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What if My Boat Doesn’t Have a HIN? – Potential Risks

Written by J. Harvey / Fact checked by S. Numbers

what if my boat doesn't have a hin

I get that you need an answer to the question: What if my boat doesn’t have a HIN? You either purchased a boat without a HIN or built one yourself.

Hull Identification Number (HIN) is important to avoid legal issues and protect your boat. State and Federal regulations mandate that each boat must have a HIN. It is a requirement to register a boat.

You can apply for documentation with the U.S. Coast Guard to get a HIN. Read on to find out more.

What Happen if My Boat Does Not Have a HIN


Let’s break down the Hull Identification Number to know how important it is on a boat. First of all, you will find the HIN containing 12 characters or 14 characters, including both letters and numbers.

Here’s an example: XYZ 34567 D4 05

In his HIN, we have:

  • XYZ – The manufacturer identification code assigned by the U.S. Coast Guard
  • 34567 – The serial number of the boat hull
  • D4 – The manufacturing date (It is A to L, referring to 12 months of the year, and starting with August as A) 
  • 05 – The boat model’s year

It is important for boat owners to get a title for a boat. You cannot register your boat legally without a HIN.

The Importance of HIN

You might be wondering why a HIN or a boat title number is important. First off, driving a boat without a title is illegal in the US. HIN identifies your boat and allows the Coast Guard to determine safety standards applicable to your boat.


It is also the information that the FBI and the National Crime Information Center use to trace thefts to bring back stolen boats. That’s why it’s essential that your boat has a HIN that helps identify it.

Reasons Why a Boat Doesn’t Have a HIN


  • One of the possible reasons why a boat does not have a HIN is its age. A boat manufactured or sold in the US before 1972 often doesn’t have a HIN.

HIN is not required on these old boats, but the owner can apply a new one. On the other hand, vessels manufactured or imported after November 1, 1972, must have a HIN.

  • Another possibility is the HIN was lost because of not following the guidelines. Federal regulations require boat owners to permanently affix the HIN to the starboard side of the boat and in an unexposed location in the boat’s interior.
  • Homemade boats also do not have a HIN. Owners of these boats can apply for documentation directly with the US Coast Guard.

Legal Requirements for HINs


When your boat is assigned a HIN, there are some legal protocols you need to follow when attaching the HIN. These requirements are:

  • Boat owners should attach the HIN to the starboard outboard side.
  • If your boat was assigned a new HIN, do not alter the previous one. You need to affix the new HIN above the old one.
  • The HIN must also be affixed in a location inside the boat, and not the removable boat parts.
  • The acceptable options for affixing a HIN are carving, burning, stamping, embossing, molding, and bonding. The purpose of this is to avoid alteration.
  • The plate engraved with HIN number must be fastened to the boat.
  • The size of the HIN characters should be bigger than 1/4 inch in height.

Risks of Not Having a HIN


Failure to register a boat or secure a HIN may result in boating offenses and inconvenience. Boarding a boat with no HIN is like driving a car without a plate – you can be apprehended.

If authorities catch you driving a boat without a HIN, with altered HIN, or bogus HIN, the boat may be impounded until the investigation is complete.

If you purchase a boat without a HIN, it will be difficult to confirm the boat’s legality. If the boat was stolen, you will be involved in the crime.

Therefore, the best thing to do is to alert the US Coast Guard and apply for documentation. The Coast Guard can assist you in checking the boat’s registration record and issue a new HIN if necessary.

If you are purchasing a boat and want to confirm if the HIN is legit, you can use a free boat registration lookup. The Coast Guard boat registration documentation can be found on the CGMIX Coast Guard Port State Information Exchange.

What Should I Do if My Boat Has No HIN?


You can identify a boat with no HIN when purchasing it, just check the rear of the boat transom, that’s where it should be affixed. It should not be hard to find since HIN will be near the right corner, at the top.

In some models, HIN is engraved on the boat hull, so look closely for traces of a series of letters and numbers.

If your boat has no HIN number, you should apply for one. You can apply directly with the US Coast Guard or your relevant State agency like the New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Preservation.

Each state may have different rules to get boat registration numbers. If you are in Arkansas, you need to register your boat 30 days after purchase with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).

You can get the the HIN number for your boat by providing the following documents:

  • HIN application form (MAC-F-HINApplication.pdf)
  • Valid forms of your ID (driver’s lincence, bird certificate, etc)
  • Boat registration certificate or proof of the boat acquisition (e.g. the receipt of your purchase)

Frequently Asked Questions


Do I need to register a Jon boat?

Jon boat registration varies per state. Generally, a Jon boat without a motor does not need registration. However, you can always check your local agency to confirm if registration is required.

How can I confirm if the HIN on my boat exists in the Coast Guard’s records?

You can run a HIN check using the free HIN lookup through the CGMIX Coast Guard Port State Information Exchange.


There you have it! The question “what if my boat doesn’t have a HIN” has been answered. Always remember the key takeaways from this article:

Apply for a HIN if your boat does not have one

Applying for boat documentation is better than dealing with the hassle when you are caught operating a boat with no HIN

Happy boating skipper!

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