BY CHARLES FORT
General Motors introduced planned obsolescence in the 1920s as a way of discerning one model year from another,
in order to convince the public that buying the latest model car was fashionable,
if not exactly necessary. The tradition
set by GM survives today. Eventually,
consumers began to rely on the model-year change, which usually happened in
the fall, to assure that they were getting
the latest and greatest. Car buyers still
eagerly anticipate the newest technology,
and dealers often offer deep discounts to
move out last year’s models.
Manufacturers of other big-ticket
items, such as boats and outboards,
followed suit, hoping to convince buyers that the newer the boat, the better
What year is it, anyway?
Confusion over model years, especially on outboard engines, can frustrate buyers.
Here’s how to find that info on the products themselves
the boat. For years, U.S. Coast Guard
regulations required boat manufacturers
to use August 1 of the previous year as
the cutoff date for the next model year.
For example, a boat built in September
2011 could be called a 2012 model, but
if it was built in July, it had to be sold
as a 2011.
In 2012, boatbuilders petitioned the
Coast Guard to change the date to June
1, allowing for an extra two months of
production to still be labeled as next
year’s model. Manufacturers argued that
because of marine production sched-
to fall at erratic
the year, they needed to have more
flexibility in designating the time
span of their new model year.
The Coast Guard agreed to make the
change, permitting a couple of months
of last year’s boats to be called this year’s.
Fortunately, it’s fairly simple to find
your boat’s build date. (See the sidebar “HINs by the numbers” on page
32.) The information with the boat’s
model year is contained in the hull
identification number (HIN), which is
a label permanently affixed to the boat.
The number includes a date assigned
When buying a used boat, take a rubbing of
the boat’s HIN using a pencil and paper to
ensure it matches the seller’s documents.