Tuesday, May 14, 2024

How Do I Look Up Boat Serial Numbers

How To Identify Your Boat

Finding the Serial Number on a Mercury Outboard Engine

Since November 1, 1972, federal law requires all boats, including inflatables like rafts, IKs and SUP boards, manufactured in, or imported into, the US to have a unique 12-character identifier called the Hull Identification Number . This is often referred to as the boat serial number or boat ID number. The number is usually found in the stern and can be engraved on a plate or stamped into the boat material.

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How To Read Boat Hull Identification Numbers

Since November 1, 1972, all boats must have a 12-character hull identification number . These numbers are required by federal law and help the manufacturer identify the owners of their boats in case of recall or a defect notification. A change was made August 1, 1984, mostly regarding placement of the number. Due to the danger of vandalism or other damage, one number is now required to be hidden from view. Reading the HIN on your boat is a straightforward process, once the code is understood.

Step 1

Examine the first three characters. These consist of the manufacturer’s identification code, which is issued by the Coast Guard to each boat maker. You can search their database of boat manufacturers .

Step 2

Look at the next five numbers. These comprise the hull serial number, which is issued by the manufacturer.

Examine the last four characters. These indicate the date the boat was built. This includes the month and year, with the month assigned an alphabetical code, such as “C” for March.



  • Homemade boats also need an HIN. Your state boating agency will issue one, with the first three characters being the state abbreviation, followed by “Z.”

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How To Research A Boat Registration Number

Boat registration numbers come at two levels, state and federal. Smaller recreational and commercial vessels use state registration. Owning and operating recreational and commercial vessels with larger carrying capacities require federal documentation. If you need to find a boat’s owner or verify whether or not there is a lien holder, research registration and documentation numbers at the state and federal levels to discover the vessel’s chain of ownership and any lien information.

Step 1

Locate the registration or documentation number on the exterior of the boat. State registration numbers are commonly displayed on both sides of the bow with 4-inch painted numbers or stickers. Federal numbers are displayed anywhere on the boat’s exterior that is visible from the water.

Step 2

Locate the vessel’s hull number stamped or cast into the transom of the boat, and one other place such as a deck beam or other permanent structural member located in the engine room or hold. Hull numbers identify the vessel using the manufacturer’s database. Use this number to confirm that the boat matches the registration number.

Step 3


  • Capt. TJ Hinton commercial fishing vessel captain Gulf Coast, Miss.


Things You’ll Need

  • Registration or federal documentation number
  • Hull number

Find Your Serial Number

How to Apply Boat Registration Numbers Like a Pro

To locate your kayak’s serial number look at the right side on the back of the boat on the outside of the hull. Most, but not all boats, have a recessed area here. Your serial number will always be in this area.

The serial number consists of 12 alphanumeric digits. Ex. WEMELA29A909


  • The WEM is required as per coast guard regulations as a company identification code, and means you have bought a quality Wilderness Systems product.
  • The next five digits are generated in sequence by our system to give each boat its own unique serial number.
  • The next digit is a letter that represents the month of the year your boat was molded.
  • The letter A represents January, B would represent February and so on.
  • The next digit is the year the kayak was built, and the last two numbers will be the model year of the kayak. The example above would be for a 2009 model boat, molded in January 2009.

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How To Find The Owner Of A Boat

There are many reasons you might want to know who owns a boat.

Maybe you found a boat adrift, maybe you would like to speak with a current owner of a boat that you are considering, or maybe a boat has been damaged and you need to speak to the owner.

Whatever the reason, finding the owner of a boat is fairly straight forward if you use some common sense and know a few identifying features.

In this article, we will look at a few ways of finding a boats owner and point you in the right direction:

Where Can I Find The Hin On My Boat

The HIN must be located where it is clearly visible when the boat is in the water. You will find the HIN on the outside starboard side of the transom. If your boat does not have a transom, the HIN will be on the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull.

Other requirements:

  • The characters must be at least 6mm in width and height
  • The HIN cannot be altered, defaced or removed

You might also find a second HIN in the interior of the boat or under a trim or other piece of hardware.

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Can The Hin Be Found In More Than One Location

Its common for there to be a secondary location for the HIN. This is often not disclosed or easily found. The reason for this is that if a boat is stolen and/or the HIN was altered, law enforcement has the ability to check the secondary HIN location to verify the true identity of the boat.

