Vessel Registration Laws in Florida

A Guide to Florida’s Requirements for Vessel Identification

Here at, we often service folks who weren’t aware of the particular rules associated with their vessel identification information. We correct these mistakes regularly and are happy to do so, however, we thought we’d share what we know so that if you plan to apply the numbers yourself, you’ll have an easy guide to follow and can avoid a service call to have them redone.

Florida Registration Numbers and Decals

In Florida, your boat, jet ski, yacht, or any other water vessel must be titled and registered. Chances are you’ve recently purchased your new watercraft and may not be aware that displayed on it prominently must be three things:

  1. The Florida registration number (you can order yours through us right now and we’ll have it to you in 48-hours)
  2. The hull identification number
  3. The registration decal

What is a Registration Number?

The registration number is part of a recordkeeping and identification system for all vessels operating on Florida waterways. Vessel registration happens via the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, where you also receive your vessel’s title. The registration system helps protect vessel owners against irresponsible actions by other vessel operators and theft.

Are All Watercraft Required to Have a Registration Number?

No! Vessels less than 16 feet in length, such as a non-powered rowboat, are exempt. Vessels that do not have a motor such as a non-powered canoe, racing shell, rowing scull, or kayak of any length are excluded. Vessels used only on private lakes and ponds are exempt. Vessels used solely as a ship’s lifeboat are exempt.  And, of course, vessels owned by the US government are exempt.


Numbering Rules

The letters and numbers (characters) have specific application conditions. The following checklist and illustration will help you stay within Florida guidelines for vessel numbering.

  • Use a plain block font for the characters
  • Character colors that contrast against the background
  • Characters must be 3 inches high or higher
  • Characters must be read from left to right
  • Characters must be permanently affixed to the vessel
  • Characters must be maintained and in legible condition
  • The prefix and suffix must be separated from the numerals by a hyphen or space equal to the width of the characters (example: FL 0930 AB or FL-0930-AB)
  • The registration number must be permanently affixed on both sides of the bow on the forward half

Validation Decal Rules

The state-issued decal indicates the year the registration certificate for the vessel is valid, much in the way car tabs indicate the year a car registration is valid. The Numbering Rules (above) must go with the Decal Rules.

  • Must be displayed on the port (left) side of the vessel
  • It must be placed directly before or after the registration number
  • Any decal from a previous year’s registration must be removed from the vessel
  • Federally documented vessels may affix the decal to a window or windshield on the port side

Hull Identification Number Rules

  • Must be permanently affixed to the outboard side of the transom; if there is no transom, then it must be affixed to the outermost starboard (right) side at the end of the hull that bears the rudder or other steering mechanism
  • Must be above the vessel waterline
  • Characters must be no less than 12 in number and no less than 0.25″ in height


We hope this information is useful.

Resource: Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles guide