Boating Safety News

Florida VIN and Vessel Records

If you need to find information about a vehicle’s history, start by checking government records kept by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).

Using the license plate number or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you can access details about ownership history and find out if the vehicle has a lien on it. Visit to request an official vehicle status report.

You can also enter a vehicle’s license plate number on the website to determine if the tag is registered to a different vehicle. The report lists the VIN, year, make and model of the vehicle associated with the plate number.

If you need to review documentation on a boat or another vessel, you can search for records by entering the vessel’s name or official U.S. Coast Guard identification number on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

The vessel documentation you will receive lists a wide range of identifying information, including the vessel’s current name, previous names, home port, owner, hull number and more.

Using VIN or Vessel Records to Check for Liens

If you are considering buying a used car, truck, RV, boat or another vehicle, it is a good idea to check for a clear title before you pay. A clear title means there are no liens held against the vehicle or vessel.

Liens allow banks or other creditors to seize vehicles from owners if they do not repay their debt. If there is a lien on a used vehicle you want to buy, the seller must pay off the lien before transferring the title to you.

Vehicles or vessels may have a lien for a variety of reasons. When the original owner of a vehicle has not paid off the loan that he or she took out to buy it, the bank or lender can put a lien on the vehicle.

People can also offer their vehicle as collateral for a cash loan, usually at a payday loan establishment. These are known as title loans. Another type of lien is a mechanic’s lien, which auto mechanics can place on a vehicle when the owner does not pay for repairs.

Should You Buy a Vehicle without a VIN?

No. Never buy a vehicle without a VIN because there is a possibility that the vehicle is stolen. There may be some valid reasons for a vehicle to be missing a VIN; however, it is best for the seller to resolve the issue with FLHSMV before you purchase the vehicle.

Do Boats Have VINs?

Instead of using a VIN for identification purposes, most boats have a hull identification number (HIN). Boats manufactured before 1972 were not required to have a HIN assigned by the manufacturer, and homemade vessels do not have a HIN.

However, FLHSMV requires all registered and titled vessels to display a HIN. If your vessel does not have a manufacturer’s HIN, the FLHSMV will assign one.

Do all Florida Vessels Require Titling and Registration?

No, there are some exemptions. The main exception is for nonmotorized powered vessels less than 16 feet in length. If a vessel is exempt from titling and registration, then you won’t be able search for that vessel’s record, even if it has a HIN. Visit the FLHSMV website for a complete list of exemptions.

Florida Vehicle Records for Businesses

Businesses that routinely check vehicle records can receive discounted pricing on Florida motor vehicle status reports at

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