Ive never run across a primary HIN that wasnt clear and unaltered. If for some reason you want to find the secondary location, you may be faced with difficulty. Ive read about people that have called the manufacturer and been refused the secondary location. They had required forms to be filled out by law enforcement to release that information.

However there are many cases where people have found them on their own. But, just because an owner found it on his boat, doesnt mean that the manufacture put it in the same location on yours.

Abcs Of The California Boating Law And Carbon Monoxide Warning Stickers

How to Find the Serial Number on an Outboard | Yamaha Outboard Serial Number Location | Boats.net

Pursuant to the Federal Boating Act, and in order to ensure that each original California registrant and transferee is apprised of current vessel safety and registration information, each applicant issued a Permanent Vessel Number and Certificate of Number shall also be issued a copy of the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways publication, ABCs of California Boating, one set of vessel carbon monoxide warning stickers and the companion brochure, Safe Boating Facts About the Silent Killer CO Carbon Monoxide. These pamphlets may be obtained from the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways or by visiting their website at www.dbw.ca.gov.

Explain to the customer that the stickers must be affixed to motorized vessels as follows:

  • The TRANSOM sticker must be affixed facing out on the exterior of the stern or transom of the motorized vessel, unless it is inflatable and the sticker would not adhere to the surface of the stern.
  • The HELM sticker must be affixed to the interior of the motorized vessel where it is immediately visible to the operator of the motorized vessel.

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How To Find The Year Of My Evinrude 25 Hp Motor

Outboard boat engines, much like automobiles, have serial numbers assigned to them after production. Each engine maker uses a different placement point for these numbers and also use a different code to interpret the alpha-numeric cipher. To find the serial numbers on outboard engines, you need to search the shaft of the engine and under the cowling—the cover that rests over the engine itself.

Pull the boat’s shaft up and out of the water using either the power lift assist or by grabbing the cowling handle and lifting up and back toward the boat.

Inspect the entire shaft looking for a small set of etched numbers and letters or for a small metal plate riveted to the shaft. This is the boat engine’s serial number. Write down this number, or take a picture of it using the digital camera.

Open the engine’s cowling and look at the engine block or on the inside of the cowling for the serial number if it’s not on the shaft.

Determine the make of the engine by looking for a name such as Mercury, Evinrude or Johnson, to name but a few.


How Does The Hin Decoder Help Me Buy A Watercraft

Using the HIN decoder, you will get the full boat history report of the boat you want to buy. You can tell whether it is being sold by the true owner or whether it has been involved in accidents. That will also help you find out if the vessels suffered severe damages that could bring you repair and operation problems when you buy it.

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What About My Engine

The Coast Guard has no model-year regulations for outboard engines, making it harder for consumers to determine the year in which they were built. In 2007, Yamaha stopped designating model years for its outboard engines entirely. Though the reasoning is sound, it creates a challenge for consumers.

Unlike cars, in which engines are built into the product, a selection of engines usually can be fitted on outboard boats. Dealers have struggled for years to make sure that the engines bought from an engine manufacturer during one year get sold that same year on new boats.

If a boat on the showroom floor comes with a 200-hp engine but a buyer wants a 250-hp engine, the dealer may have to order the bigger engine and keep the smaller one in stock. If it takes a couple of years to finally sell that 200-hp engine, a buyer may be reluctant to buy it if the model year isn’t current, and the dealer may have to subsequently discount it. Buyers typically want a 2017 engine, for example, on their 2017 boat.

What’s considered an upgrade? In the end, the engine manufacturer gets to decide what it is and when there’s enough of one to create a new model. Fortunately, dealers usually know which engines in their stock have the most current changes, and you should ask before buying.

Where Is The Hin Located

Hull Serial Number (HIN)

The Primary HIN Should Be Affixed To:

  • Transom On boats with transoms , to the starboard outboard side within two inches of the top of the transom, gunwale, or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest.
  • Without Transoms On boats without transoms or boats on which it would be impractical to use the transom, to the starboard outboard side, aft, within one foot of the stern and within two inches of the top of the hull side, gunwale or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest.
  • Catamaran On catamarans and pontoon boats that have readily replaceable hulls, to the aft crossbeam within one foot of the starboard hull attachment.
  • Other Locations If rails or other accessories would obscure a HIN, it should be affixed as near as possible to the starboard outboard side within two inches of the top of the transom, gunwale or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest.

The Secondary HIN Should Be Affixed To:

An unexposed location on the interior of the boat or beneath a fitting or item of hardware. If the primary HIN is missing, the owner should call the manufacturer to try to find the secondary HIN. The Coast Guard wants the original HIN used if possible.

