New Mexico Legal Requirements for Vessel Registration

After buying a vessel, there are legal requirements to be met depending on it's length or it's type and size before the vessel can be operated on New Mexico waters.  Failure to have a boat properly titled and /or registered including carrying the registration card and displaying the registration number and validation decal can result in law enforcement or refusal to be allowed on the water.

When purchasing a new or used boat from a dealer, the dealer is responsible for collecting the excise tax from you and generally can arrange a vessel safety inspection, and title, register your boat for you. Most charge a small fee for this service. 

When purchasing a boat from a private individual or from out of state, you are responsible for reporting the vessel actual sale price for paying the Excise Tax (evasion of the tax by under-reporting the sale price and falsifying bills of sale and registration records does subject one to criminal prosecution in New Mexico) and for Titling and Registering your Boat.  It's a good idea to make your purchase only after having confirmed the Hull Identification Number and Engine Serial Number does not show up on any stolen vessel lists with your local law enforcement agency.

  • Pay attention to getting legal requirements done promptly. Excise Tax penalties of 50% of the tax due are assessed if application for title is not made within 30 days of the sale. Also make sure the boat trailer is priced separately on the Bill of Sale otherwise you will pay Excise Tax on the entire sale.  
  • Other vessel legal requirements include the need to know the New Mexico Boating Laws (Statutes) and Operation and Safety Rules (Regulations) including Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and Boating While Intoxicated (BWI), and to meet the Mandatory Equipment Requirements. (See links to the right side of this page)
  • The easiest way to get help in interpreting both the Laws and Regulations is to take a New Mexico approved Boater Safety Course.
  • Operators in New Mexico as in many other states do not have to have a New Mexico boating "license" in order to complete their vessel registration. However, on January 1, 2007, a mandatory boater education law went into effect which has a Boater Education Card Requirement for many new operators. It requires any operator born on or after January 1, 1989 to show a Boater Education Card from a New Mexico approved boating education course or to have successfully completed a New Mexico approved boating proficiency exam when operating on New Mexico waters. (Boater Education Card FAQ's)

Exceptions for Documented or Out of State Vessels

  • Your vessel may be exempted from a number of requirements if it displaces more than 5 tons of water (generally over 26' in length) and is Documented by the U.S. Coast Guard. Documented vessels for example, are not titled. By Coast Guard regulations, any commercial use boat over five (5) tons must be Documented. (Many owners of larger, more expensive non-commercial use recreational use only boats elect to Document their boat because this gives ownership and lien recording that is not available in the state's registration program.)
  • Another exception is if you bring in your vessel coming from another state with the vessel's current registration and numbers and you limit your stay with your boat in New Mexico for no more than 90 consecutive days (90 day reciprocity) then you don't have to re-register your vessel. Note: this reciprocity varies from state to state.
  • Documented vessels are only required to be registered in some states, (not applicable in New Mexico) but not titled. An Abstract of Title is held by the U.S. Coast Guard in lieu of a state title. Once a vessel loses it's Documentation, usually by missing the refiling deadline, a state title must be applied for within 30 days.

Titling Your Vessel

The Title is your legal document of ownership. It specifically identifies the hull of a specific vessel. The Title allows for the sale of the vessel by the holder of the Title. It is also the legal document leined by a bank or other lending agency when you are purchasing a vessel on installment (borrowed money).

  • Cost of a New Mexico issued Title is $10.00 in 2009.

Titling of Motorboats or Sailboats.

Every owner of a motorboat or sailboat 10 feet in length or longer is required to have their boat titled. MVD may require motorboats, sailboats, PWC's or anything else that has a motor on the water and floats to be titled as a requirement of the registration process. A state title must be applied for within 30 days of a purchase or once a vessel loses it's Federal Documentation.

Titling of Canoes, Rowboats, Dories, Rafts, Kayaks or other Paddlecraft.

It is recommended that every vessel get a title such as canoes, rowboats, rafts and other paddlecraft. It makes it easier for you to show or transfer ownership or make an insurance claim. It is however for these vessels only an option, it is not required by law as long as they do not have a motor. Once a vessel like a canoe, rowboat, or other paddlecraft is accessorized with an electric trolling motor or a sail, it must be both titled and registered. Remember, in case of a theft, a vessel that has never been titled is so much easier to steal. Last, if you take your paddlecraft to use in another state it may be required to have title, numbers, and a current registration in order to be allowed on that state's waters.

