Tips for Buying a Boat

Friday, August 24, 2012

One of the most glorious advantages of living in Canada is having access to the countless lakes that dot our countryside. What could make it even more glorious? Owning your own boat so that you can go out onto the water anytime.

Before you buy a boat, take the time to really think about your purchase. Talk with boat owners, who can offer advice and insights based on their boat-purchasing experiences. Evaluate the various type of boats and identify the type that is best suited to your favorite activities, lifestyle and budget. Decide which size is most appropriate for your needs. Make the new-vs.-used decision based on your budget. And make sure you take the boat for a test drive before you buy it. Finally – and in many ways, most importantly, know the rules, regulations and safety requirements that help ensure you choose a watercraft that is as safe as it is fun.

Follow these guidelines, and enjoy your new or used boat for years to come:

Check for the Hull Serial Number (HIN) and compliance notice. Manufacturers and importers are required to place a HIN and Transport Canada compliance notice on every new boat they sell in Canada. These documents confirm that the boat meets Canada’s construction standards. If you are considering a new boat that does not have both a HIN and compliance notice, be sure that the seller provides them prior to your signing the purchase agreement.

Some boating experts recommend that you look for a boat that is also certified by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). This certification ensures that the boat meets the standards of not only Transport Canada but also the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC), adding an extra measure of assurance that your watercraft meets the highest standards in safety.

Have your boat inspected. If you are buying a used boat, enlist the services of a qualified marine surveyor to inspect it to ensure it meets construction standards. This is a wise course of action even if the boat has a compliance notice, because that notice was valid at the time the boat was built and does not necessarily mean that the boat is still in ideal shape following years of use. Be aware that you are responsible by law to operate the boat only if it complies with current standards, so get all of the information you need prior to purchasing it, or you could be left with costly, time-consuming repairs.

Apply for a Pleasure Craft License from Transport Canada. This requirement is mandated only for boats fitted with motors, but you may want to apply for a license for other types of watercraft as well, in the interest of enhanced safety. You will also need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or other proof of competency to operate your motorized watercraft.

Check safety equipment requirements. These requirements vary based on the type – human-powered, personal, sailing or motor-powered – and length of your watercraft. You can find these requirements at Transport Canada’s Web site,

Be diligent about the details when importing a boat. Just because a boat meets the construction standards of one country doesn’t necessarily mean it meets those of Canada. As the boat owner, you will be responsible for ensuring that your boat meets national standards for construction safety. Also be sure to check with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) before bringing the boat into the country to ascertain which documents you will need to cross the border.

Consider boat insurance. Are you covered in case of accident, injury or theft? Some homeowner’s insurance policies cover boats – to some extent. Check with your licensed insurance professional to find out what your home insurance policy covers and to determine whether dedicated boat (marine) insurance would be a wise investment.


Sources: Boat Guide,, Transport Canada