Okay, you bought it. Now, what do you do?
Whether the boat is new or used, make sure your insurance is in force before you accept legal responsibility for the boat. If you're not financing with the boat seller, this is especially important since the seller has no legal responsibility for the boat at the moment of sale.
If you're buying from a registered boat dealer, the dealer may handle all registration issues with your state. Ask them specifically what registration items they do not handle.
Each state has different laws and requirements for various things about boats including age of operator, required safety equipment and trailer restrictions. In addition, the federal government has a minimum set of safety requirements for boats.
The following site provides U. S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resources
Your boat trailer will need registering before you can use the trailer. Ask the seller if they can handle this registration/transfer.
If your rig or any options on it are new, you will generally be responsible for registering individual items on your boat like radios and other "add-ons."
National Insurance Crime Bureau gives tips and resources to prevent theft including a checklist. Select either resource from this page. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Make a detailed list of each item on your boat covered by insurance, and take snapshots of each item, from the hull to the engine to the radio. Put this information in a safe place away from your boat.
If you are planning to boat on any body of water bigger than a farm pond--lake, river, ocean--a boat towing insurance policy can be a boat owner's smartest purchase. These plans function like a highway service club for the water. Just like autos, boats do break down or experience difficulty. When that happens, marine towing or assistance can cost well over $100 per hour, and the clock starts ticking when the service boat leaves its dock. In addition to paying for towing, most insurance plans also offer other benefits. Here are two major insurance plans.
Sea Tow is a marine assistance organization that provides unlimited service area towing, covered ungroundings, fuel delivery (doesn't include cost of fuel), jump starts, prop disentanglements, navigation assistance, sea condition reports, radio checks, and more. Membership costs $149 per year.
BoatU.S. provides towing services through TowBoatU.S. BoatU.S. basic membership costs $19 per year and provides $50 per towing incident. An additional $116 provides unlimited saltwater and freshwater towing service. There are also several other service options. The towing service includes on-the-water towing, battery jumps, fuel deliveries, and soft ungroundings.
Have the appropriate towing kit installed on your towing vehicle. Make sure the kit is rated for a boat the size and weight of your vessel.
For tips on towing your boat safely, check out the following sites: