Deciphering Your HIN

Before getting boat history reports, you'll need to determine what the Hull Identification Number (HIN) of the vessel is that you are looking into.

To begin deciphering your HIN, you’ll need to locate it on the upper starboard side of the vessel’s transom, it is a 12-character alpha-numeric code. This code can tell you the month and year your boat was made. All boats manufactured after November 1, 1972 are required by federal law to have a HIN. Even people who decide to build their own boats are required to get a HIN from their state of residence. Boats made after November 1972 have two (2) different formats, manufacturers have their choice between a straight-year format and a model-year format.

Model-Year Format

  • Characters 1 through 3 are the Manufacturer’s Identification Code. This code is assigned by the Federal Government.*
  • Characters 4 through 8 are assigned by the manufacturer as a serial number, however they are not allowed to use the characters I, O and Q.
  • Character 9 will always be the letter M to indicate that the manufacturer is using the model-year format.
  • Characters 10 and 11 indicate the year using the last two numbers of the manufactured year.
  • Character 12 indicates the month using a letter. A is August, B is September, etc.

Straight-Year Format

  • Characters 1 through 3 are the Manufacturer’s Identification Code. This code is assigned by the Federal Government.*
  • Characters 4 through 8 are assigned by the manufacturer as a serial number, however they are not allowed to use the characters I, O and Q.
  • Characters 9 and 10 indicate the month.
  • Characters 11 and 12 indicate the year using the last two numbers of the manufactured year.

On January 1, 1984 there was a new-format version. As of August 1, 1984 it replaced the previous 1972 versions as the required format by federal standards. Manufacturers were also required to display two (2) HINs on the vessel.

New Format

  • Characters 1 through 3 are still the Manufacturer’s Identification Code.*
  • Characters 4 through 8 are still the manufacturer’s serial number which is alpha-numeric.
  • Character 9 indicates the month using a letter, however this time January is A, February is B, etc.
  • Character 10 indicates the last number of the year the boat was made.
  • Characters 11 and 12 indicate the model year of the boat using the last two numbers of the model year.

Locations of HINs

  • One must be placed outside the starboard side of the transom.
  • The other must be placed behind a fitting/hardware or inside the hull in an unexposed location.

Many manufacturers add extra characters at the end of the HIN. Some may put the size of the boat or the country or state the boat was made in.

* On boats built by individuals, characters 1 and 2 are the two letters of the state it was built in and character 3 is always the letter Z indicating that it was built by an individual.

Now that you've determined the HIN you'll be able to receive boat history reports of the vessel.

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