Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan
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I've bought and registered boats in Illinois and Michigan.
Both states handled the registration and title through the Secretary of State(I think some states call this office the DMV), same as car registration.
For boat registration, the procedure was pretty much the same but much more expensive in Michigan. Illinois was only $28 for 3 years on a 22ft sailboat. The same boat in Michigan cost $115. One issue I ran into was that Illinois did not have titles for trailers and Michigan required one. The work-around was to call it a homemade trailer and get it weighed at a truck stop while the boat was in the water.
When you buy a boat, you should get paperwork with signatures from the seller that you'll take to the Secretary of State office. They'll assign you a number, give you a registration and submit the paperwork for the title which will be mailed to you in a few weeks. They have always kept the same number for boats I have bought. I think they keep it reserved for a year or so, even if it expired so don't pull the old numbers off the boat, like I did once, only to have to re-apply the same numbers.
I would guess the State of Washington handles things in a similar manner.
Those grand fresh-water seas of ours - Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and Superior, and Michigan, - possess an ocean-like expansiveness...They contain round archipelagoes of romantic isles...they have heard the fleet thunderings of naval victories...they know what shipwrecks are, for out of sight of land, however inland, they have drowned full many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew. --from Moby Dick