Do You Have to Register a Jon Boat?

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So you’re trying to purchase a new jon boat and you’re not quite sure about how to go about the paperwork part of the deal… 

Do you have to register a Jon Boat in the USA? And what does that entail?

Well, you’re in luck because today, we’re about to give you all of the information that you need to ensure that you’re in full compliance with your state’s laws on boat registration. Whether you’re in the process of buying a new boat, have already purchased the boat, or you’re “asking for a friend,” we’ve got your back!

Let’s take a look. 


What Is a “Jon Boat”?

Jon Boat by Pelican

First, let’s look at what exactly a “Jon Boat” is. This term is thrown around so frequently that it’s often confused and boats are commonly misnamed. There is a lot of debate as to where the term came from with the most popular being that a popular fisherman named “Jon” used this type of boat and was so avid about it that before long the whole city was calling it a Jon boat. 

There are lots of other plausible backstories that you can find on the internet if you’re the curious type who doesn’t like vague answers! 

Regardless of how it got its name, though, the general consensus is that jon boats are small, flat-bottomed boats featuring an outboard motor. Usually, these boats are less than 20-feet-long (typically 8 to 15-feet), have an aluminum or fiberglass frame, and a relatively small motor (typically 25 to 75 horsepower). 

The Pelican Jon Boat  shown here is a perfect example of a typical Jon Boat.

Jon Boat by Pelican

Why Get a Jon Boat? 

What makes these boats different than your average sea-faring boats is their flat-bottomed design that can be driven through shallow waters. They give more flexibility than a, say, a fishing kayak in terms of power, but they provide the convenience of a boat of relatively similar size and scale to a kayak.


The flat-bottom design makes a Jon boat the perfect boat for fishers and leisure boaters who live near calm waters such as creeks, lakes, rivers, or bays.

It’s generally recommended that job boats avoid the open ocean. They can be easily capsized once the waves get a bit choppy! 


Another popular reason to get a jon boat is that they’re known for being incredibly affordable. Jon boats themselves are often priced in the range of a high-quality kayak.

Their lightweight, low-profile design is easy to mass-produce. And since they don’t need to be engineered to withstand violent ocean waves, there aren’t quite as many safety regulations and specific designs required. 


They’re also very low maintenance. As long as you take good care of the engine and replace the fuel pump every few years, the low-powered motors will last a long time. And as long as you don’t run aground of an oyster bed, the hull of the boat can easily last a lifetime.

To top it all off, most Jon boats are lightweight enough to be towed by a small family sedan as long as it’s been retrofitted with an aftermarket tow hitch. Just keep in mind your boat-launch etiquette when you get to the launch site.

Got a Title?

When purchasing your new or used Jon boat, you should get a title with it. The only exception should be if you’re financing it from a boat dealership. In financing cases, the dealership will hold onto the title as they’re still the legal owners of the boat.

Once you’ve finished making all of your payments, they’ll transfer the title over to your name by doing a title transfer through the local Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Essentially, the title proves that you are the legal owner of the boat. This is especially important with boats. Many boats look identical, and some Jon boats are so old that they don’t have a HIN (hull identification number). 

It’s very common for stolen Jon boats to be resold on social media and internet classifieds pages. You also need to watch out for those who still owe on their financed boats to try and sell them off when they can’t afford them.

For this reason, title laws have gotten stricter! 

Bill of Sale

Along with a title, you should also receive a copy of a bill of sale. A bill of sale is a fairly standard document and you should be able to find a free copy of your state’s particular bill of sale on your city website or with a quick Google search. 

If you’ve lost your title or you’ve already purchased a boat without a title, then your local DMV might be able to produce a copy of your title as long as you bring them the bill of sale. This is why it’s important to keep your original bill of sale in a safe place. 

14 States That Don’t Require Jon Boat Titles

Some states do not require a title for small Jon boats as long as its engine is under a certain limit. As of writing, this list of states is:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Wyoming

Keep in mind that this list may not be up to date. We will do our best to update it if we learn new information.

Depending on where you live, the laws may be different.

Some states don’t require any boats to have a title. Other states only require boats that have a specified hull or engine size to register for a title.

Everything varies from state to state and laws can change anytime, so make sure you do your research for your specific state.

Do You Have to Register a Jon Boat?

In most states, you do have to register a Jon Boat. This includes cases where you reside in one state but will be using the boat in another state.

Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to do to register your new or used Jon boat in most American states. 

Contact The DMV

Your first step should be to contact your local DMV and schedule an appointment. Depending on your state’s DMV status, this may take some time to get, so plan in advance. This meeting may be virtual or in-person, depending on your state.

Get All of Your Necessary Paperwork Ready

Make sure to do your research or ask a DMV representative ahead of time what paperwork you need to bring in order to register your boat properly. Typically, they’ll require a title, personal identification (license and/or social security), and possibly the original bill of sale as well.

If you are missing documents, then you may be able to work with the DMV to help locate copies or verify ownership another way. 

Final Tips

Jon boats are one of the simplest boats to purchase and own. And many states don’t require them to be registered. But you should always confirm that with your state’s DMV (or the DMV of the state you will be traveling to).

Make sure that you understand all state laws. And make sure that you aren’t acquiring a stolen boat, a boat with a lein on it, or otherwise getting taken advantage of.

As long as your paperwork is all straight, though, the registration process is typically easy, simple, and relatively affordable! 

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