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Discussion Starter #1
I can't find much info on the legal angels of buying a boat, everything is about making sure the boat is sound, rigging , decks etc. If I want to buy an old boat , a 40 foot sail boat say what kind of paper work needs to be done? Would it have a title like a car for instance?
 

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Depends on where you live or where boat is documented
Generally the broker handles or arranges this for you. Most places you end up with
A bill of sale
Federal documentation (40’ boat with a head, galley and berths justifies) I.e. it’s home port
State numbers (usually state listed in documentation but some states don’t require numbers depending on use. We’re out of the country more than in it so some years don’t renew state numbers.
Depending on where You keep it (usually for more than 90d) proof you paid taxes in that jurisdiction.
Many people either document in a state with no or minimal taxes ( Rhode Island) or use a different country with no or minimal taxes (Caymans).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Most likely in southern California it would be an old boat probably a couple grand. I want something I can redo the way I want.
 

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Then depends how cheap you want to go.
If you’re never going to leave the country (go to Mexico for instance) you can skip fed documentation but still will need state numbers and pay state taxes.
From experience years ago some insurance companies will give you a break if you’re documented as it makes it easy to track if stolen. Don’t know if that’s still true.
 

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Check the state DMV. Some states issue boat titles, some do not. Larger boats may be USCG documented, and that documentation acts as a title. And some states require registration even if the boat is documented. That's so they get your sales tax.
 

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Most likely in southern California it would be an old boat probably a couple grand. I want something I can redo the way I want.
If the boat is documented by the USCG, it doesn't have to be registered with the state too (although there may be other fees the state requires anyway). The main advantages to documenting a boat with the USCG are: it may be cheaper than paying state registration fees, and second, you may get an insurance break.

Without having the specifics of your boat, you can't say whether USCG documentation is a good idea. However, for a boat that is going to cost only about $2000, I doubt USCG is a good idea.

The state registration fees that I am familiar with charge based on length. So it may be that documentation is cheaper than registration, but you won't know until you know how the state charges for registration. That being said, a boat that only costs $2000 isn't likely to be a high value registration. Likewise, I doubt that your insurance costs will be high enough to justify any level of "discount".

As for how to deal with the registration paperwork, you will be on your own there, as there likely won't be a broker involved either as it will be difficult (impossible) to find one who deals with boats in that price range. Try Sailboatlistings dot com, ebay and Craig's List. Check with the DMV and make sure you know your state's rules on what you will need to register the boat in California and that the seller has the requisite paperwork.
 

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Check on the state you are in as the legal requirements are all over the map. If your marina requires insurance that will also change things.

No need to Coast Guard document unless traveling abroad.
 

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Can't really give answers about bureaucratic dealings and pitfalls without you giving some fairly specific information about the situation and the bureaucracy to be dealt with.
Specifically where you buy the vessel matters, where YOU PERSONALLY live and are eligible to title/register a vessel matters, registration and other compliance policies of the place you intend to title/register matter etc.
California is a title & registration state and like many states residency matters : https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/brochures/howto/htvr20
Vessel Fees (CVC §§9851, 9852.7, 9853, 9853.5, 9855, 9860–9863, CHNC §675)
Vessel/Quagga Quagga Exempt
Original (except nonresident)*
—Sold in even year $37 $29
—Sold in odd year $65 $49
Penalty
—Sold in even year $10 $10
—Sold in odd year $25 $25

Nonresident*
—Sold or due in even year $65 $57
—Sold or due in odd year $93 $77
Penalty
—Sold or due in even year $24 $24
—Sold or due in odd year $39 $39

Renewal
Biennial renewal (due in odd years) $36 $20
Penalty $10 $10

Transfer (except between dealers) $15 $15
Penalty $8 $8

Duplicate (title or registration) $15 $15

Repossession $15 $15

*Includes fees for original or nonresident vessel, renewal, alternative fuel/technology, and Quagga Mussel, if due.


I've heard (yay hearsay!) that the DMV "statement of facts" form section "C" acts the same as the old certificate of non-operation if the boat is Cal. registered and the tags have not been kept up to date on a stored boat, : https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/35dae237-eb4b-4bed-a82a-b4c652c2ef8a/reg256.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=
and have also heard that the penalties mount up to much more than the fee schedule indicates in many cases so buyer beware about expired registration boats there if applicable, if there is the slightest question about anything not being absolutely ricky tick in a Ca. transaction seek more info about your specific situation from the DMV to not be blindsided by costs and other hurdles. As a single example of this if the PO has moved the boat from one storage location to another without notifying the state YOU can have a bad time in the titling and registration process. Quote from the DMV:

"You must notify DMV when a vessel is:

Sold.
Moved to a different storage location.
Documented through the U.S. Coast Guard.
Destroyed, lost, or abandoned (in any manner). Return the certificate of number and the California Certificate of Ownership to DMV within 15 days."

