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How to look up boats using the hull number

Updated July 20, 2017

As of November 1, 1972, all boats in use have been given a Hull Identification Number. The Hull Identification Number (HIN) is a Federal requirement. It can be located either on the starboard outboard side of the hull aft or the transom. Some people may need to look up a boat's hull number to see if it's owned by the seller, to check if it has any repair history, to see if it has been recalled and to see if the boat has been stolen. It is illegal to damage, change or remove the hull number unless the owner has permission from the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant. Nevertheless, thieves do alter these numbers in order to avoid getting caught. This is why it's important to see if the hull numbers are free of any rippling or obvious handiwork. If it's there, compare this to the boat's repair history.

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  1. Identify the manufacturer identification number, also known as the MIN. There are twelve numbers in your hull number. Following August 1, 1984, the HIN of every boat contained the boat model's year. The MIN can be found as the first three numbers of the HIN. The next series of five numbers is the hull serial number. The next two numbers are the date of certification or the manufacture of the boat. The last two numbers are the model's year.

  2. Input the HIN into an online database. A variety of boat manufacturer directories are available online. You can find these databases through government sites such as the U.S. Coast Guard and official organisations such as the Boating Safety Resource Center. These are legitimate sites which allow free access to visitors. The information is easy to understand and you will normally find what information you need at the click of a mouse.

  3. Find your state's Department of Natural Resources online. The Department of Natural Resources keeps a database of boat hull numbers and information. Search through your state's DNR site to locate information about how to contact a representative. You can contact your state's Department of Natural Resource's representative by e-mail, phone or regular mail. Additionally, find out about how you can visit them in person in order to get the information you need.

  4. Contact the United States Coast Guard. Because the HIN of every boat is supplied by the USCG, you can find the information you need to know about a boat through them. You will find the number at the front of a phone book, or contact them by radio on Channel 16 VHF-FM (156.8MHz).

  5. Tip

    The manufacturer identification number is also called the Manufacturer Identification Code (MIC).

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Things You'll Need

  • Boat Hull Identification Number (HIN)
  • Computer
  • Internet Access
  • Telephone

About the Author

Dawn Colclasure has written for the newspaper, "SIGNews," since 2003 and has been published in several different newspapers and magazines. Dawn also writes books on writing and the paranormal. She lives and writes in Eugene, Oregon.

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