Your inflatable kayak is packed in the trunk, and you’re ready for a good swim! But as you put your gear in the trunk, your car registration sticker may have caught your eye, making you wonder if your kayak needs some registration, too.
In most states, kayaks do not need to get inspected before use on the lake. States categorize boats, canoes, and kayaks as either motorized or non-motorized; typically, motorized watercraft need to be inspected and registered. This varies by state, and you should always check your state’s laws.
Below, I’ll explain why this rule can be so confusing and give you some details on a few state laws. I’ll wrap up with some information on how to do a self-inspection of your kayak to ensure your safety on the lake.
Do I Need To Get My Kayak Inspected Before Use?
Inflatable kayaks are a newer type of watercraft used by more and more people every year. Because they are still relatively new, there is no standard set for inspections as there is with motorboats and sailboats.
For most states, registration and inspection depend on whether or not your boat is motorized. Typically, kayaks and canoes are not motorized. Jet-ski, boats, and even some row-boats are motorized.
There are some requirements when it comes to purchasing an inflatable kayak to avoid any problems while on the lake. However, inflatable kayaks do not require inspection in most states where regular kayaks don’t require inspection.
That doesn’t mean the rules aren’t changing constantly for your safety or that you don’t need to do a self-inspection before getting out into the water.
Rules Vary by State
Whether or not you need to get your inflatable kayak inspected depends on the state you are in. Some states require annual inspections, while others require inspections every 5 years. In some states, you must get your inspection at the time of registration or purchase.
For example, guidelines in Texas require that your kayak must have personal flotation devices and lighting. Inspection is only required when you first register your boat with the state and after 2 years.
Ohio, Illinois, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania require all paddle crafts to have a registration.
However, in other states like New York State and Washington State, regulations state that only boats with motors must be inspected before being allowed on public waters. This does not include kayaks made from rigid materials like fiberglass or carbon fiber or inflatables such as air-filled rafts or catamarans.
Inspections and Registration Are Different Things
Inspections and registrations aren’t exactly the same, but they have little to do with each other.
Think about your vehicle. Most vehicles must be re-registered by the state every one to two years. Registering a vehicle may need to undergo several inspections (like smog tests or emissions) to be allowed safely on the road.
Boats also need to get inspected and registered. This ensures the safety of the passengers of a boat and even that of others on the lake. For example, a boat that’s leaking oil into a river would endanger everybody and should, therefore, not be allowed on a body of water.
Most of the time, an inspection is required for something to be registered.
As mentioned above, many times, kayaks aren’t on the list of things that need to be registered. However, you can still register your kayak. This may just be a registration with the manufacturer for warranty reasons. Alternatively, it may also be with the state if your state requires that inflatable kayaks be inspected.
You’ll also need to register your kayak if you plan to travel with it to a new country. You can check out my article on bringing your kayak from US to Canada to get an idea of the registration process and the various legalities.
You can tell if your inflatable kayak is registered by looking for a tag on the side of the craft. On this tag, you should see either:
- The registration number is a seven-digit string of numbers and letters that identifies your craft in its manufacturer’s database. This number may also be printed on the inflatable kayak itself or included somewhere in its manual. (This would be registration for a warranty).
- A code indicating the year you purchased your craft will help ensure that inspections are up-to-date and accurate. (This would be registration with the state).
If you find this information on your kayak, it’s worth noting it for future reference. You never know when something might happen where getting in touch with someone at your local lake or marina would be useful—and knowing how to find out whether something’s legally allowed there doesn’t hurt either!
Check Your State’s Laws (or the State You’re Kayaking in)
As state laws are constantly changing to ensure the safety of those on the watercraft, you’ll want to check these laws pretty often. Additionally, don’t forget to check the laws of the place you’re kayaking in.
Being aware of the laws will ensure your kayak is legal to operate and can prevent you from getting into trouble. Checking laws frequently will ensure you’re aware in case there are any changes to current laws.
How To Self-Inspect Your Kayak Before Hitting the Water
If you’re among many people who have purchased an inflatable kayak, knowing how to inspect your kayak for safety is important before going out on a lake.
To check your inflatable kayak, you should:
- First, check the pressure gauge. This will indicate whether or not there is enough air in your kayak.
- Next, look at the valves and seams of your inflatable kayak for any signs of leakage. If you notice any leaks, head back home and get them fixed before venturing again.
- You should also check for damage or wear and tear that could affect your safety while on the water. If there are holes or tears in your vessel, you should patch them up before using the kayak.
- Finally, ensure that all your equipment is still attached properly so that nothing gets lost during transit.
As always, remember to wear your personal flotation devices.
While the rules around registrations and inspections of your inflatable kayak may seem like a lot of work, it’s really not too bad. In fact, the process is pretty easy and straightforward. You just need to make sure that you have all of your paperwork in order before you go out on the water with your inflatable kayak.
- Wyoming Game and Fish Department: Boating and Watercraft – FAQ
- Texas Parks & Wildlife Department: Vessels With No Motor or Sail: Required Safety Equipment
- NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation: Boating & Paddling
- American White Water: Boater Registration