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
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.
What about my engine?
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 2007,
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 200-hp engine but a
buyer wants a 250-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 200-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 2017 engine, for example, on
their 2017 boat.
HINs by the numbers
A typical hull identification number (HIN)
consists of 12 letters and numbers, as in
Here’s what the letters and numbers mean:
ABC: This is the U.S. Coast Guard-assigned manufacturer identification code
(MIC). Go to uscgboating.org/content/
manufacturers-identification.php to access
the Coast Guard’s MIC database.
12345: This is the serial number assigned
to the hull by the manufacturer. This may
be a combination of letters and numbers.
The letters “I,” “O,” and “Q” are excluded
because they could be mistaken for
D: This is the month of certification, indicating the month in which construction
began. “A” represents January and “L”
represents December. In our example,
“D” means April.
4: This is the year of certification. The
number is the last digit of the year in
which the boat was built. “ 4” in this case
04: This indicates the boat’s model year.