NVDC Bill of Sale

How to Transfer Boat Ownership of a USCG Documented Vessel

Overview of How to Transfer boat ownership of a USCG documented vessel – [Exchanges]

Undoubtedly, boating gives some individuals joy and happiness, while others see it as a business venture. Documentation of a boat’s ownership with the Coast Guard is different from state titling. It is vital no matter what boating means to you and especially when transferring ownership of a sold boat. It can get complicated with the coast guard documented vessels if you don’t know the basics.

Here we shall be reviewing what USCG documented vessel change of ownership is about, how to transfer boat ownership of USCG documented vessel, and an easy way to find your USCG documentation number…and more.

USCG Documented Vessel Change of Ownership Transfer

Once your vessel is USCG documented, all you need to transfer the ownership is to submit a copy of the Certification of Documentation which includes the owners’ signature. Also, the copy of the certificate of documentation must be notarized. A bill of sale will be needed (see below). You will need to satisfy the mortgage before you apply for the transfer. Boat is yours at close of sale and only after that do you transfer the documentation.

Once that is done, write the name and the correct address of the new owners. You see, the process to transfer ownership of the documented vessel is easier once you know the basics.

What Does It mean when a Boat is Coast Guard Documented?

The US Coast Guard documentation of a vessel is the most preferable way of recording the ownership of a boat with the federal government compared to state DMVs. It is kind of a “federal titling“. When a boat is Coast Guard documented, it implies that a vessel is federally registered under the US Coast Guard. A vessel can only be documented by the names of the legal titleholder. This has advantages over DMV registration at the state. You can learn about Coast Guard Vessel Documentation in our other articles.

Federally Documented Vessel versus State Registered Vessel?

You may be wondering the difference between a federally documented vessel and a state-registered vessel. As the name implies, a federally documented vessel is registered by the Federal Government under the United States Coast Guard, whereas a state registered vessel is a boat registered under a State DMV or BMV or DNR.

USCG documentation is for boats that are 26 feet, boats that are more than 5 net tons, and given an official document number, whereas state registered vessels do not have the size or weight restriction.

In other differences, the federally documented vessel takes a longer time to process, between 4 months or longer and you pay a one-time fee, whereas, state registration happens faster, meaning you can get a registration card the same day, but you pay an annual renewal fee.

How do I Find my USCG Documentation number?

What is a USCG documentation number? This is the official number provided by the USCG for your vessel after the initial application for documentation. If you want to know if a vessel is documented or want to find the official number look on the vessel, the number will be preceded by abbreviation NO and usually not shown on the bow. It would be a plaque on the inside of the vessel. It is usually around the interior of the hull.

What Does It Cost to Document a Vessel?

The initial certificate of documentation is $237 USD for 5 years. The fee can vary if the vessel is commercial or recreational. Here we focus on recreational documentation fees.

Steps to Transfer Ownership of a Coast Guard Documented Vessel

Buying a boat can be an awesome experience. But dealing with documentation and other paperwork is so complicated and cumbersome. To manage a transfer exchange of USCG Documentation seamlessly, why not work with a broker and notary public? This option will not only help you to reduce stress but also fasten the process.

Below are some required forms and documents you will need to fill out to process transfer ownership of a Coast Guard documented vessel;

Make sure to this this guide to know exactly what the NVDC requirements for transfers are. Transfer form for a documented boat:

What is the CG-1258 form? Transfer Ownership of Documented Vessel

The CG-1258 form is used by the vessel owners to file initial documentation of a vessel. It is also used to transfer ownership at the initial stage. This form is the most important transfer of ownership form to be able to transfer boat title or registration (ie federal documentation).

What is CG-1340?

You can only use a USCG bill of sale form once the transfer of vessel ownership has been concluded. You will also need CG-1340 (Bill of Sale) to complete the transfer of ownership of a USCG documented vessel. Boat is yours at close of sale and only after that do you transfer the documentation.

Recall that Documentation is merely Federal titling and registration, it is not “ownership”, nor is it actual proof of ownership. Documentation is used for mortgage liens and tracking the vessel so it aids in financing. Additionally, Federal documentation conveys nationality to a vessel [i.e. “Flag”]. There are often delays in the processing of agency procedures and filings, whereas ownership transfers when the contractual terms are complete. And there are specified periods of time after a change of ownership upon which notification of ownership transfer has occurred before the new owner has to register or document the change in ownership.

