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South Carolina Department
of Natural Resources

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Boating - Title and Register a Watercraft or Outboard Motor in SC

Frequently Asked Questions

What forms do I need to register or title my boat?

The primary document you will need is the Watercraft/Outboard Motor Titling and Registration Application - (Adobe PDF). Depending upon your situation you may need other documentation as well. The Registration and Titling area lists many scenarios that you should be able to identify with. Pick the scenario that identifies your situation and it will tell you what additional documentation you will need.

Where can I register my boat or outboard motor?

You may conduct any registration and titling business at one of the SCDNR regional offices listed on this webpage.

Do I need to pay property taxes before I register or title the boat?

The county auditor in which you live will bill you for the taxes in the following year. If you have any questions, please contact your local Tax Service Center.

Can I use my boat while I'm waiting for my registration/title to be processed?

If the boat is a new boat or a boat with current, unexpired expiration decal, you can operate the boat with a temporary certificate and the bill of sale on board for up to sixty (60) days from date of purchase. If the registration decals on the boat are expired then you can operate the boat in South Carolina with a temporary certificate and the bill of sale on board for up to sixty (60) days from date of purchase.

How much does it cost?

Fees vary depending on your circumstances.

Can I renew my registration online?

Yes, if your boat registration is within the calendar year of your expiration date you can renew your boat registration online. However, the DNR offices cannot accept credit card payments over the telephone. A business cannot renew their boat(s) online.

What if I lose my boat or outboard motor decals or registration card?

If your registration is current and you have lost or destroyed your card or decals you will need to fill out the Boating Renewal, Duplicate Decals, and Registration Cards Application - and enclose the appropriate fee.

How do I report my change of address?

You must fill out a Notification of Address Change within 30 days of any change and mail to:

SC Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167,
Columbia, SC 29202

Fax to 803-734-4138

Do I need to notify Department of Natural Resources when I sell my boat?

Seller Must Notify the SC Department of Natural Resources in writing using the Request for Boat and/or Motor Status Change - ( Adobe PDF - file size 24Kb) within 30 days (For Tax purposes) of any change of ownership of watercraft or outboard motor, furnishing full information and mail to:

SC Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202

Fax to 803-734-4138

Seller should keep copy for tax records. S.C. Law prohibits the sale or purchase of watercraft without a valid title issued in the seller's name to assign over to the purchaser at the time of sale.

What are the requirements to title a boat and outboard motor coming in from another state?

Watercraft - Previously registered/titled and/or purchased from another state

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain a title for your Watercraft previously registered and titled from another state:

  • Title in seller's name if seller is from a titling state.
  • Current Owner's Registration Card, if available, otherwise, provide the registration number.
  • Pencil tracing (if traceable), or printed photograph of Hull Identification Number.
  • Bill of Sale, signed and notarized.
  • When purchasing a watercraft from an individual, you are required to pay Casual Excise Tax. The tax is 5% of the purchase price up to $10,000.00. Anything over $10,000.00 caps at $500.00 Casual Excise Tax fee. Please include this fee along with your transfer fee. If purchasing from a dealer taxes are collected by the dealer. If boat and motor are purchased as a unit it is 5% of the total purchase price.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee of $40 for SC Registration and Title
  • Late Fees

Outboard Motor - Previously titled in another state or purchased from another state

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain S.C. title for your Outboard Motor.

  • If you purchased your Outboard Motor from a titling state (Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas or Utah) you will have a Title in the seller's name that you will need to send. If you purchased your Outboard Motor from any other state, send a Bill of Sale or statement explaining how the outboard motor was obtained.
  • A Pencil tracing (if traceable), or printed photograph of Serial Number on outboard motor.
  • Bill of Sale, signed and notarized.
  • When purchasing an outboard motor separately from an individual, there is no cap. You are required to pay Casual Excise Tax. The tax is 6% of the purchase price. Please include this fee along with your transfer fee. If purchasing from a dealer, taxes are collected by the dealer.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee - $10 for new title
  • Late Fees

Watercraft - Move here from another state

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain a S.C. title and registration for your Watercraft.

  • Title in your name if you are moving from a titling state.
  • Provide your Current Registration Card, if available, otherwise provide registration number.
  • Pencil tracing (if traceable), or printed photograph of Hull Identification Number.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee of $40 for new registration and title

Outboard Motor - Move here from another state

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain a S.C. title for your Outboard Motor.

  • Title in your name if you are moving from titling states (Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas or Utah). If you are moving from any other state, send a Bill of Sale or statement explaining how the outboard motor was obtained.
  • Pencil tracing (if traceable), or printed photograph of Serial and Model Number on outboard motor.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee of $10 for new title

Watercraft - Purchased from out-of-state marine dealer

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain a S.C. title and registration for your Watercraft.

