A boat VIN number is actually called HIN (Hull Identification Number), although the term VIN is frequently misused. Unlike a car VIN number, a boat HIN is 12 characters long. At least one HIN number must be on all boats manufactured or imported on or after November 1, 1972. Boats manufactured or imported on or after August 1, 1984 have a copy of the HIN of a hidden part of the boat. HIN should not be confused with State registration number: the latter is located on the bow and serves the same purpose as the car registration plate. HIN serves the same purpose as a VIN number: identifying a boat and getting a boat history report, which includes such information as age, owners, accidents, existing theft records, outstanding liens, running aground, submerging or being damaged in a hurricane. To locate a boat VIN, search the right side rear of the vessel (starboard outboard side of the hull). This is the most typical HIN location.
Getting a boat history report is of not less importance than with cars, for a number of reasons. Juts a few of them:
What can you do with boat VIN check for free before you buy a report? First, you can call to the DMV office in the state where the boat is or was last registered and make sure there are no liens on the boat. Then, you need to visit Coast Guard website which contains the information about safety issues in specific boat makes (like recall information with cars). As boat manufacturers are not so widely discussed, you may just use the first 3 digits of the boat HIN to identify the manufacturer. This combination is called MIC (Manufacturer Identification Code) and you will need MIC for search for recalls in Coast Guard database . In addition, the MIC can tell you if the boat was built for personal use by a private person. Such boats are also assigned HIN numbers, but the MIC starts with the State abbreviation + Z (for example, CAZ for boats built and registered in California for private persons).
As to boat history report, the well-known car history sites like Autocheck and Carfax are not what you need. You’ll have to check the U.S. Coast Guard, Boatfax and Boat History Report, which, in addition, offer a good choice of used boats with . As on most other vehicle history report sites, these boat history reports are not free. You will have to pay a small fee which varies from site to site. However, just like with free VIN check, you can lookup how many records they have for a specific boat HIN absolutely for free. For this, just copy the HIN in to the search box (the procedure is pretty much identical on all the sites) and press enter. If you HIN check returns some records, buy the report.