Before I get into this short guide which gives you some options on how to register a Jon boat with no title, let me give you a quick word of warning.
If you are in the market for buying a used Jon boat, be really cautious about buying one second hand that doesn’t come with a title, HIN, or VIN. If you do buy it, you could end up in a real mess that costs you more than that actual used boat cost.
There have been reported cases where people have bought Jon boats with no title, and never been able to resolve the situation.
However, it’s not to say it’s impossible.
To develop the guide below, I researched as many cases online that I found where people had attempted to register an old Jon boat with no title, HIN, or VIN.
I’ve compiled all these notes into a set of questions about how to register a Jon boat without a VIN number or title, with real-world examples where people were able to do it. I hope it helps!
Tips for registering a Jon boat with no title
One of the first examples I found online when looking into this problem was a guy in Florida who wanted to know how to register a 14-foot Jon boat without a VIN or title in Florida.
He said it had been sitting around doing nothing for a couple of decades and whilst there was no motor or trailer with it, he did plan to have an outboard so wanted to be completely legal and above board.
Here are some of the tips that he received back on how to register his Jon boat without a VIN number or title.
#1: Talk to your local tax office
Get in touch with your local tax agency, telling them everything you know about the boat, including the spec, size, and where you got it from.
They will be able to walk you through the process of getting the boat registered.
#2: Talk to your local DMV
If you can find the HIN on the boat (read my instructions further down this page) then take that number to your local DMV. What they can do is query their database of records to find out if there is any information available on the boat’s history, previous owners, and titles.
If the DMV are unable to track down any historical information, they will usually tell you what agency you need to contact next.
For example, let’s say that you were able to find the HIN and gave that to the DMV or tax agency, they will then contact the registered title holder.
The letter will tell the previous title holder that a new person now wants to register the Jon boat. It’s then up to them whether they sign and return that letter.
Now, if the Jon boat has been stolen, and you’ve bought it used, this is where things could get complicated, as the owner will be notified that it’s now you who has their boat in your possession.
Another aspect that could happen here is that the Jon boat has had multiple owners historically, some of whom might not have registered it at all.
As the tax collectors will be writing to the last known registered owner, they might not even be the most recent actual owner.
You can see why things can get quite messy here, and why in some cases, Jon boat owners have been unable to get a title for their newly acquired purchase on the used market.
#3: Get a bill of sale if buying from the previous owner
If you are buying the boat, rather than it simply being handed down to you, always, always, get a bill of sale from the person you buy it from.
Both of you need to sign it; seller and buyer.
By doing so it will help with getting the Jon boat titled and registered properly.
If you don’t know the HIN, and don’t have a bill of sale, this is where you can really come into problems – it might not even be worth trying to get the Jon boat registered. I’ve spoken to people who believe it’s cheaper in the long run to just buy a different boat which has all the correct documentation.
Please note: the advice above is specific to how to register a Jon boat with no title in Florida, but the process will be similar in other states so please do your own research. The next examples are taken from people who were trying to register without a VIN in Arkansas, Indiana (IN), Wisconsin (WI), and Canada.
Laws will differ from state to state
Make sure that you know the law in your state when buying a boat. It is your responsibility as the buyer to know your local regulations, don’t just take the word of the person selling it to you – contact your local state DNR office.
This is particularly important if you are going to be buying a boat in one state and transporting it across state lines. Know what the rules are in both states about registering boats with no titles.
How to register a Jon boat with no title in Arkansas
The process of registering a Jon boat in Arkansas is probably one of the most complex examples I found online. It goes something like this:
- You need the bill of sale, or the registration document from the last 12 months.
- You need proof of insurance.
- Your boat will have to be assessed for personal property tax.
- You will need to provide evidence that you have paid personal property taxes.
It might be similar in your own state, but certainly looks more in-depth when compared to registering a Jon boat without a title or VIN in Florida.
If you do have the Jon boat’s title, in most cases, turn it over and on the back you will find the bill of sale on it, which has entry marks for the past owner to sign over details to you.
This is to show it hasn’t been stolen, and includes how much the boat was sold for, the previous owner’s signature, and a date.
