Does a Boat have a VIN Number? (EXPLAINED)

Do boats have VIN numbers?

Do boats have VIN numbers? This is a question that people who newly have a boat often ask about.

In this article you will learn about Vessel numbers, their location, and how to decode them. This is important so you can protect yourself legally.

For people who are familiar with boats or have a business that’s related to boats, checking boats’ identification numbers has been a routine. Is the hull id the same as the vin number? As it turns out, the Hull Identification number (HIN or HID) is the equivalent to VIN numbers for boats. These numbers can be used verify whether the boat is actually registered in a US State (bureau of motor vehicles like BMV or DNR) or at the USCG.

That’s why you need to check whether your boat has the legitimate VIN, or in this case, HIN.

What is a Vehicle VIN?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is used for identifying most vehicles that operate on land, like cars, trailers, motorcycles, etc. It is usually 17 characters long and has a check-digit at position nine .

What is a Vehicle VIN and how to decode it
What is a Vehicle VIN and how to decode it

The VIN is located on the dashboard of a car. Meanwhile, boats use HIN instead or Hull Identification Number. A HIN is usually located around the rear part of the boat, specifically the Starboard Alt part. This is how to identify your boat by its hull serial number.

What is a boat HIN? and Where is the VIN located on a boat?

The 12 character number on the transom is the boats serial (aka HIN).

Does a Boat have a VIN Number
Does a Boat have a VIN Number – hin placement

By looking at the HIN numbers, you may gain several bits of information. This is called decoding the HIN and lets you know when the boat was made and who the manufacturer is. You can use it to validate for HIN tampering.

Decoding HIN

So, do boats have VIN numbers? No, but they have a replacement instead called HIN.

Do I need to get my boat’s VIN verified? A Boat’s HIN may not tell you as much information as provided by car’s VIN because the formats are different. When looking at the HIN, you may notice that the first three are letters. These are what we call the manufacturer codes (MIC). You can lookup the MIC in the Boat Manufacturer Directory.

The next five characters are the real serial number of the boat, and the last four show the date when the boat was made.

For example, let’s try decoding this Boat’s HIN number:


The three letters “CLC” are the boat’s manufacturer ‘Classic Craft.’ 18656 is the boat’s serial number. The “A” here means the boat was made in the first month, January. The following letter “5” means that the year it was made was 1995, and the “95” shows the same thing.

For a more detailed explanation see out article on how to read a boat HIN number. Having said that, you can use a free tool like to decipher the Hull ID Number.

What is the Boats VIN does not match the paper work?

Since boats have VIN’s, called HIN, you can use them to lookup the boats history at You can also use them to compare to the paper work and other reports. If you have found that the HIN doesn’t really match with the documents, the best thing you can do is look to look for another boat and walk away form this purchase. Validating the HIN against the boat title is critical when buying a boat.

While the mismatch might be considered a simple mistake, it’s also a sign that the owner of the boat doesn’t actually own the boat, which is an ultimate red flag. Believe us; you don’t want to mess with something illegal.

If it was indeed a typo, the owner could correct it before selling the boat to you, right. The most common mistake is replacing the letter “i” with number 1 in the Boat VIN.

I’m buying a used boat. Should I get a VIN check?

The database combines 72+ nationwide databases into a single place so you can search in a matter of minutes. These include records for stolen boats, marine lien claims, boating accidents, pollution incidents, auctioned boats, factory recalls, and boat manufacturers. this is important when buying a boat off of Craigslist and you need to search public records and confirm the ship builder. It also aids in Craigslist

Search a Boat Hull ID history report with
How do I find out the history of a boat using the VIN number

Can the boat HID codes Be Covered with Paint?

We agree that the HIN numbers could somehow ruin the coloring of your vessel. But you can’t simply cover it with paint.

The law states that the owner shouldn’t paint or cover the HIN on a watercraft.

You need to remember that each state has a different level of strictness. Although you can see that it’s okay to cover the HIN in other areas, it doesn’t simply mean that you can copy the method within your area.

What if my boat doesn’t have a serial number?

Boats before 1972 did not have a standard HIN because the format was only introduced in 1972 and improved in 1984. Prior to 1972, it was up to the manufacturer to write their own serial number. This makes the boat serial number lookup more difficulty for such older boats. You cannot decode the HIN either. Check with your State DNR or DMV what you should be doing but in general you will probably be issued a state HIN.

Do boat engines have VIN numbers for Motorboats?

Do boat motors have serial numbers? yes. Each boat engine should have a VIN engraved on it. This is different from the Boat’s HIN number.

Does a Jet Ski have a VIN number?

Yes, personal water craft (PWC or jet ski) have 12 character VIN numbers (or HIN Numbers) just like boats do.

How to look up a boat trailer VIN?

Trailers are usually register at the DMV while boats are registered at the DNR. This varies by state so you might find a carfax for the trailer or an nmvtis report for the trailer.

  • Where is the VIN number on boats? It is on the rear of the boat on the transom.
  • How do you read a VIN number on a boat? You will need to use to find out what each section means.
  • How many digits are in a VIN for a boat? A boat VIN has 12 characters.
  • Is the hull ID the same as the serial number? The Hull ID contains a serial number in the middle of it. This will be explained in the HIN Decoder.


Now we have covered weather Boats have a VIN Number, then gave an example location of a bot HIN then steps on how to decode the HIN. The ultimate purpose of the HIN is to identify the boat for legal purposes and to protect against theft.

Check your Boat’s HIN History Report Today


Categories: To learn more about History Reports for used boats and hin number check 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 vin check free lookup 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 check ©. 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.

Update cookies preferences