Massachusetts Boat Bill of Sale Form


A Massachusetts boat bill of sale form accompanies essential legal paperwork during a vessel transaction. Compared to other documents, a bill of sale differs by acting as a formal receipt. It also proves that both parties willingly exchanged the boat for cash or trade, meaning nobody forced either person to carry out the deal. Signing the form binds the buyer and seller to complete the agreed-upon tasks. Individuals who do not fulfill their duties can, in some cases, have to pay legal penalties.

  • Statutes: Chapter 90B
  • Signing Requirements: All parties participating in the deal must include their signature.

What is a Massachusetts Vessel Bill of Sale?

A Massachusetts vessel bill of sale allows a buyer and seller to record the happenings of a boat trade. Both residents must use the official form provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It requests the date of the sale, the purchase price, and the names and addresses of the buyer and seller. In addition, the document lists information about the vessel, such as its year, make, hull identification number (HIN), and length. If the purchase involves a motor or trailer, they must briefly describe each item.

Sellers must report to the state no more than fifteen (15) days after the sale. They must mail or fax a completed Motorboat Status Change Form and Cancellation Form to one of the five corresponding locations. If they have a loan on the title, they must also provide a lien release from the lien holder. The state cannot remove the vessel from the previous owner’s record until they provide this information.

Did You Know?

A person under the age of twelve (12) may not operate a boat in Massachusetts unless an individual eighteen (18) years or older is on board. Anyone between twelve (12) and fifteen (15) may not operate a vessel alone if they do not have a boat safety certificate. They acquire this certification by taking an approved class and passing the exam. The operator must have the card with them when operating the watercraft. Otherwise, they can face fines from the local boat patrol.

How to Register a Boat in Massachusetts (6 Steps)

Residents must title their vessel and pay sales taxes within twenty (20) days of purchasing. Non-residents can use their boat in Massachusetts for up to sixty (60) days before registering in the state. Registration and titling occur at a Boat and Recreation Vehicle Registration and Titling Bureau location or by mail.

Step 1 – Requirements

Boats equipped with a motor used in public waterways must undergo registration. This rule applies even if the vessel does not use an electric or gas motor as its primary source of thrust. For example, a canoe with a backup motor must have a Massachusetts registration. Motorized fishing boats, recreational vessels, sailboats, jet skis, and wet bikes also require registration.

Exemptions include boats without motors, a ship’s lifeboats, and U.S. Coast Guard documented vessels. Watercraft owned by a city, county, state, or federal agency must register but do not have to pay the associated fees.

Step 2 – Inspection

Most boats do not require a Massachusetts inspection. However, the following vessels require an examination from a Massachusetts Environmental Police Officer (EPO): 1) boats built before 1972, 2) a vessel missing a HIN, and 3) homemade watercraft.

Owners can schedule appointments by contacting the office by phone (1-800-632-8075) or visiting the online booking system. They must bring their identification (i.e., a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID), a bill of sale, and a title signed by the seller (or a copy of the seller’s registration) to the appointment. Homemade boats also require receipts for the materials used to build them.

The inspection verifies ownership and the boat’s description. Once it passes, the EPO gives the customer a certification, which they must provide to the registering office.

During registration, the owner provides the inspection certification and a form proving sales tax on the materials used (Form ST-6). Exempt individuals must provide a claim for exemption (Form ST-6E) instead.

When the owner registers the boat, they must bring the certification to receive a HIN. They must affix the number on the vessel as directed and provide evidence of doing so to the office. Once the registering office receives confirmation, they give the owner a registration card and decal.

Step 3 – Title

Boats fourteen (14) feet or longer with a motor need a title. This regulation also pertains to vessels with a backup or secondary engine. For example, sailboats and canoes with a motor must have valid registration from the state.

The title lasts for the boat’s lifespan or until the owner sells or transfers it. At that point, they must obtain another title for their ship. Massachusetts imposes a one-time fee of $27.50 to acquire a title.

If the owner loses the title at any point or it becomes lost, damaged, or illegible, they must apply for a new document. They can obtain a title by providing a completed application, the current title (if possible), and paying the fees. The state accepts duplicate title requests by mail or in-person for $16.50.

The state exempts the following boats from titling requirements: 1) U.S. government-owned boats, 2) federally documented vessels, 3) demonstration boats used by dealers or manufacturers for testing, sales, and promotions, and 4) boats registered in another state used in Massachusetts for no more than sixty (60) back-to-back days.

