Canadian Boat Registration Lookup | Boat History Search in Canada

Are you trying to look up boat registration details in Canada? Well, you will find that Transport Canada has made things a bit confusing. 

This article provides a comprehensive guide regarding boat lookup in Canada, the process, the tools & resources available, and the important information you need to know to get started. Having been in the industry for several years, you can count on us to answer your questions. So, let’s begin.

Difference between a registered and licensed boat in Canada

Pleasure crafts are generally licensed in Canada, whereas commercial vessels are registered. If you have a mortgage on your boat, then it will have to be registered too. For more details on this see boat Registration and Licencing in Each Canadian Province.

Pleasure Craft License number – Minimum 3 Inches (77 mm)

You must license your pleasure craft if it exceeds 10 HP (horsepower) and is utilized for non-commercial purposes. In Canada, the display should be minimum 30 inches BLOCK numbers that display your watercraft licence and are to be attached to the hull on both sides.

These should have contrasting colours compared to the hull’s original colour for maximum visibility. There is no fee for getting a pleasure craft license, but it is mandatory for marine identification and safety.

Registered Vessel Hull Registration Number – Minimum 4 Inches (10 cm)

You are required to pay a fee when registering your vessel. The registration number must be displayed, use at least 10 cm or 4 inches of BLOCK characters, and be marked on both sides of the vessel. These include the vessel name and the port to which it is registered. It is also mandatory to have information inside the vessel and permanent markings affixed or etched regarding the tonnage, etc.

Below we show a table of the differences between the two Boat Numbers.

Do boats have titles in Canada?

In Canada, pleasure crafts must be licensed with a motor with 10 HP or more. A Pleasure Craft License or PCL is not considered proof of ownership nor a Title document.

Registration is a process for documentation of ownership or title with a “name” and “port of registration.” Registering is highly recommended if you wish to take your boat to other countries or simply want to secure ownership. It costs more and involves more legal steps and procedures from Transport Canada. Only registered boats will have their boating accidents recorded! Those with a pleasure craft licence are not so it is important to get a surveyor!

How to look up a Boat Registration Number in Canada?

Visit the Transport Canada Vessel Registration Query System or VRQS for a boat registration lookup in Canada. You can use this system to look for the boat details by entering the boat’s name, the owner’s name, or the Official Number.

You can also get in touch with the Office of Boating Safety for any licensing or registration queries by phone at 1-800-267-6687 or via email at

How to query a Boat License Number in Canada?

The license number is painted, engraved, or affixed on the boat’s bow, and the paperwork containing it can also be found inside the boat. Once you find the license number, you can search for the boat’s history. Keep in mind that Transport Canada doesn’t have a web page for querying license numbers, but you can continue your search seamlessly with’s Canada Boat Search instead.

Things you can use to search the VRQS:

Boat Name 

Enter the boat’s full name without special characters and spaces. For example, search Sally’s #1 as sallys1. If the boat name is longer than 13 characters, enter the first 13.

HIN (boat serial number)

Since 1982, Canadian and American boat builders have been legally required to attach an ID serial number to each hull. If this number is longer than 12 characters, enter the first 12.

Registration Number        

Enter the boat’s registration number. If it is longer than 7 characters, enter the first 7. The registration number includes sail numbers in an instance where the registration is not known.

Identifying Whether or Not a Boat is registered | Boat Identification Numbers Canada:

Boat registration numbers in Canada verify a boat and prove that it has been registered with the appropriate departments. Depending on the purpose and size of your boat, you may be required to register it with Transport Canada. Your registration number is a quick and easy way to confirm that you’ve filed the necessary documents and paid the required fees.

In general, provincial boat registration numbers start with two alphabets showing which province the boat is registered in. If you own a commercial boat, these alphabets may be replaced with a “C.” Most registration numbers will follow these alphabets, with 7 numbers unique to the boat.

If you own a pleasure craft, you are not mandated to register it in Canada as long as the boat is licensed. But you may want to register the boat for added legal protection, especially on international borders. In this case, you can always register your boat with Transport Canada voluntarily and for a fee.

How to know if a Boat is registered in Canada?

Registered boats will display a different number compared to licensed boats. If you want to identify if a boat is registered or licensed, look at the table comparison below.

