Does NMVTIS include boats?

First – what is NMVTIS?

If you’ve purchased a used car before, you’ve probably heard of the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS. An NMVTIS Vehicle History Report is shorter than other vehicle history reports and provides information on vehicle brands, total loss data, salvage reports, state title information, and odometer information. NMVTIS does not provide accident/repair history or vehicle service/maintenance data which is why many people in the market for a used car will also get a Carfax or Autocheck report.

It sounds like a great tool for car buying, but what about boats?

The short answer is NO! If a company claims to provide you with NMVTIS data for boats, they are providing you with a false sense of security by taking advantage of a name people trust for cars. Boat data is not required nor encouraged to be maintained by NMVTIS. There are occasions where a boat HIN might slip in but they do not keep records on boats and anyone charging you for it or telling you they provide it is not being honest about it. The NMVTIS website states that the following types of vehicles are included in NMVTIS: automobiles, buses, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, motor homes, and tractors. Boats are not included.

Why isn’t there a NMVTIS service for boats?

This question is loaded. First, there are still 9 states that don’t title boats at all: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee. Additionally, in Mississippi, titling a boat is optional.

The next thing you need to know about boat titles is that they are not all issued in the same department. For vehicles, in every state, the title issued in the DMV (or equivalent such as the BMV). For boats, 22 states issue a title out of the DMV, while the Division of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife or equivalent manage boat titles in the remaining states. Why is that important? Because it means there is no consistency from state to state.

The third thing to know is that there is no law that requires every state to report that information to one entity. Even with NMVTIS, states had to agree to join the program and as part of it, they have to share their data in order to obtain access to other states data. For boats, there is a centralized reporting system for titles called the Vessel Identification System, or VIS, but not every state is a part of that.

The last and probably the most important piece of the equation is that boats don’t have brands. Let me clarify – you can burn your boat, crumpled it, shred it, sink it – and it will still have a clean title. Literally nothing can be left, but you can still show a clean title. Insurance companies, repair yards, salvagers – everyone required to report cars, has ZERO requirement to report damaged boats to anyone. That is why, when a seller claims the boat has a clean title, it means absolutely nothing.

Are there any exceptions to the clean title thing?

Actually, YES! There is something called the Uniform Certificate of Title for Vessels Act (UCOTVA) that establishes “Hull Damaged” brands for boats. Currently there are only 5 states that have fully adopted it, DC, Virginia, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Florida, while Georgia issues hull damaged brands but is not fully UCOTVA compliant. That being said, Florida will not being issuing hull damaged brands until July 2023, and for every state, they are only issuing these brands going forward. Therefore, any boat that was previously damaged will not be required to be branded as such. Boat History Report actually played a major role in helping Florida pass UCOTVA!!

So what can I do to protect my investment and my family when buying a boat?

The first step is running a report from Boat History Report. We have a database of over 1.4 million significant negative events, and over 120 million unique records. We are the closest database that exists to NMVTIS, and often referred to as the Autocheck for boats or Carfax for boats. There is no other service in the world that has a database larger than ours when it comes to watercraft and negative events. We work with insurance companies, auctions, surveyors, and law enforcement to obtain as many records as possible when it comes to damaged boats. We also work with every state for registration and titling records. No other company can claim that. We don’t boast how many databases we check for because our reports speak for themselves. Clean. Concise. Correct. Not filled with fluff and fancy images claiming to provide data from databases that either don’t exist or don’t collect boat data.

Once you’ve narrowed your boat selection down to one, your next step would be to hire a surveyor. This depends on your budget, the size and price of the boat, as well as the age of the vessel. Surveys can get expensive but they are worth every penny when you think about the investment you are about to make and the necessity for safety when using your boat with friends and family.

I have more questions – who can I contact?

You can reach out to us at and we would be happy to help you as best we can!

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