Titling of Float Tubes in New Mexico.

These devices propelled by a set of flippers are not registered.However, just like any other canoe, rowboat or other paddlecraft, they are on the water and as a type of raft device there is the requirement that lifejackets must be worn at all times on all bodies of water statewide and other required equipment must be followed. 

Titling and Excise Tax is handled through the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department.  Call your local office and make sure a person who can handle boat titling and registrations will be there. Some are there only on certain dates and hours.

Registration of Your Vessel in New Mexico

The registering of your vessel is the legal process by which you obtain entry into the states vessel identification system and legal use of the vessel on the waters of this state and elsewhere. No unregistered vessel that is required to have registration may be operated on any of the waters of the state.

Registration is required for.....

  • Every vessel propelled by machinery, whether or not machinery is the principal source of propulsion (as in a sailboat). Motorboats powered by any source including Personal Watercraft must be registered. Sailboards and windsurf boards are exempt as are any Documented boats. 
  • Every owner of a motorboat or sailboat 10 feet long or longer must make sure ...... Their boat is Titled, Registered, Properly Numbered and the Boat Excise Tax paid.

Registration of rafts, kayaks, canoes or other paddlecraft

  • If you have a raft or kayak or canoe or other paddlecraft they are exempt from titling and or registration except if motorized or with a sail.  Once any sail or motor is placed on it, (whether electric or fuel powered), then the over 10' raft, kayak or canoe or other paddlecraft must be both titled, and registered. If the craft is under 10' then only numbering (registration) is required.
  • Paddlecraft are required in other states to be titled, registered and properly numbered but it is available as an option here in New Mexico as a convenience for those that anticipate traveling to those states and don't want to be stopped by the boating law enforcement officers in those states. Alaska, Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania currently require canoe and kayak owners to register or pay special taxes on their boats. Connecticut, Oregon, Washington, Maine, and Montana were all considering new registration requirements.
  • If you have a trailer for your paddlecraft, a trailer registration is required.

New Mexico Three Year Vessel Registration Fee by Class (2009)

Registration Fees


Motorboat Length

Three-Year Fee


Less Than 16 Feet



16 ft. to less than 26 ft.



26 ft. to less than 40 ft.



40 ft. to less than 65 ft.


65 ft. and over


Duplicate Registration



  • Registration fees are for each three-year period and are the same for a first time and for all renewals.  The fees are based on the length of the boat.
  • You also have to register and title your boat trailer.

Certificate of Number: This document is the same as the registration documentis similar for a car. The card is known on a boat as the "Certificate of Number."

This card contains the name of owner of the vessel, the year through which the registration is good through, the vessel HIN (Hull Identification/serial number), and the New Mexico Vessel Registration number "Boat Number". 

The original card is required to be carried on board your vessel at any time the vessel is operating on any of the waters in the State of New Mexico. 

Keep a copy in your towing vehicle and one at home.

Numbering Your Vessel

Your boat "Number" is the "License Plate" for a boat.  It stays with your vessel unless it is sold or transferred out of the State for more than 90 days.

  • Your Boat "Number", is the boat's assigned permanent state number found on the "Certificate of Number", the card of New Mexico registration.  The "Boat Number" from the card is placed on the vessel in a certain manner to meet legal requirements for type, size and spacing (see link ) for proper installation of your number on your boat.  Just like showing a license plate at all times when operating a vehicle, the law requires that this card be on board whenever the vessel is operated.
  • For vessels registered in New Mexico, the first two letters of the boat number are always NM followed by a letter/number combination.  NM-1000-AA. The numbers are sequentially assigned by the computer.  These numbers are assigned to the vessel when it is registered by the DMV but they do not issue any formal plate or set of numbers to apply on your vessel. 
  • The only exception to the numbering display is with vessels that are already USCG Documented. Those vessels display a Vessel Name and Port of Call on the stern of the vessel.  Furthermore they are required to carve into or somehow permanently scribe at a certain height, the Documentation number on a structural portion of the hull.  For this reason some persons will refuse to Document their vessel.

  • The permanent number may be reassigned if the owner does not reregister within a number of years or otherwise there is indication that the boat is now permanently transferred to another state or has been destroyed.
  • The registration must be renewed every three years by December 31st.   No refund is given for a partial year use so it is most cost effective to re-register just after the New Year. 