So the steps are clearer now: When you buy or sell a USCG documented vessel, you will need the bill of sale (CG-1340) and notarized signed certificate of documentation (CG-1270). then you send those to the NVDC with the transfer forms (CG-1258).

What is Required to Document a Vessel Owner exchange? Transfer Ownership of Documented Vessel

The major thing that a new owner needs are to send a signed original COD and a copy of the Coast guard Bill of Sale with an application for a documentation, and the necessary fees.

  • Bill of Sale
  • COD
  • CG-1258 form
  • Pay the Fees
  • satisfaction of mortgage CG-4593
  • chain of title

How do I Check my Vessel Documentation and Transfer Status?

If you have applied to document a vessel or exchange ownership, you can check the status here by entering the boat ID Number to see the status of the work packet. On the other hand, if you need to check if a boat is documented and you are not sure, then you will need to run a search for the Hull ID number and reverse lookup with

If you want to know how the processing times and delays are these days check the NVDC timelines. Click on National Vessel Documentation Center Case Processing Times then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “NVDC Case Processing Report“.

How Do I Renew My USCG Vessel Documentation?

Remember, a certificate of Documentation (COD) is valid for a year from the point of issuance. You can file a renewal application on the official website of the National Vessel Documentation Center and can do it for 5 years now. You are expected to receive a notice of renewal within 45 days before expiration from the USCG. Renewal fees will cost you $26 per year. As of april 2021, there was a change to a five-year documentation period so it will be a time-saver. The new cost is $237 for 5 years but additional fees apply for initial documentation as well as exchanges. The Coast Guard will not issue refunds if an owner chooses to cancel documentation before its five-year expiration or if a vessel is sold during the renewal period.

The full guide for renewal is here. You just pay online and no other forms need to be submitted.

What is a CG-1270 form?

A CG-1270 is a code for the USCG Certificate of Documentation. It shows that a vessel has been duly documented with the United States Coast Guard. This certificate of documentation has 1 to 5 years expiration from the issuance date.

How do you Transfer Ownership of a Yacht?

Here we talk about how you can transfer ownership of yachts, ships, or boats. The processes are the same. The following steps are what you should take if you want to transfer ownership of your yacht, ships, or boats in the USA; The steps will be entirely different if the vessel is state registered and has a state registration number on the bow.


How long does it take to get a Coast Guard documentation transfer?

The renewal comes faster. The time it takes to get a USCG transfer may be up to two to four weeks. Approximately, a month. About 17 days to process and 4 days to reply mail. It all depends on the workloads (see link above to check the current processing times).

How much does it cost to transfer boat ownership? (federal)

For state registered boats, you have to check with the DNR. but for USCG documented recreational vessels, the exchange fee is $188 USD.

List of prices for NVDC and USCG vessel documentation applications
List of prices for NVDC and USCG documentation applications

Transfer ownership of documented vessel when owner dies

Once the inheritance is involved and there is a deceased person’s boat to transfer /exchange: If they were a sole owner, the NVDC will require a certified copy of a court order such as a Letter of Testamentary appointing an Executor/Executrix or a Letter of Administration appointing a Personal Representative over the estate. That person (Executor/Executrix/Personal Representative) would then execute a notarized sale or transfer of vessel (CG-1270) or a notarized Bill of Sale (CG-1340).  Then, the new owner(s) would submit an Application for “Initial Issue, Exchange, or Replacement of Certificate of Documentation; Re-documentation” (CG-1258), with the required fees. Additionally, they would include a copy of the aforementioned CG-1270 or CG-1340, with the required fees and the new owner(s) should also include the certified copy of the court order when submitting their application packet.

You can find forms and general guidelines for exchange or return to documentation at the following link. Fees can be found at the following link.


The key takeaway is that you have to submit some forms to initiate the transfer but only after the sale is complete and you have the bill of sale. On a final note, a lot has been said concerning how to do the exchange of documentation of the USCG documented vessel. You have also seen, the rigorous processes involved.

Remember that you can order the Boat Abstract of Title at any time to make sure that the vessel exchanged owners.

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