Example NumberWhat it isLocationRegistered or Licensed
60S25282The alpha-numeric combination doesn’t start with C.The exterior of the boatLicensed pleasure craft
Happy WhaleVancouver, British Colombia (BC)SR 15289NRT 11.25Name of the boatRegistration portOfficial numberNet registered tonnage  The exterior of the boat (Boat name and port)Interior (Official number and NRT)Registered in the Canadian Register of Vessels
C56789QBBegins with the letter CExteriorRegistered in the Small Vessel Register

Small vessel registry search | pleasure craft license number search

Transport Canada requires all pleasure craft vessels with over 10 HP to be licensed. The Small Vessel Registry deals with the new registration of small commercial vessels, along with services such as transfer of ownership, renewing registration, or reporting a change. This might be a bit confusing but the small vessel registry is actually for registered vessels and not licenced pleasure craft. Even still, these boats are registered but don’t qualify for a Transcript.

You can perform a simple search using the official number or boat name or do an advanced search by any criteria entered in the registry. On, you can search by HIN.

Researching a Registered Vessel through the Canadian Register of Vessels

Canadian Register of Vessels is used to register a pleasure craft or a commercial vessel for the first time, report a change, transfer ownership, and ad or discharge a mortgage. You can use the Vessel Registration Query System to look for a registered vessel in Canada.

Lookup Boat in Canada Using

Use the website to check the boat history in Canada along with other relevant information about the boat, including the HIN, Canada registration number, boat value, auction data, and pollution incidents.

The tool offers you access to a Canadian boat database search to help you research before investing in a used boat and allows you to look up its ownership history. All you need to do is enter the boat’s hull number in the website’s database to immediately access the vessel’s basic registration details.

You can also get a comprehensive boat report in exchange for a fee. The report contains an in-depth cross reference of which HIN belongs to which registration number. Throughout the lookup process, a boat that has been registered in several states could match the HIN to more than one registration number. In some cases, the boat may have been documented in the US first and then Registered in Canada.

Free Boat Lookup in Canada for Registered Vessels 

You can perform a free boat lookup in Canada for registered vessels by getting in touch with the Office of Boating Safety, using the Transport Canada VRQS, or using

How do I find out who owns a registered boat in Canada?

  • Step#1 – Look for the license or registration number on the vessel’s hull or the inside.
  • Step#2 –Validate the boat registration or license number using to ensure no typos or mistakes.
  • Step#3 – Use the Vessel Registration Query System to look for important boat-related information. You can also use the website to do a boat history lookup in Canada and find all the relevant information about the vessel, from HIN to Canada registration. Owner names can be available if registered, not for PCL.

Get Your Canadian Boat History Search

You can get your “boatfax Canada” history report with You can check everything from HIN validation to boat accidents and pollution incidents through the website’s search engine. You can also access Canadian vessel records at both the federal and provincial levels. Using more than 90 boat databases, Boat-Alert fetches your data instantly, saving you hours and energy.

Whether you are looking to buy a used boat, looking for the owner of an abandoned boat, or wishing to report a suspiciously acquired vessel, you need the right information before contacting the authorities.

Do boats have to be registered in Canada? And does the Canadian pleasure craft license expire?

Commercial boats have to be registered in Canada in exchange for a fee. On the other hand, while there is no mandatory requirement for pleasure crafts to be registered, they can be voluntarily recorded for a fee.

A Canadian Pleasure Craft License issued or updated after 2010 is valid for 10 years. After that period, it needs to be renewed. You must update your license if you change your name, address, or other details about the pleasure craft.


In this article, we discussed how to look up boats in Canada, the differences between licensed and registered vessels, and how to identify them. We also discussed different tools and resources to easily perform free and paid boat history searches in Canada. is one tool that allows you to do a comprehensive Canadian boat registration lookup at reasonable rates.

#CanadaBoatLookup #BoatAlertCanada #BoatHistoryReportCanada #Canada #PCL #TransportCanada

Categories: To learn more about History Reports for used boats and boats information visit:

Boat Alert History Reports© exists to aggregate boat databases so that shoppers can search and buy a used boat safely while saving time and money researching a used boat's history. We began in 2015 and constantly adding more boat hin number search online data for USA and Canada to ensure that your boat has a clean history. We are happy to offer a 60-day money back guarantee and proud to have served more than 15,000 customers with their boat HIN Search History needs. boat hull lookup ©. Two percent of all proceeds go to charity. We value fair treatment of employees, customer satisfaction, having the most databases possible, and fast customer service at the core of our brand. View our LinkTree.

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