In 1972, all boats that were manufactured in, or imported into the United States had to have a VIN (vehicle identification number) number stamped on it. Also known as HIN (hull identification number), it is a 12-character serial number which will uniquely identify the boat.

But where is the VIN number on a pontoon boat and where can you find it?

Each pontoon boat will have the VIN or HIN number in a different place, but in the majority of cases it will be located towards the right-hand rear side of the pontoon. It will typically be stamped onto the boat’s frame or onto a plate riveted to the frame.

Having a clearly displayed HIN or VIN number is required by federal law, with the HN alo be printed onto the boat registration application.

VIN numbers look something like this:

Where is the VIN Number on a Pontoon Boat

This is what the VIN number could look like on your pontoon boat.

As you can see, it’s made up of 12 characters, with three letters at the start. The format of the pontoon VIN number will be:

  • Manufacturer
  • Five-character serial number
  • Month and year of manufacture
  • Year of manufacture

Why HIN / VIN numbers are important on pontoon boats

The HIN (or VIN) serves an important safety purpose on pontoon boats, or any other boat. It lets the manufacturer clearly identify where the boat has come from, should it be defective and require a recall.

They are not the same thing as local state registration numbers, as registration numbers are more similar to how you have a license plate on your car as an identifier.

VIN and HIN numbers will be different depending on when your pontoon boat was manufactured. Here’s how they differ depending on the date. 

HIN numbers pre-August 1st, 1984

The boat manufacturer must display two identical hull identification numbers, no less than one-fourth of an inch high, on each boat hull.

The primary HIN must be permanently affixed (so that it can be seen from outside the boat) to the starboard side of the transom within two inches of the top of the transom, gunwale, or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest.

On boats without transoms or on pontoon boats on which it would be impractical to the transom, the HIN must be affixed to the starboard outboard side of the hull, aft within one foot of the stern and within two inches of the top of hull side, gunwale, or hull/deck joint, whichever is lowest.

The starboard outboard side of the hull aft is the preferred HIN location for many manufacturers. On catamarans and pontoon boats the HIN must be affixed on the aft crossbeam within one foot of the starboard hull attachment.

HIN numbers post-August 1st, 1984

Boats manufactured or imported on or after August 1, 1984, also have a duplicate secondary HIN affixed somewhere on an unexposed location inside the boat or beneath a fitting or item of hardware. The purpose is to help authorities identify your boat if a thief or vandals remove or damage the primary HIN on the transom.

It is illegal for anyone (manufacturer, dealer, distributor, or owner) to alter or remove a HIN without the express written authorization of the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard. 

The last word…

So there you have it, that’s where the VIN or HIN number is located on a pontoon boat!

You might also be interested in my guide to replacing your pontoon boat capacity plate (read here).