Why Some Canadian Boat Owners Prefer Licensing over Registration


Boaters in Canada who are new to boating may confuse getting a license for their boat with registration. You cannot license and register your boat simultaneously and the two forms of documents are not the same.

Licensing vs Registration: How They Differ

Canadian boat owners can only choose licensing or registration. They can’t combine these forms of lawful documentation. If you own a boat that has a 10+ horsepower (7.5 kW) motor, you can choose either to license it or register.

Some boat owners prefer to license their boat, as they don’t plan to name it or boat a great deal of the time. For example, they might only be going fishing for a few weekends out of the year, so keeping a license on board makes more sense.

However, if you want to spend most of your time sailing and boating, or venturing out of Canada’s waters, you’re better off opting for obtaining a certificate of registry. This document allows you to give your boat a name and display it on the boat’s exterior, including its home port of registry. You also can fly the Canadian flag – great for those times you want to venture out of your home country.

In addition, registration makes it easier for you to buy marine insurance for your boat or take out a marine loan. You’ll need to renew a registration every three years to keep it in force.

If you don’t need all the benefits that come with registration, you can quickly receive a license for your boat and an official license number. You’ll want to keep the license onboard and display your license number on each side of the bow above the water line.

If you register your boat, you’ll receive a HIN (hull identification number). Make sure your number is seen by painting it or using marine decals of a block print like Arial. The letters should be 3 inches high and contrast nicely against the background.

A boating license in Canada lasts 10 years, so you don’t have to worry too much about keeping the I.D. in force in the meantime. If you buy a new boat, the boat seller should take care of the licensing. You’ll also need to transfer the license number in case you sell your boat.

Main Advantages of a Boating Licence

Some boaters choose to license their boat so they can start boating right away and they can do so at a lower cost. Going online and getting a license is super simple and fast and inexpensive. If you want to stay legal and enjoy the great outdoors, having a license is a type of passport.

Simple and Fast

The licensing process in Canada, again, is easy. You only have to go online and electronically get the card. You can obtain a pleasure craft license (PCL)  without going through the bureaucratic headaches of other types of government processes.

License a Boat in the U.S. or Canada

If you live next to the Canadian border and are from the U.S., you can get a PCL without a citizenship requirement. So, if you’re a non-Canadian, you can freely use your license without difficulty.

Get Licensed at a Lower Cost

Compared to other countries, Canada does not charge a lot of money to obtain or renew a PCL. Therefore, getting the license is a cost-effective way for a boater to enjoy the waterways conveniently and affordably.

Compliance Made Easy

If you’re an enthusiastic sailor, having a boat that is licensed ensures that you’re complying with all global maritime regulations. When a Canadian boat is legal, it tells law enforcement that the owner is committed to following maritime rules – locally and internationally. It also prevents problems with any limitations you may face without the document.

Easier Boating Access

Indeed, having a license is a key that opens the door to the Canadian outdoors. Your license is your entry to British Columbian shores, Ontario’s Great Lakes, and the enchantment of Quebec. When you have this type of affordable access, you can open yourself up to some exciting adventures over the Canadian waterways.

In conclusion, choosing to license your boat in Canada provides numerous benefits, from simplifying the registration process and minimizing fees to ensuring international compliance and granting access to breathtaking Canadian waterways. With such great incentives on offer, it’s no wonder that boaters are increasingly turning to Canada as their preferred destination for boating and licensing.


Get Your Licensing Online Today

The Canadian Vessel Registry makes it easy for you to get a license for a recreational boat. Take the next step as a boat owner – get licensed online today.