  • It is the responsibility of the owner to paint numbers on the vessel or use permanently applied stick-on numbers/letters on both sides of the vessel.  This number always remains with the boat and may not be transferred to another boat.  Unlike vehicle registration, the state cannot issue special request or "vanity" numbers.
    • Registration Validation Decal:  This is the same as the "Year tab" for a vehicle license plate and expires at the end of the year shown on your decal.  With Boat Registration, validation decal(s) are issued. in New Mexico, only one decal   is issued. The decal is affixed 6" to the right of the Boat Number on the Port (left) side only. The Validation Decal is approximately 3 inches square.  There are different colors for each year.  2007 is green, 2008 is orange, and 2009 is blue.  Remove any expired validation decals, only a current decal is legal to be shown.

Hull Identification Number (HIN):  This is the same as the VIN or Vehicle Identification Number for a vehicle.  It contains, among other identifiers, the serial number of the hull.  All boats are required to have a HIN.  The HIN is usually placed on the outside, right side of the transom of the boat, by the manufacturer.  It the boat does not have a HIN due to the vessel being homebuilt, DMV may assign a HIN.

Excise Taxes for Your Vessel

An Excise Tax is a form of "Use Tax" used by government to fund or support boating activity. It is used to protect people from harming themselves and others indirectly, from harming the environment from their activities, and to provide monies needed for extra public expenditures need as a direct or indirect result of the activity.

  • An excise tax is imposed on the sale of every boat required to be registered in New Mexico unless if through an out of state transaction, a similar tax was already imposed, then a credit may be made against the amount that is normally fixed for a New Mexico in state sale. The New Mexico Boat Excise tax is paid to the state treasurer for the boating special fund  (aka "boat suspense fund.") each month the Division receives fifty percent of the excise tax collections and fifty percent is transferred to the state general fund. 
  • They are not required on ........ Boats that are less than 10 feet long, boats not powered by either a motor or sail, or boats that are titled and registered from another state or country (unless operated on State of New Mexico waters for more than 90 consecutive days). Also exempt are boats that have a valid Federal Documentation from the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • The excise tax is 5 % on the sale of the boat.  Excise Tax penalties of 50% of the tax due are assessed if application for title is not complete within 30 days.
  • Some other conditions may apply so see 66-12-6.1 found in the Boating Act Statutes to the right of this screen.

About Vessel Trailer Registration

Titling of Boat Trailers:

    • Must be titled within 30 days of purchase. If within the 30 days, it will cost $5.00 plus 3% of the purchase price of the trailer. If thirty days have past, there is a $20 late fee added to the $5.00 and 3%. If 90 days have pasted, the 3% changes to 4.5% of the purchase price.

Registering Boat Trailers:

    • Depends on weight of trailer, usually around $20.00, a trailer for a pontoon may be more because of the size of the trailer. The actual cost cannot be determined until the weight of the trailer is entered in the Motor Vehicle Division's system and it is figured out.

Leyes de Navegacion en Nuevo Mexico

  • Nuevo Mexico tiene un programa de seguridad de embarcaciones.  A partir del 1 de enero de 2007, todas las personas nacidas despues del 1 de enero de 1989 deben completar un curso de educacion nautica aprobado o un examen supervisado antes que puedan operar un barco a motor legalmente. Un barco a motor son barco de vela, barco con motor y barco con moto acuatica personal (PWC).
  • Los operadores estan exonerados de este requisito si:
    • Poseen una licencia valida emitida por la Guardia Costera de los E.E.U.U.
    • Alquilan el barco a motor por 30 dias o menos y han recibo instruccion sobre la operacion segura de embarcaciones y un resumen de las leyes nauticas de lo compania de alquiler.
  • Todas las personal deben tener al menos 13 de edad para operar un velero, barco a motor o moto acuatica personal (PWC) salvo que tengan la superviaon directa y bordo de un adulto. Los menores de 13 de edad deben tener su tarjeta de education nautica a bordo, incluso cuando operen bajo supervision directa.
  • El Estado Nuevo Mexico tiene dos Guias para obtener informacion sobre curso.  Primero guia es Navegando America y segundo es Navegando New Mexico. Si gustas guias por favor manderos un correo electronico. Navegano America y Navegano New Mexico Acqui. 
Para obtener informacion sobre dias y locacion y para obtener examen Acqui.
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