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How to search for a boat's history

Updated February 21, 2017

Boats have Hull Identification Numbers (HIN) just like vehicles have Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN). Anyone can look up a boat's history by finding its HIN and checking public records. There are many free methods to find a boat's history. The history report will detail the age of the boat, owners, and whether it has had any accidents over the years. The report can also specify if the boat has been reported as stolen or missing.

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  1. Find the HIN on the boat. It has twelve characters and can be found on the right side rear of the vessel. The first two characters indicate the country in which the boat is registered. Write down the number for future reference.

  2. Go to a website that lets you check boat HINs. Websites include the U.S. Coast Guard, Boatfax and Boat History Report.

  3. Type in the boat's HIN and order a report. Pay the fee online with a credit card. The fees vary for each website. The database will immediately load the boat's report for you to view and print. Read the whole report to find the full history of the vessel.

  4. Tip

    Do not buy a boat without first checking its history.

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Things You'll Need

  • Hull Identification Number

About the Author

Susan Reynolds has been a writer since 2008. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida and is a licensed real estate agent in Florida.

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