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How Do I Check the VIN Number on a Boat?
Boats, like other types of vehicles, have an identification number, which is called Hull Identification Number or HIN. It’s a 12-digit series of letters and numbers which provides the watercraft’s unique details, such as the manufacturing year and who built it.
For boats manufactured after November 1, 1972, you can find the HIN stamped to the transom or main beam of the boat.
Boats also have secondary locations for the HIN, which, most of the time, are placed in secret. In case of theft and HIN tampering, this allows law enforcement to check the true HIN of a boat.
How Do I Look Up the Model of My Boat?
To look up the model and identify your boat, the first step to do is to look for the HIN. Once you have the 12-digit alpha-numeric ID, get the first three letters from it. These three letters are your boat’s Manufacturer Identification Code or MIC.
Then, through the USCG Manufacturer’s Identification page, enter the MIC of your boat, select All States on the state field, and click on Submit.
The page will generate the following information on your boat’s manufacturer:
- Company name
- Status (still in business or otherwise)
- Previous company names
Now, to look for your boat’s model year, you need to decipher the last 4 letters and numbers on the HIN. For example, your boat’s HIN is ABC12345D404.
The letter D represents the month it was certified, while the next number, 4, is the certification year. Meanwhile, the last two digits, 04, represent the model year.
Interpreting Certification Month
If your boat was manufactured or imported after August 1, 1984, the letter on HIN can be read as A for January, B for February, and so on. In the example above, the boat was certified in April.
But if your boat was manufactured between November 1, 1972, to July 31, 1984, the letters represent a different sequence of months. A will be August, B for September, C for October, and so on.
Interpreting the Model Year
The model year, which is the last two numbers at the end of the HIN is pretty much easy to read. In the example above, the model year will be 04, which can only stand for 2004.
Next to it, the 4, is the year it was certified. Since the model year is 2004, it only makes sense to read the certification year 4 as 2004.
How Do I Look Up the History of a Boat?
To look up the history of your boat, you will need any of the following information:
- State registration number
- USCG documentation number
Then, you can run a history search on online platforms like BoatHistoryReport.com, BoatAlert, or BoatFax.
3 Websites to Get a Boat History Report
Boat History Report Summary
- Clean simple and easy to use reports
- Offers 70% discount for 6 reports
- Provides online reports fast
- Reliable customer service
Founded in 2005, BoatHistoryReport.com provides watercraft history reports, helping their customers stay away from potentially problematic sales. Through its website, you can purchase a report for as low as $16.66.
Each report contains the HIN, manufacturer name, serial number, and model year. The platform also checks for and includes:
- Damage, including hurricane damage
- US Coast Guard documentation
- State documentation
- US Customs or IRS Seizure
- Auction Data
To purchase a report, you will need to enter your boat’s HIN. Within seconds, you’ll have access to your report and can view it anytime for up to 60 days.
Boat Alert Summary
- 72 different free and paid databases
- Over 9000 insurance companies records
- Costing just $39.99 for ten searches
- 60-day money back guarantee
BoatAlert is another online platform that offers boat history reports. To get it, you’ll need to purchase credits. One credit costs $19.99, and you can use this to get 1 report. Meanwhile, 10 credits cost only $39.99.
It pretty much checks the same information as BoatHistoryReports.com and lets you download reports for up to 60 days. However, this platform works quite differently when you get a report.
To start, you don’t need to use your credits right after purchasing them, and these don’t expire. This option is useful if you want to get several reports for different boats as you check them.
- You can get an instant valuation for free
- Report with no add-ons will cost $20
- You can search international databases
- Full valuation for your boat – $10
Another boat history report provider you should check out is BoatFax. A report here costs $20, and for around $14, you can also:
- Cross-check the boat’s equipment
- Do worldwide search
- Search for corrupted or hidden information
Is the Hull ID the Same as the VIN Number?
Yes, Hull ID is what VIN is to vehicles, which makes these two ID numbers practically the same.
How Do You Check if a Boat is Stolen?
Suppose you want to purchase a boat first but wants to confirm it’s not stolen. After all, boats might be easier to steal than vehicles. In that case, there are several ways for you to check.
1. Check All Documentation
Make sure to check all titles, registrations, and maintenance records of the boat you intend to buy. You can also check with local registration and titling agencies for the correct format and seal to know if you’re dealing with forged paperwork.
2. Check For Tampered HIN, Serial, and Registration Numbers
Scratch numbers, fresh paint, and dirty or missing serial number plates are often tell-tale signs of tampering. You can find the HIN on the transom, serial numbers are on the motors, and registration numbers are usually on the forward half of the hull or the waterline.
Check the manufacturer for the correct formatting of the serial numbers. Serial numbers with a different format from the manufacturer are a red flag.
3. Check the Numbers
Once you’ve verified the numbers on the boat and the paperwork match, it’s time to check with local authorities. Using the HIN, registration, or serial numbers, local authorities can help you identify if the boat was stolen.
In case it is, avoid confronting the seller by yourself and alert local law enforcement.
Besides the local enforcement, you can also confirm if a boat was stolen through 3rd party providers of boat history reports. Usually, for a small fee, you can find out a boat’s accident and theft histories.
4. If the Price is Too Good To Be True
While it makes sense to buy a boat within your budget, make sure you’re not buying one that is too cheap compared to its market price. You can check websites like J.D. Power for current market pricing of specific boat models.
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