On the other hand right next door Arizona is a low bureaucratic horse puckey registration only state so if you can provide proof of AZ. residency you register it with fish & game there for about nothing in costs & hassles, just state if it will be used primarily in Mexico or the state of Arizona and get it sailed out of California before your 30 or 60 or however many days have passed before California requires a vessel or vehicle located in their state to be titled & registered in their state.
 

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Boats in California are either Documented or registered with DMV, one or the other illegal/impossible to be both.
If registered you take pink slip to DMV and they collect 1% "use tax" and registration fees.
If documented you apply for ownership change to Coast Guard and pay 1% "use tax" to Franchise Tax Board, you are responsible to pay tax to them, if you don't they will find you and charge interest and penalties.
If you buy it in California you WILL pay "use tax" (sales tax) on it.
 

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Boats in California are either Documented or registered with DMV, one or the other illegal/impossible to be both.
If registered you take pink slip to DMV and they collect 1% "use tax" and registration fees.
If documented you apply for ownership change to Coast Guard and pay 1% "use tax" to Franchise Tax Board, you are responsible to pay tax to them, if you don't they will find you and charge interest and penalties.
If you buy it in California you WILL pay "use tax" (sales tax) on it.
what is the 1% use tax thing you speak of?
In California you will pay a one time use tax based on the owners location in the state, the amount is the same as the sale tax rate for you address. you will also pay county property tax every year of 1% of the value of the boat to the county that the boat is store in.
 

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Most likely in southern California it would be an old boat probably a couple grand. I want something I can redo the way I want.
there are no 40 foot $2k boats in California. In Southern California is very hard to find slips for a 40 foot boat and if you find one it will be in the $750 a month range. there is very little dry storage and if you can find one to work on you boat it will be in $750 month range most marinas have a wait list to get a slip and for a 40 footer is can be 5 years. on top of all that most marinas do not let you work on your boat in the slip, some allow light maintenance but no sanding and painting in the slip.
 

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what is the 1% use tax thing you speak of?
In California you will pay a one time use tax based on the owners location in the state, the amount is the same as the sale tax rate for you address. you will also pay county property tax every year of 1% of the value of the boat to the county that the boat is store in.
Correct, brain fart on my part, same as county sales tax rate, close to 10% most places.
 

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Something beyond registration that may help you decide on which boat to buy.
It is almost impossible to get insurance on an old wooden boat these days. Without insurance you will probably not get a slip in a marina and most boat yards won't haul your boat. Maybe, though I only suspect it in Cal, you won't be able to get a mooring either.
 
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Mighty Helpful if the OP will update his bio here so we know where he lives or intends to sail.

I gather he's not in Oregon.... no sales taxes and boat registration fee is low. I pay under $500. a quarter to moor at a modern marina.

Never gonna be a cheap hobby, but the cost does vary greatly by geography.
 

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As you are hearing...the purchase price of an older boat is the smallest of your costs. You may already have known that before you bought. I did. I bought an older sailboat for not a lot of $, knowing that $ are going up moving forward...the trick is estimating the value to you vs the anticipated cost and hoping for the best. Is that really SO bad? For me it was the difference that allowed me to be aboard my own "running well" 30' sailboat for 2 yrs now. I also have the "luxury" of older Classic wood interior that belies the price.
I don't know about So. Cal..but here in the Upper/Middle Chesapeake, within spitting distance of Annapolis, my marina fees are the same cost as the cigarettes that I quit to pay for it. $3000/yr.
Best of luck to you and don't give up the dream..it's worth it.
Pat
 

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CT requires you to register a documented boat—obviously as a means to collect sales tax and annual registration fees. Here in CT you do not display your state registration, but you need to display the annual decal that indicates you paid your registration fee for the year.
 

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CT requires you to register a documented boat—obviously as a means to collect sales tax and annual registration fees. Here in CT you do not display your state registration, but you need to display the annual decal that indicates you paid your registration fee for the year.
Same in NY.
 

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Whole lots of Massachusetts and Connecticut residents keep their boats in Rhode Island. Rhode Island gets more tax revenue from marina, marina workers, and associated businesses than they would from taxing the boats. Also supplies skilled, well paying jobs from the marine industry. Then there’s all the bar bills, restaurant, fuel and groceries the boating crowd uses adding to state revenue and number of jobs. Rhode Island got this right. Massachusetts killed the vibrant marine industry, included boat manufacturing, that once was here.
 
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