If you don’t have the title, at the very least try to make sure that you have your own version of a bill of sale. This should take the following format:
“I (current owner prints their name) hereby grant ownership to this (year, brand, model, and VIN number of the vehicle) to (buyer of the vehicle) for the price of ($$$). (current owners’ signature) (buyer’s signature)”
This approach can work when taking this document into your local DMV. That are known to accept this type of evidence when issuing new titles.
One last thing, in Arkansas you don’t need to register a boat if it doesn’t have a motor on it. This doesn’t include trolling motors, so if you have bought a Jon boat with no title, you don’t have to register it if you are only going to be trolling-powered.
Registering a Jon boat with no title in Canada
I found one example in Canada where a guy bought a 1965 Jon boat from a trustworthy enough seller, but the seller was unable to locate the title papers.
The new owner was able to register the Jon boat in his own name using the registration numbers that were still visible on the boat.
This was in Ontario, in Canada.
He was also advised by the local authorities to keep the bill of sale and registration papers inside of his Jon boat to avoid any possible problems in the future.
How to register a Jon boat with no title in Indiana
Indiana is completely different when it comes to registering a Jon boat with no title or VIN/HIN. Instead, their states law say that you don’t need to title the boat if it cost you less than $3,000 dollars.
Given that Jon boat registration issues and lack of titles only occur when buying in the used market, this should mean that an Indiana purchase will probably be less than that in most cases, so no title will be required.
How to register a Jon boat with no title in Wisconsin
If you want to register a Jon boat in WI, and can’t track down the title or documentation, it could be even easier.
In Wisconsin, any boat under 16 foot in length doesn’t require a title, just a registration card. Anything larger than that will need a card and title.
Whilst doing my research, I also came across some commonly asked questions relating to registering a Jon boat with no title. Here are those questions with some short answers.
Where is the HIN on a Jon boat?
The Hull Identification Number (HIN) will be located in the upper starboard (right) area of the transom. It will be embossed, engraved, or stamped on.
It’s simple enough to identify an HIN. The first 3 letters will be a short code of the manufacturer, which will tell what company built the boat.
If you can’t see the HIN on there, perhaps it was removed, then the state that the Jon boat was last registered in will have it on record.
If you can find the HIN number on the Jon boat, it will make the process of registering and titling much easier. Take the HIN to your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
If the local DMV can’t help you, then can usually put you in touch with an agency who can.
What if you can’t find the HIN on your Jon boat?
If you can’t find the HIN, or track down a bill of sale, it will make the process of registering the Jon boat very tricky. But not impossible.
However, it might even end up costing you more to get it registered and titled than it did to buy the old boat.
Jon boats from before 1972 won’t have an HIN
If the Jon boat pre-dates 1972, then it won’t have a HIN on it anyway.
In a case like this I would advise you contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or similar agency in your area. They might then be able to issue an HIN for the old Jon boat.
I read an example just like this on a boating forum where a guy was fixing up his grandfather’s old Jon boat that had been sat in the yard for decades.
He could see no HIN on the boat at all, the reason being it was built before 1972, so it wouldn’t have had an HIN in those days – I don’t believe they started up until 1973.
He needed to get the Jon boat titled and registered but could find no evidence of any HIN or serial number at all.
What he ended up doing was downloading a Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles 82040 form, and then getting a notary confirming that the Jon boat had no HIN.
He took that documentation to a tax collector’s office and then were able to issue him with an HIN.
Is it worth buying a Jon boat with no title?
This is the killer question.
A friend of mine bought a Jon boat with no title and he told me that it simply wasn’t worth the hassle. He needed to find paperwork that he simply couldn’t get hold of.
He ended up binning the boat off and buying another cheap used model that had all the correct paperwork, just to save himself on the hassle and costs of trying to get the previous one registered.
The last word…
So, there you have it, some notes on how you might be able to get your Jon boat registered in a few different states.
To be honest, if you are buying something really cheap off Craigslist or similar, I would walk away if you can’t get the correct paperwork.
Not only could it be a sign that the boat is stolen, but the sheer hassles you might come across trying to get it registered with no title could be outweighed by simply choosing a different boat which ticks all the paperwork and ownership boxes.
You can buy one second hand with a title for just a few hundred dollars.