer Special Certificates Application (Form #542-0488)Boat Dealer or Manufacturer Special Certificates Application (Form #542-0488)

List of Iowa Boat Dealers