The Boating Pre-Season: Get Your Paperwork in Order

The spring pre-season–when it’s almost time to get out on the water–is the perfect time to make sure your boat is registered and equipped with the necessary gear to operate safely and within the law.

Every state–including Colorado–requires that motorboats operating on public water be registered annually. You must have your registration card on board your boat at all times during operation.

The first time you register a boat, you must provide proof of ownership. In Colorado, that proof may consist of any of the following:

  • Bill of sale* that includes both the seller and buyer’s printed names and signatures, the vessel/vehicle identification number (if any), the vessel/vehicle make, model and year (if known), and the date of the sale;
  • Previous registration certificate issued by a governmental entity that lists the applicant as registered owner;
  • Manufacturers Certificate of Origin (MCO)/Manufacturer Statement of Origin (MSO);
  • Certificate of Title;
  • Any court issued document proving ownership;
  • A collection of personal property by affidavit form pursuant to 15-12-1201, C.R.S.;
  • A physical inspection form completed by a CPW agent​

If you purchase a boat from Colorado Boating Center, we will provide you with all the completed registration paperwork required for you. You may also register your boat with any Colorado Parks and Wildlife office. To find a CPW office near you, call the state at 303-791-1920.

Registrations may be renewed online at

Colorado boat owners will receive a Colorado License number that starts with “CL.” This number must be displayed in proper format, usually on the forward bow. The CPW website has full instructions.

The cost to register your boat depends on the length.

  • Less than 20 feet in length – $35.25
  • 20 feet to less than 30 feet – $45.25
  • 30 feet or greater – $75.25

Safety Requirements

This is also the right time to check your safety gear to make sure it meets all the state requirements.

All life jackets and throwables must be in good serviceable condition, be of proper fit and be readily accessible.

  • Children under age 13 must wear a life jacket at all times.
  • There must be a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket on boat for every person.
  • Persons riding jet skis, water skis, tubes or any other object towed behind a boat must wear life jackets at all times.
  • For all boats larger than 16 feet, a Type IV throwable must be on board and immediately accessible at all times.

All boats must have on board a sound-producing device for signaling. This may include:

  • Whistle
  • Hand-held Horn
  • Power Horn

All motorboats, including jet skis, less than 26 feet in length are required to carry a B-I US Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher. These must be charged and in good and serviceable condition.

Boats that need fire extinguishers: motor boats with closed fuel tanks permanently installed, boats with closed living spaces, or boats with closed compartments that have the potential to trap flammable fumes.

All motorboats must have an efficient means of ventilation from bilges of every engine and fuel tank compartment. The ventilation systems must be kept in working order and may include two or more cowls or an exhaust blower.

Your boat is required to post the weight capacity, stated either in amount of pounds or the number of persons. That capacity may not be exceeded.

When operating at night, your boat must have the proper lights.

  • When anchored, you must have an all-round white light and anchor light.
  • While underway, you must have both the all-round white light and the red/green navigation lights on.
  • Jet skis, waterskiing or other means of towing recreation is prohibited during the hours of sunset to sunrise.

For full details on these and other requirements for the safe and legal operation of your boat, visit the CPW website or stop in to our store. Our experienced boating experts will be happy to help you bring your boat up to code and help ensure another great season of safe and happy boating for you and your family.