  • Manufacturer's Statement of Origin, if purchased from titling state.
  • Bill of Sale, signed and notarized
  • There is a Use Tax fee required when purchasing a boat or motor from an out of state dealer. You must include the dealer invoice when submitting paperwork. If no taxes have been paid to dealer you must include the 5% tax along with your registration fee. Anything over $10,000.00, caps at $500.00. If you have paid a portion of the sales tax in another state and the total tax does not compute to 5% you must pay the additional percentage to one of the S.C. Department of Revenue Service Centers before submitting your paperwork to SCDNR.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee of $40 for new registration and title
  • Late Fees

Outboard Motor - Purchased from out-of-state marine dealer

The following application, forms, supporting documentation and required fees will be needed to obtain a S.C. title for your Outboard Motor.

  • Manufacturer's Statement of Origin, if purchased from titling state. (Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas or Utah)
  • Bill of Sale, signed and notarized
  • There is a Use Tax fee required when purchasing a boat or motor from an out of state dealer. You must include the dealer invoice when submitting paperwork. If no taxes have been paid to dealer you must include the 5% tax along with your registration fee. If you have paid a portion of the sales tax in another state and the total tax does not compute to 5% you must pay the additional percentage to SCDNR or one of the S.C. Department of Revenue Service Centers before submitting your paperwork to SCDNR. There is no cap on Outboard Motors purchased separately.
  • Completed and Signed Application
  • Fee of $10 for new title
  • Late Fees

What type of boat or outboard motor does not have to be registered/titled?

All watercraft are required to be registered and titled: except Documented Vessels, Wind surfers, Watercraft propelled only by human power with oars, paddles or similar devices. All outboard motors under five (5) horsepower are not required to be titled.

If I buy a boat or outboard motor from a person in South Carolina or out of state, where do I pay my casual excise tax?

Casual excise tax is charged upon the issuance of a title or proof of ownership for a boat or motor. The casual excise tax for a boat or boat and motor purchased as a package is 5% of purchase price with a maximum fee of $500.00. The casual excise tax for a motor purchased alone is 6% with no maximum.

  • Boat and Motor or Boat Only:¬† Purchase Price X .05, the maximum tax is $500
  • Motor Only:¬†Purchase Price X .06.¬† There is no maximum tax.

If you did not pay taxes out-of-state, then you submit 5% tax with the registration fee.

Tax Exempt if Purchased from Immediate Family
If you acquire the watercraft or outboard motor from immediate family, you are exempt from the excise tax. Immediate family includes:

  • parent
  • child
  • sister
  • brother
  • grandparent
  • grandchild
  • spouse.

You must complete the exempt form on the back of the Watercraft/Outboard Motor Application to be exempt.

Military persons are not exempt from Casual Excise or Use Tax on boats and Outboard Motors.



Casual Excise tax can also be paid to the S.C. Department of Revenue Tax Service Centers.

Where do I pay my use tax?

You must contact your County Tax Collector or Treasurer.

Do I have to have proof of insurance on a boat for registration?

State registration laws do not require you to show proof of insurance to register the boat in South Carolina.

Are boat trailers titled in South Carolina?

SC does not require titles on boat trailers unless they weigh 2,500 lbs empty. If you do wish to title, it should be done through the Department of Motor Vehicles call 803-737-4000.

§56-3-130. Exemption of certain boat, farm and other utility trailers.

Boat trailers under twenty-five hundred pounds, farm trailers and other utility trailers which are privately owned and not for hire need not be licensed or registered.

How does the County Auditor get my name to generate the personal property tax notice?

If your name is on SC Department of Natural Resources Titling and Registration Records as of December 31st, the County Auditor is generated a report in January, with your name, description of your boat/outboard motor. The County Auditor will assess this information and will forward you a personal property tax notice.

Example:

  • Jane Doe is on SC Department of Natural Resources Titling and Registration Records December 31, 2004.
  • January 2005, County Auditor received report from SCDNR.
  • Fall 2005 personal property tax is generated and mailed.
  • If you sell the boat/outboard in 2005, you are still responsible for the personal property tax.

What if I lose my boat/outboard motor title?

You will need to fill out the Watercraft/Outboard Motor Titling & Registration Application and enclose the appropriate fee.

If you have a lien on the title, you must have a signed notarized lien satisfaction form completed by the lien holder.

If delinquent taxes are due on my boat or outboard motor who do I contact?

You must contact your County Tax Collector or Treasurer.

Can I bring my boat to the state of South Carolina when I'm on vacation?

You can use your boat for 60 consecutive days in the state of South Carolina as long as your boat is currently registered in your state and a valid decal is on the bow of your boat. You must have your registration card on the vessel when operating it in South Carolina.

What if my boat decals are faded?

If your decals have not expired you will need to fill out the Boating Renewal, Duplicate Decals, and Registration Cards Application and enclose the appropriate fee.

What if my outboard motor decal is faded?

If your outboard motor decals have faded you will need to fill out the Boating Renewal, Duplicate Decals, and Registration Cards Application and enclose the appropriate fee.

Hull Identification Number (HIN)

All boats manufactured for sale must have a manufacturer's serial number or Hull Identification Number (HIN). It is unique to your boat.

HINs are typically engraved in the fiberglass or on a small metal plate attached to the transom. Record your HIN and put it in a place away from the boat. It can be useful if warranty problems arise or if your boat is lost or stolen.

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