Michigan Boat Bill of Sale Form


A Michigan boat bill of sale form formally establishes the new owner (the person who purchased the vessel) and the previous owner (the person who sold it). The details of the transaction lie within the form. It verifies the identities of each individual and describes the transferred watercraft. Michigan does not have a state official document, meaning both parties can use a template or create a version of their own. The buyer and seller can request a signature from a notary public for authentication purposes; however, this step is suggested and not necessary.

What is a Michigan Vessel Bill of Sale?

A Michigan vessel bill of sale records the sale date and purchase price when buying and selling a boat. Similar to a receipt, it defines who sold the boat and bought it, along with an identifying statement for the watercraft, its buyer(s), and seller(s). Each person claiming ownership of the watercraft must sign for it to hold validity. For example, if a husband and wife sell their vessel, they must sign the bill of sale and other related documents.

Sellers must correctly assign the title (if one exists) to the buyer to transfer it. If the vessel does not have a title, the seller must complete the back of the watercraft registration instead. They must also visit a Secretary of State (SOS) office with the purchaser to transfer possession. If the boat does not have a title and the seller lost the registration, both parties must complete a bill of sale. It must contain the boat’s year, make, hull identification number (HIN), MC registration number, and the names and addresses of the buyer and seller.

Did You Know?

Residents whose birthdays fall on July 1, 1996, or later, must complete a boater safety course to operate a motorized boat over six (6) horsepower. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources must certify the class, and the student must obtain a certificate to prove they passed. Individuals born before July 1, 1996, have no boating restrictions.

Children under twelve (12) can legally operate a boat powered by six (6) horsepower or less without restrictions. They can also drive a vessel with horsepower between six (6) and thirty-five (35) if they pass a certification class and someone sixteen (16) years or older directly supervises them. However, they cannot operate a boat over thirty-five (35) horsepower under any circumstances.

How to Register a Boat in Michigan (5 Steps)

All motorized boats in Massachusetts require registration. This regulation includes electric and inflatable engines. Furthermore, it applies to vessels that use their engine as a secondary source of propulsion, such as a sailboat with a motor.

Sellers must notify the SOS of address changes and abandoned, sold, or destroyed boats within fifteen (15) days of the occurrence. Owners can search for a branch location, make an appointment with the SOS online, or call (1-888-767-6424).

Step 1 – Exemptions

Out-of-state boaters can use their vessel in Michigan for up to sixty (60) consecutive days without needing an in-state registration. Privately owned boats (i.e., not for rental or commercial use) less than sixteen (16) feet long propelled by oars or paddles do not require registration either. This category also includes manually powered vessels of any size, such as canoes, rafts, kayaks, surfboards, and swim floats.

Step 2 – Title

Michigan requires titling of specified boats. To qualify, it must have a length of twenty (20) feet or longer and/or use a permanently installed engine. Residents can also choose to obtain a title, which allows them to add a lienholder if necessary. The individual must fill out an application for a Michigan watercraft title (Form TR-11L).

In most cases, the seller needs the title to transfer ownership. If they lost or damaged the document, they must apply for a duplicate using their online SOS account. Out-of-state dwellers must reapply by mail.

Under certain circumstances, the merchant can transfer the boat without the title. This action can occur if 1) both the buyer and seller appear at an SOS office with proof of the hull identification number (HIN), and 2) liens do not exist on the title, or the seller can provide a lien termination statement, and/or 3) a record of the current title exists in the state’s computer system.

Step 3 – Register

When purchasing a boat (new or used) through a dealership, the dealer generally handles registration and titling requirements. However, the buyer must take care of the process when engaging in a private deal.

The person who purchased the vessel must provide their license or state identification (ID) at an SOS office. They must also submit the required fees, which the state calculates using the vessel’s length. The state also assesses a 6% sales tax at registration unless the owner can prove exemption or verify that someone else previously paid the total amount.

SOS offices require the owner to provide proof of ownership. The following documents qualify:

  • Previous watercraft registration with the seller’s signature
  • Bill of sale that includes the vessel’s year, make, HIN, and the name and address of the buyer and seller;
  • Manufacturer’s statement of origin (MCO);
  • Watercraft title (if required);
  • A surety bond or self-certification procedure if the boat has a value of $2501 or more; and/or
  • U.S. Coast Guard certification of documentation (if applicable).

Step 4 – Number + Decal

SOS offices issue registration numbers and decals to accepted applicants. The number begins with “MC” and has four (4) digits and then two (2) letters (e.g., MC-3950-GP).

The resident must paint or permanently attach the number and decals to each side of the boat’s bow. It should sit as far above the waterline as possible without any other information or decoration in this area.

The number’s color must stick out from the boat’s paint in plain block letters, no less than three (3) inches tall. Each sequence must read from left to right and contain spaces or hyphens between each section of characters. Per state law, the decals must align with the registration number and stand three (3) inches to the right on both sides.

Every time the owner receives a new decal, they must remove the old one and replace it with the current sticker. The registration number stays with the boat as long as the buyer remains the possessor. The subsequent purchaser must obtain a registration number unique to them if the current owner sells it.

Step 5 – Renew

Michigan boat registrations expire every three (3) years on March 31. However, owners can renew as soon as January 1 of the expiration year. Late renewals can result in penalties and delays in operating the boat. Out-of-state dwellers must reapply by mail or by visiting an SOS office.

Residents can renew online with their MC number, the last four digits of their boat’s HIN, and an electronic form of payment (i.e., a debit card, credit card, e-check, or bank account number). They can also use this information to renew at a self-service station, which includes an additional service fee of $3.95 for each transaction.

Individuals can also submit their documents by mail using their renewal notice, return envelope, and check or money order made payable to the State of Michigan. Renewing through the mail allows the owner to change the address listed on the registration and/or have the paperwork sent to another location. If the renewal notice does not exist, the owner must include their name (first, middle, and last), Michigan driver’s license or ID number, MC number, permanent and alternative mailing addresses, phone number, and a check or money order to the state.

Another method for renewal involves visiting an SOS office via appointment. The person registering must bring their renewal notice (or MC number), driver’s license or state ID, and a form of payment (i.e., debit or credit card, cash, check, or money order). This process allows the applicant to receive their documents immediately, whereas the other renewal methods require an extended waiting period.

Mailing Address:
Michigan Department of State
Internal Services Section
7064 Crowner Drive
Lansing, MI 48918-8264