Where is the VIN Number on a Pontoon Boat?

where is the vin number on a pontoon boat

There are lots of specifics to owning a pontoon boat. And as the boat’s owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re fully aware of all those little details. But aside from the paperwork, the registration, the licenses and whatever else, are you aware of your pontoon boat’s VIN? More importantly, do you know where is the VIN number on a pontoon boat?

Erroneously called the ‘VIN number’, the VIN or the vehicle identification number is an important number that can tell you a lot about your boat. It serves a vital safety purpose that could potentially spare you from manufacturer defects, among many other issues.

Where is the VIN or HIN on a Pontoon Boat?

The vehicle or HIN (hull identification number) doesn’t really have a specific place on the boat. As long as manufacturers make it available, there shouldn’t be an issue. However the precise location of its placement isn’t set in stone. For instance, some boats have the HIN located towards the rear on the starboard side.

Others will have the VIN stamped on the frame or attached to the side of the boat via a metal plate that’s riveted to the boat’s body. But there’s a lot more to its placement than just that.

VINs were required by law on all the boats that were manufactured after 1972. But certain changes were applied by 1984 to make VIN placement more consistent. HINs that were dated before August 01, 1984 had to be:

  • Permanently affixed on the starboard side of the transom
  • Inside of 2 inches of the top of the transom, gunwale, hull, or deck
  • If the transom isn’t a viable spot, the VIN has to be fixed on the starboard side of the hull, particularly on the outboard. Regulations also require that the HIN be placed within 12 inches of the stern.

For VINs dated after the 1st of August 1984, the law required another hidden VIN anywhere on a non-exposed piece of hardware. The purpose for this was to keep the VIN intact in case vandals or thieves tried to dismantle or otherwise destroy the boat, thus obscuring the VIN on the outside of the boat.

If you’re looking for your HIN number, try to inspect the back side of your boat towards the starboard side. Inspect both the hull and transom. You should be able to find a pair of VINs stamped or otherwise attached to your boat. Once you find it, make a note of where it is. You can also keep a record of it for future reference.

What Does the VIN Look Like?

So what exactly should you be looking for when you inspect for the vehicle identification number? Well, the VIN should be a 12 number serial number that identifies the make and model of your boat. The numbers are often clustered in groups of four, separated by dashes.

While some of them are printed on the boat itself, other manufacturers use a separate steel plate that they attach to the boat by rivets. Others however aren’t quite as apparent, using a stamp that embeds the VIN into the material so its still the same color as the rest of the boat’s material.

What is the Importance of the VIN?

The VIN number isn’t like a registration number that would be used to identify your boat versus others that look like it. So the Coast Guard might not be as interested in it as they would be about your registration number. The VIN instead identifies the specific make and model of your boat. It tells people what year your boat was made, who made it, and where it was made.

Why should that be important? Well, it’s pretty simple. In case your manufacturer discovers a defect from the factory that could affect the safety and performance of your pontoon boat, they could easily trace back the boats that might be involved by looking into the VIN. If they ever issue a recall, your VIN will tell you whether or not your boat should be surrendered to the nearest dealership.

This also lets you personally check whether there are any reports of boat problems and manufacturing defects associated with your boat. In some cases, it might also help law enforcement if your boat was involved in any crimes or incidents that call for quick and easy boat identification especially if there are suspected boats that look similar to yours.

The More You Know

There’s a lot to owning a boat that many people don’t realize. If you weren’t sure what a VIN was or where is the VIN number on a pontoon boat, you know now. This important serial number serves a major purpose in boating safety, and may even play a role in law enforcement. So once you find your HIN, make sure to jot it down and keep it with the rest of your important boating paperwork.

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