Since November 1, , all boats must have a character hull identification number HIN.
Hull ID Numbers
These numbers are required by federal law and help the manufacturer identify the owners of their boats in case of recall or a defect notification. A change was made August 1, , mostly regarding placement of the number. Due to the danger of vandalism or other damage, one number is now required to be hidden from view.
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Reading the HIN on your boat is a straightforward process, once the code is understood. Examine the first three characters. These consist of the manufacturer's identification code, which is issued by the Coast Guard to each boat maker.
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You can search their database of boat manufacturers see Resources. Look at the next five numbers. These comprise the hull serial number, which is issued by the manufacturer. The number includes a date assigned by the builder. This date is technically not the date of manufacture; rather, it's the date on which the boat was certified by the builder to meet Coast Guard regulations.
What About Warranties?
Some boats, especially large ones, may be on the floor for months before completion even straddling the June cutoff date , while others may be finished in a matter of days. To be consistent, the Coast Guard uses the date the manufacturer says the boat meets federal regs.
Once the HIN is assigned and affixed, that date becomes the boat's model year, regardless of when it was actually finished. Once a HIN has been put on the boat, it can't be changed without permission from the commandant of the Coast Guard, which rarely happens. New boat buyers should look at the HIN and verify that the boat in which they're interested actually belongs to the model year that the dealer claims for it.
Used-boat buyers should also decipher the HIN and make sure it matches what the seller and paperwork state. The month and year of engine manufacture can usually be found on a sticker near the engine's serial number.
The Coast Guard has no model-year regulations for outboard engines, making it harder for consumers to determine the year in which they were built. In , Yamaha stopped designating model years for its outboard engines entirely. Though the reasoning is sound, it creates a challenge for consumers. Unlike cars, in which engines are built into the product, a selection of engines usually can be fitted on outboard boats. Dealers have struggled for years to make sure that the engines bought from an engine manufacturer during one year get sold that same year on new boats.
If a boat on the showroom floor comes with a hp engine but a buyer wants a hp engine, the dealer may have to order the bigger engine and keep the smaller one in stock. If it takes a couple of years to finally sell that hp engine, a buyer may be reluctant to buy it if the model year isn't current, and the dealer may have to subsequently discount it. Buyers typically want a engine, for example, on their boat.
Hull Identification Numbers - BoatUS Magazine
Eliminating the model year solves the problem for the manufacturer and dealer but can be confusing for buyers. Other outboard manufacturers, including Mercury and Honda, adopted Yamaha's practice, and most outboard engines today don't have model-year designations.
Outboard manufacturers say that until they make a significant change to an engine, the year it was built is irrelevant. While that's true, buyers are concerned that if there's no model-year designation, they don't know if they're getting the newest technology. Fortunately, there's still a way to determine when an outboard was built.
After discontinuing model years, engine manufacturers replaced the model-year designator on the engine's serial number with a code that signifies an "era" in which all engines are supposed to be the same, with similar upgrades. Consumers, however, are concerned that with computer controls, mechanically identical engines could have electronic updates applied to a batch of similar models, and earlier ones might not benefit.
What's considered an upgrade? In the end, the engine manufacturer gets to decide what it is and when there's enough of one to create a new model. Fortunately, dealers usually know which engines in their stock have the most current changes, and you should ask before buying.
Hull Identification Numbers for Recreational Vessels
Manufacturers say that the warranty begins when the engine is sold, regardless of its build date. What if they've been damaged over time? By unknowingly buying an engine that may be one, two, or even three years older than their new boat, will they be hit with higher depreciation when it comes time to sell their boat? Fortunately, the manufacturer's warranty will cover even older engines of the same model, but buyers should verify how many hours are on an engine before buying it.
Manufacturers say that depreciation should not be an issue on two identical engines of the same model, regardless of age, but most buyers want the newest one available, and an older engine, even if it's indistinguishable from a newer one, is typically worth less to a first or second buyer.
The good news for consumers is that while outboard engines may not have model years, it's possible to find out when the engine was made. In recent years, a permanent sticker typically can be found on the transom bracket, usually near the serial-number sticker, that gives the month and year of engine manufacture. As a buyer, you can negotiate for the newest engine — or for a discounted older one — if you know what to look for.
ABC: This is the U. Coast Guard-assigned manufacturer identification code MIC. This may be a combination of letters and numbers. The letters "I," "O," and "Q" are excluded because they could be mistaken for numbers. D: This is the month of certification, indicating the month in which construction began. In our example, "D" means April.
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