Do Boats have VIN Numbers?

Last Updated on December 7, 2021

No, they do not but keep reading to find out how to register boats without a VIN. Boats are amazing to have especially if you are surrounded by the water.

If you love the ocean and find it amazing to see these beauties line up beside each other in a harbor, then you already have or are looking to buy a boat. Therefore, you’d be looking to get your boat registered as is required of all means of transportation which is why you’re most likely asking Boating Buddy if boats have VIN numbers.

What does VIN mean?

VIN stands for “Vehicle Identification Number.” And no, the boat is not a Vehicle hence they do not have VIN numbers. Do not get me wrong it is a water vessel and some may call it a vehicle because of its motor parts but it is not your typical vehicle like your cars and trucks which run on land.

Now that we’ve established what a VIN is and how it does not connect to a boat as boats aren’t vehicles, what then connects this acronym with boats? As stated earlier, the VIN is a form of Identification. All manufactured products have a way of being identified. In the case of boats, they are identified by a HIN.


Simply put, a HIN means “Hull Identification Number.” According to HIN, The hull identification number (HIN) is a specific set of combined characters that includes letters and/or numbers engraved in a vessel. It is how a boat manufacturing company keeps records of a boat and its model. It also helps the owner of a boat to identify its vessel in case of a mishap. Depending on the state or city where you are resident, the characters of a HIN(Hull Identification Number) range from 12-14 characters.

The HIN(Hull Identification Number) system was introduced by regulatory bodies in 1972 for both imported and homemade vessels to aid in distinguishing which boat from which Introduction of HIN. So, boats made from then henceforth were mandated to have a HIN.

Benefits of a Hull Identification (HIN)

Above all else, a Hull Identification Number was introduced for the sole purpose of identifying and keeping track of vessels but there are other reasons like recalling a vessel. In the case of a safety defect, the manufacturer would need the vessel’s HIN so he can know the model and year in which the vessel was made to effectively and positively perform any maintenance on it. Sometimes these recalls could be done by coast guards especially when said vessels are a threat to the public.

Also, the HIN helps in proper documentation of boats with the government and regulatory bodies because, without it, you can not register your vessel or apply for a vessel certificate.

The HIN can also help you to know the actual number of years your boat has been around.

In the case of theft or a missing vessel, the HIN has proven to be quite useful in tracking and recovery.

How to Identify Your HIN and its Placement

Normally, manufacturers engrave the HIN in two spots on any vessel they have manufactured; one is visible while the other may be somewhere in the interior of the boat. It is usually done permanently so it cannot be erased and even if it is, it would be easily noticed that there has been an alteration. It could be molded into, carved, burned, embossed, stamped, or bonded to the vessel or any hardware of the vessel as long as it is permanently fixed. It should not be placed in parts of the boats that are easily removed or accessible.

As explained earlier, the HIN is a set of specific characters, like numbers and alphabets. There are no spaces or hyphens. These characters are arranged in a linear format, starting from the manufacturing company’s identification code to the year and month a new model was produced.

Below is a pictorial example of a Hull Identification Number and the meaning of each set of characters.

hull identification number


As seen from the picture above, the Hull Identification Number is usually found in the transom of the boat. It is the rear side of the boat somewhat close to the engine. In cases where the HIN is not directly engraved on the body of the boat, it is advisable to inscribe it on a surface that its removal must cause scarring on the vessel’s body.

  • The manufacturer’s identification code(MIC): This is usually the first on the HIN. It is a set of alphabets and they are three in number.
  • Hull serial number: This set of characters are five in number from characters four to eight and they are the serial number of the vessel from the company. It is a mix of numbers and alphabets asides Q, I, and O.
  • Date of manufacture: These sets of characters are numbers 9 and 10. They represent the month and the year a vessel was manufactured. The months are represented in alphabets like this; A-January, B- February, and so on. while the year e.g, 2017 is written as 7. So a vessel with ABC67689B606 as its HIN was manufactured in February 2006.
  • Model year: The last two characters are the model year which isn’t necessarily the year a product was manufactured but rather the year the product model was created.

This HIN system applies to states and countries whose HIN is in the 12 characters range. For states and countries whose HIN is in the 14 characters range, the first two characters are usually the country’s shortcode, and there is a hyphen to differentiate it from the company’s manufacturing identity code. E.g CA-MIC12345B606.

For posterity’s sake, you are advised to write down your HIN and save it in another location that is not your boat in case of a mishap or If issues that concern its warranty arise. Although, you can get a new HIN if the old one was damaged that rarely happens because if records of your previous HIN is properly documented, the regulatory body in charge of issuing out HIN would likely give you your old HIN back and if you ask me it’s a great idea because the number is already unique to you and your vessel.

In Conclusion

It is ideal to note that some vessels are homemade. And for those vessels that are, acquiring a HIN is not difficult. All you have to do is to go to a regulatory body and apply.