Step 4 – Registration

All boats used in Massachusetts waters require a registration, which must remain on the vessel while in use. Residents can simultaneously apply for a title and registration as long as they bring the correct information. The state does not accept cash under any circumstances. Individuals must pay by personal check, money order, and card (i.e., debit or credit cards).

Boats from a non-title state require the owner to provide the previous registration instead. Furthermore, vessels purchased in Rhode Island need the seller to provide a notarized signature on the title. Commercial fishers registering their boat must provide their fishing license in addition to the mandatory documentation.

Required Documents

Vessel owners must provide the following forms to title and register their boat:

  • Registration Application. Boaters must visit one (1) of the five (5) agencies to obtain and complete an application (Form ELE #1).
  • Proof of Ownership. New boats purchased from a dealer, department store, or internet require a manufacturer’s statement of origin (MSO). Owners of used boats must provide the MSO, title, or previous registration.
  • Title. The seller must sign the title to the buyer for boats fourteen (14) feet or longer with a motor.
  • Bill of Sale. Bill of sale forms must include the seller’s name, address, and signature for consideration. Businesses must transfer the form onto company letterhead. Massachusetts only accepts electronic signatures if the owner can provide a printed email chain that shows both parties’ agreement.
  • Proof of Tax Payment. Registrars must provide a receipt indicating they paid Massachusetts sales tax on their vessel. Per state law, residents must pay 6.25% tax by the 20th day of the month following the purchase. For example, if a person buys a boat on March 15th, they must pay the taxes by April 20th. Penalties and interest accrue for late payments. Questions about taxes should go to the Department of Revenue (617-887-6400).
  • HIN. The person registering the watercraft must provide a pencil tracing of the twelve (12)-character HIN. They must also include the boat’s model year, make, and length for verification.
  • Fees. First-time registration fees depend on the boat’s length. Individuals must pay the registration and titling fees during the appointment. In other words, the registering office does not allow for payment plans.

Step 5 – Decals + Number

The registering office reviews the paperwork and approves or denies the applicant. If denied, the individual must learn why the state rejected them and reapply with the required information. On the other hand, approved owners receive a number unique to them. It begins with “MS” with four (4) digits and two (2) letters following it (e.g., MS 5869 FI).

A registration number and decal belong to the respective owner only. They must have the number transformed into a sticker and attach it to the boat, or they can paint it on the vessel’s hull. In addition, they can transfer the information to another watercraft but cannot give it to another person. If they choose to sell or gift the boat, they must first remove the decal and registration number.

When affixing the registration number and decal, follow the instructions below:

  1. Paint or attach the number to the front half of the boat;
  2. Ensure the number reads left to right;
  3. Use block letters only;
  4. The number must appear at least three (3) inches tall;
  5. Its color must contrast with the boat’s hull paint;

The decal, which contains the month and year of expiration, should align with the registration number three (3) inches to the stern on the port (left) side. Owners must remove the sticker during each renewal period and attach the new sticker.

Step 6 – Renew

Massachusetts boat registrations last for two (2) years. Owners receive a notice at least one (1) month before the expiration. They can send the paperwork by mail, at a physical location, or online. However, they must renew at a nearby office if their registration expired forty-eight (48) months ago or longer.

Owners must provide the fees and registration renewal notice or application (Form ELE #1). Costs depend on the size of the vessel and living status. Residents renew for two (2) years, whereas non-residents register one (1) year at a time. Like first-time registrations, individuals can only submit payment with personal checks, money orders, credit cards, or debit cards.

Individuals who lose or damage their documentation before the renewal can apply for a duplicate. A duplicate registration requires the owner to send an application (Form ELE #1) in person or online for $11. Similarly, they can submit the fees and a registration renewal notice or application by mail or in-person for $5.50.

Registration Offices: By Location

Boston(617) 626-1610

251 Causeway Street,

Suite 101,

Boston, MA 02114

Fall River(508) 679-8287

99 S. Main Street,

Suite 250,

Fall River, MA 02721

Hyannis(508) 771-8382

75 Perseverance Way,

Suite 207A,

Hyannis, MA 02601

Springfield(413) 733-1642

1 Federal Street,

Building 101,

Springfield, MA 01105

Worcester(508) 753-0603

67 Millbrook Street,

Suite 350, 3rd Floor,

Worcester, MA 01606