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Registered Boats - How Does California Compare to Other States?

Updated: Feb 18

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2020, there were 11,838,188 registered recreational vessels nationwide.

In California, there were 645,951 registered recreational vessels.

Nationally, California ranks fourth behind Florida, Minnesota, and Michigan in terms of the total number of registered recreational vessels.

Top 10 States - Registered Recreational Vessels

However, both Minnesota and Michigan have broader registration requirements than California.

  • In California, registration is only required for all motorboats and for sailboats over 8 feet in length. Registration is not required for canoes, rowboats, paddleboats, paddleboards, sailboats, parasails, seaplanes on the water, motorless floating homes, ships' lifeboats, or sailboats shorter than eight feet long.

  • The State of Minnesota requires registration for all watercraft, except non-motorized boats 10 feet or less in length, duck boats during duck hunting season, rice boats during harvest season, and seaplanes.

  • In Michigan, registration is required for all watercraft, except for manually propelled boats 16 feet or less in length, and privately-owned non-motorized rafts, canoes, and kayaks.

It's worth noting that Minnesota has 11,842 lakes, while California has 400 lakes open for recreation.

Here is a list of the top 10 states in 2020 by the number of registered vessels.


​Registered Vessels





















California residents can register their vessel with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Nationally, the distribution of mechanically propelled recreational vessels was as follows.

​Boat Length

​Number of Boats

​Under 16 feet


​16 to less than 26 feet


​26 to less than 40 feet


​40 to 65 feet


​Over 65 feet


With the popularity of wakeboarding and wake surfing, it's not surprising that the 16 to under 26-foot range represents the highest number of boats.


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