Boat Bill of Sale

Traditionally, a boat bill of sale is a legal contract that records a boat’s ownership change. Most jurisdictions require a boat bill of sale when registering a boat after purchase, whether it is motorized or non-motorized.

What is a Bill of Sale for a Boat

A boat bill of sale (also known as a watercraft bill of sale or vessel bill of sale) is completed by both the Buyer and Seller involved in a boat sale. The document will include information about both parties, a description of the vessel, and the purchase price. 

What to Include in a Boat Bill of Sale

The boat bill of sale template should include the following information:

  • Buyer’s name, address, and contact information;
  • Seller’s name, address, and contact information;
  • Boat details – model, year of manufacture, length, Hull Identification Number (HIN);
  • The registration number issued by the state.

When a trailer is sold with the boat, its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is also listed separately. The agreement should list an outboard motor, trailer, and boat separately and any accessories or equipment sold with the vehicle.

Boat purchase agreements protect both Buyers and Sellers and prevent misunderstandings between them.

How to Write a Boat Bill of Sale

Step 1: Date and Location

  • Document the date boat ownership passes from the Seller to the Buyer on the boat sale agreement template. 
  • A record of the County and State where the transfer of ownership of the boat occurs must be provided. 

Step 2: Identify the Parties

  • Name of the Buyer. Identify the Buyer who will acquire control and ownership of the vessel. The name produced here should match the name on the driver’s or boat license.
  • Buyer’s address. The address must be the same as where they receive their mail.
  • Name of Seller. Boat dealerships or owners should be named the second party to the agreement. When calling the Seller, include the appropriate suffix necessary to identify the boat dealership if this is a corporation or partnership.
  • Address of the Seller. The document should have the address where the Seller will get any paper mail regarding this transaction.

Step 3: Initial Payment and Trade-In

  • Buyers and Sellers may agree to pay with cash, a certified check, a wire transfer, or any other legal tender. Most Sellers require Buyers to submit a payment before they can take ownership of a boat. To complete this section, you must also mark the first checkbox and document the asking price.
  • Trade-In. As part of the payment for ownership of the Seller’s boat, the Buyer must provide documentation of the make, year, title number, hull ID number, and odometer number in hours. If the Seller accepts trades, specify the trade-in and the dollar amount the Buyer must submit with the boat. 

Step 4: Boat and Accessories Description

  • Boat make, year, and title number should all be included in the boat sale contract. The Seller must identify a boat to the Buyer. Reviewing the vessel’s title and visual inspection can reveal this information.
  • Boat hull ID number and odometer: Include the hull ID number and odometer hours to identify the boat fully. Most vessels display their HINs and odometers near the transom.
  • Trailer make and year, if applicable. Indicate if a trailer will be included in the sale.
  • Trailer basic information: Document the trailer’s make and the year it was manufactured. The trailer vehicle identification and license plate numbers are displayed on the trailer.
  • Motor: You do not need a separate bill of sale for the boat motor. If an engine is on the boat, record the make, year, horsepower, and serial number.

    A capacity plate must be displayed on every (motorized) boat less than twenty feet. For the horsepower calculation, multiply the boat’s length by the width of its transom to obtain the boat’s factor, which must be compared with Federal Regulations Table 183.53. The structure and design of some vessels can cause confusion in determining an accurate figure, so we strongly recommend consulting a qualified professional (i.e., a broker or boat mechanic) if this information is not readily available on the vessel.

Step 5: Cost

A price and payment method must be agreed on before the sale can be completed. By deducting the applicable taxes from the selling price, you can split or cover the buyer’s sales tax when registering their new boat.

If additional components are involved in the sale, enter each item’s price separately, ensuring that the total adds up to the purchase price. For example, you would include the base boat price, the outboard motor price, and the trailer price separately, then a total.

Step 6: Signatures and Authorization

This is the final stage of the document and should include the following:

  • Signatures and printed names of the Buyer and Seller;
  • Date of the deal;
  • Notary Acknowledgment.

Notarize the signatures of the Seller and Buyer. When registering, obtaining/terminating insurance policies, or conducting the signature process, this procedure helps verify the identity of the Buyer and Seller.


The bottom line is to be as descriptive as possible on your purchase agreement when selling your boat. Keep it simple and accurate, especially if you are selling your boat as is. 

Warranty documentation, maintenance records, and any other courtesy paperwork should also be handed over to the new owner at the time of sale.

You should cancel your insurance as soon as the deal is final. Even if you cancel a few days later, some companies allow you to date it back to the sale. Be sure to cancel any online or periodical ads you might be running.

Boat sales can be completed with a bit of planning and organization. It’s the last step before the final pickup of your boat.


How do I write a receipt for a used boat?

  1. Identify the boat Seller and Buyer on the bill of sale for a vessel;
  2. Describe the purchased boat;
  3. Report what the boat Buyer paid for;
  4. Document the boat sale’s payment.

What is proof of purchase for a boat?

An item is transferred from Seller to Buyer with the help of a bill of sale form for a boat. Similar to a store receipt, but with much more legal authority. Typically, they are used to purchase large items like cars, industrial equipment, appliances, and boats.

Do I have to report the sale of my boat to the IRS?

The IRS is generally not interested in transactions in which you sell a vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, boat, or other vehicles for personal use) at a loss. However, profits from the sale of the boat should be reported as capital gains.

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