Buying a Boat and Registration and Licensing: What You Need to Know

That brand-new boat has caught your eye. It’s your dream boat – the vessel that will allow you to freely sail the Canadian waterways. However, your dream also comes with “operational instructions” – all of which are supplied by the Canadian government.

Buying a Boat for Pleasure

Before buying a boat–showroom new–you’ll need to make sure the boat has:

  • A hull serial number
  • A Canadian compliance notice (if applicable)*
  • A declaration of conformity

*Canada’s Small Vessel Regulations require a compliance notice to be displayed at a site on the boat. The notice should be visible from the helm. The pleasure craft should be 24 meters (78 feet 8 7/8 inches) and designed so it can be fitted with an engine.

Types of Compliance Notices

Two types of compliance notices are issued – for boats less than 6 meters (19’8”) in length and those over 6 meters or 19’8” long.

What a Compliance Notice Should Contain

The compliance notice includes a boat’s

  • Maximum load capacity
  • Maximum engine power
  • Maximum people allowed on board

The maximum load capacity references the total weight a vessel can hold to operate safely on Canada’s waterways in good weather. The number of people who can be carried on board depends on the type of vessel, its equipment, and the water and weather conditions. To ensure safe sailing, you must respect these limits and follow them accordingly. If you’re buying a boat that does not have the serial number or compliance notice (if it applies), you need to request this information before you make a purchase. 

According to the law, it’s the responsibility of importers and manufacturers in Canada that the boats they sell meet the country’s construction requirements.

Buying a Pre-owned Boat in Canada

To buy a pre-owned boat in Canada, you need to make sure that the vessel meets the government’s construction requirements – in force when the boat was built. 

To ensure your boat meets this criterion, hire a marine surveyor to examine the vessel. They can give you a fair assessment of the boat’s condition and will get you up to speed on the changes the boat needs.

If you have already purchased a boat that doesn’t have a hull serial number or compliance notice, you should ask for them from the importer or boat maker. If you can’t get this information, you don’t have to take further action. 

Buying a Boat from Another Company

The construction requirements for boats vary from one country to the next. Therefore, you need to make sure that the vessel meets the construction criteria that the Small Vessel Regulations Department imposes when a boat enters Canada.

If your boat does not meet the construction requirements, you’ll need to make modifications before you can navigate the vessel.

Other requirements are listed below.

Import Mandates

When you bring a boat into Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA requires that you also hold specific documents, including details on the seller and boat, to confirm the sale and assess the boat’s taxes and duties.

Export Criteria

Contact the proper authorities in the country where you’re purchasing the boat to learn more about the export criteria. If you buy a trailer, it’s considered a motor vehicle, so the requirements for the trailer are different from those of a boat. 

Don’t Forget the Registration or License After Buying a Boat – New or Pre-Owned

To further support your proof of ownership or to ensure identification, you’ll need to apply for registration or a license after buying a boat. This is required for any pleasure craft that is equipped with a motor of at least 7.5 kilowatts or 10 horsepower.

Owners of recreational boats of any tonnage or length may elect to license their vessel per the Canada Shipping Act of 2001. On the other hand, a pleasure craft owner may also opt to register their boat in the Canada Register of Vessels database.

The main difference between licensing and registration is the requirements and fees. To get a license, again, your boat must be at least 10 hp. Registration is usually recommended if you need to take out a marine mortgage. It costs less to license a boat, which lasts 10 years than it does to register it. Registration must be renewed every three years.

If you license your boat, you’ll receive an official license number that you’re required to display. Registered vessels receive different markings – markings that include a hull identification number (HIN), the name of the boat owner, and the port of registry. 

Get Registered or Licensed Now

Make the Canadian Vessel Registry your go-to source for all your boat registry and licensing needs.