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How To Find The Boats Hin Number

Every water automobile has its HIN located in a visible place where it is easy to find.

In most cases, it is at the outside starboard side of the transom or on the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull. Some vessels have the number also in the boat’s interior or under a piece of hardware.

Suzuki Outboard Serial Number Location And Model Identification

The Suzuki Outboard Motor MODEL, PRE-FIX and SERIAL NUMBER are stamped on a plate attached to the clamp bracket. When ordering parts and/or accessories from our Suzuki OEM Online Parts Catalog its important to properly identify the exact model you are dealing with. With Suzuki outboard motors this can be challenging as the model records have changed over the years, and older outboard motors can be difficult to identify. This technical article illustrates the difference between the serial number and model as well as showing the location where you can find these. We also have several other related Suzuki Marine Technical Articles that address the topic of proper Suzuki Outboard Motor identification.


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What If The Hin Looks Altered

While this is a personal decision based on your risk tolerance, there are a couple things you can do to reduce your risk. If youre considering purchasing a boat that seems would be a good fit for you, but the HIN looks altered:

  • Compare the title to the HIN. Are they the same?
  • How long has the boat been titled? The longer the better. If they got title to the boat a while back and no issues were raised, youre probably OK.
  • You could look for the hidden HIN to see if they match. This wouldnt be easy, but you could try calling the manufacture and see if they would give you the location. You could also describe the imperfection in the HIN and ask if this is normal for them.
  • You could ask the seller if they would mind letting a police officer look at it. The police most likely arent going to know anything, but youre asking more to see the reaction of the seller. If theyre guilty of something, they will not want an officer there. However, there could still be an issue with the HIN and the seller know nothing about it.
  • If the boat has been titled with a current registration for a while and the Department Of Natural Resources has not red flagged it, most likely its legit.

If you dont find the second HIN location, then none of the above suggestions are a guarantee. One thing to remember when buying a boat is, that theres always another nice boat for you to buy somewhere else.

Relied Upon By Boat Dealers And Yacht Brokers Nationwide

How to Apply Boat Registration Numbers Like a Pro

Boat History Report gives our customers peace of mind when purchasing used boats from us and helps us retain higher profit margins than our competitors who dont utilize Boat History Report. It has been a priceless tool for the entire boating industry in ensuring that the pre-owned boats we buy or take in have no hidden pasts.-Jani Gyllenberg

Our industry’s reputation for transparency and access to accurate information is behind the times. BoatHistoryReport.com provides consumers with exactly that, which is why I use them and think products like this will strengthen our industry.-Bob Denison

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California Assigned Vessel Numbers

Permanent vessel registration numbers are assigned to undocumented vessels in accordance with the national system. In California, these numbers are prefixed by the letters CF followed by four numbers and a two-letter suffix . A number series will not be issued with the letter suffix containing I, O, or Q.

Texas Certificate Of Number

A Certificate of Number ID Card is issued at the time of registration . A sample certificate of number ID card can be viewed online.

The certificate of number , if required:

  • Must always be aboard and available for inspection by an enforcement officer
  • Is valid through the expiration date shown on the certificate and
  • Must also be aboard USCG Documented vessels that require Texas registration.

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How To Decode A Boat Hull Identification Number

Example HIN ABC12345B612

ABC Manufacturer Identification Code

12345 Manufacturers Serial Number

B6 Manufacture date where the first digit represents the month and the second digit represent the last digit of the year.

A=Jan, B=Feb, C=Mar, D=Apr, E=May, F=Jun, G=Jul, H=Aug, I-Sep, J=Oct, K=Nov, L=Dec

12 Last 2 digits of the model year

Hull Identification Number Location

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The HIN shall be located where it is clearly visible when the vessel is in the water, namely, on the upper starboard quarter of the outside surface of the transom or if the vessel has no transom, on the uppermost starboard side at the aft end of the hull.

No person shall alter, deface or remove a hull serial number. If a boat is not marked with a hull serial number, the owner of the boat must make a request for such a number to the builder, manufacturer, rebuilder or importer of the boat. If, despite reasonable efforts that can be proved in writing, the owner of the boat is unable to obtain a hull serial number from the builder, manufacturer, rebuilder or importer of the boat, the boat is not required to be marked with a hull serial number.

The HIN must also be marked in a second location on the hull, that is either beneath a fitting or an item of hardware or that is on the interior of the vessel and unexposed.

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