Iowa Boat Bill of Sale Form


An Iowa boat bill of sale form serves as a legal report of a vessel transaction. It defines the watercraft by its identification number, condition, and final purchase price. The exchange can occur between two (2) private parties, two (2) businesses or entities, or a company and an individual. Regardless, all buyers and sellers must acknowledge their participation in the deal by entering their contact information and signing.

  • Statutes: § 462A
  • Signing Requirements: Both parties (or entities) must transcribe their signatures.

County Versions

Hancock County

Download: PDF



What is an Iowa Vessel Bill of Sale?

An Iowa vessel bill of sale is a document that transfers ownership of motorized and non-motorized watercraft. Speed boats, canoes, sailboats, and kayaks fall under this category. Individuals should fill out a bill of sale form, even if the watercraft does not require registration. This process verifies that the buyer and seller agreed to the deal.

The document often accompanies the title, which, once signed, officially removes the seller’s accountability. In addition to verifying possession, it also helps in legal disputes, reporting finances, paying taxes, or obtaining an insurance plan.

Did You Know?

Residents between the ages of twelve (12) and seventeen (17) operating a motorized boat with ten (10) horsepower or more must have a watercraft safety certificate. The state offers home-study courses and approved online classes. Students must complete their education, pass the final exam, and pay a fee to obtain a certificate. The card must remain with the driver while operating the vessel to provide law enforcement with valid identification if needed.

How to Register a Boat in Iowa (5 Steps)

Residents who made a private purchase can use the seller’s registration to drive the vessel for thirty (30) days. After this time, the individual must register and title the boat in their name through a local county recorder.

Dealerships generally handle the registration and title process for the customer and give them a thirty-five (35) day temporary pass. The registration and title should arrive by mail before the expiration date. If the dealer does not send in the documents, the owner becomes responsible for handling the matters themselves.

Non-residents can operate their boats for up to sixty (60) consecutive days every year. Owners planning to drive their vessel in Iowa waters longer must obtain an in-state registration.

Step 1 – Exemptions

Most boats in Iowa require registration; however, some do not. Owners can register their vessel even if state law does not require it.

Registration exemptions include:

  • Inflatable boats without a motor or sail (7 feet long or less only);
  • Regular or inflatable kayaks and canoes without a motor or sail (13 feet long or less only);
  • Vessels owned by the government for search and rescue purposes; and
  • Public school-owned watercraft for research and studies.

Residents unsure of whether their boat(s) meet registration requirements should contact the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) customer service line at 515-725-8200. Individuals with questions about the total registration cost (including local tax) should contact their county recorder.

Step 2 – Title

Boats over seventeen (17) feet long and watercraft with a lien need a title. If the vessel qualifies, the owner needs to obtain a title before registering. Titling and registration can also occur together during the same appointment.

Step 3 – Register

If the previous owner did not apply for registration, the new owner must submit a Request for Bonded Registration and/or Title for Boats (DNR Form 542-0855). The document requires a signature from a peace or conservation officer.

Registration and renewal fees depend on the 1) presence of motor or sail, 2) boat’s length, and 3) registration date. An owner cannot transfer the registration from one boat to another. Instead, they must cancel the previous registration and apply for a new one through the counter recorder.

Provide the Following:

Step 4 – Decal + Number

After approving the registration paperwork, the county recorder sends the applicant their certification number and decals. Owners must permanently attach the information to the vessel using paint or a professionally made sticker. In addition, they need to have the certificate on board to present it to boat patrol if stopped.

Registration sequences begin with “IA,” followed by four (4) numbers and two (2) letters. For example, an Iowa registration number could appear as IA-4850-FI. Spaces or hyphens must exist between each section to increase readability.

The number must reach at least three (3) inches in height with bold, block lettering that reads from left to right. Its color must distinctly stand out from the boat’s hue. The owner cannot place additional text, numbers, or stickers nearby to keep the information clear.

Decals are the only exception to this rule. The stickers must appear in line with the registration number on both sides of the boat. It must face the stern four (4) inches away from the number.

Step 5 – Renew

Iowa boat registrations last for three (3) years and expire on April 30th each period. The state imposes a $5 fine on residents who fail to register on time. Boat owners can begin the renewal process starting on January 1st of the expiration year. Residents must visit their local county recorder’s office to reapply.