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Don't forget to renew your watercraft registration with Michigan Secretary of State
New online renewal system offers convenience, choice
Michigan watercraft owners choosing to renew their registration online are using a new system that offers enhancements and options designed to make renewing as seamless as possible, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said.
“Fast, dependable service is our pledge to Michiganders,” Benson said. “We know you’d rather spend your time on the water, so we’re exploring ways to improve the renewal process.”
CARS e-Services, at ExpressSOS.com, was unveiled in February and replaces the Department of State’s 1960s mainframe computer system. The new system provides a customer-focused model that aligns to how people expect to interact with the Secretary of State’s Office. For example, each customer’s information is kept in a central record, unlike the old mainframe, which stored data across multiple servers.
CARS e-Services provides three options for renewing watercraft:
- An online express option for quick renewals.
- An online authenticated renewal process, which allows customers to access their customer record and conduct other transactions along with their watercraft renewal. They also may print a copy of their renewed registration.
- A new option to renew at a Secretary of State self-service kiosk. Self-service kiosks are found at the busier Secretary of State offices and at select retail and city buildings. Check the Branch Office Locator at Michigan.gov/SOS for kiosk locations.
The use of online renewal is gaining in popularity. In fiscal year 2018, which ran from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018, about 57,000 watercraft registrations were renewed online, compared to about 53,000 from the previous year. As customers become more comfortable with the benefits of online renewal, the number of transactions is expected to continue to rise.
There are about 797,000 current watercraft registrations on file with the Secretary of State’s Office. More than 252,000 watercraft renewal notices were mailed this month. Watercraft registrations are renewed every three years and expire on March 31 of the third year.
All watercraft, including those on privately owned lakes and waterways, must be registered, except for the following:
- Watercraft 16 feet or less, propelled by oars or paddles that aren’t used for rental or commercial purposes.
- Nonmotorized canoes and kayaks not used for rental or commercial purposes.
- Rafts, surfboards, sailboards and swim floats, regardless of length.
- Watercraft registered in another state and used only temporarily in Michigan.
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For media questions, contact
Communications Director Shawn Starkey at 517-335-3264 or
We welcome questions and comments at the Contact the Secretary of State page.
Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to
speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).