Buying or selling a boat: What you need to know | APRIL Marine
Choose your province and your language

Buying or selling a boat: What you need to know

By Rachida Attar

It’s never too early to get ready for the new season… You want to buy or resell your personal boat this year, but you don’t know the steps to take? Don’t know how to comply with the regulatory requirements? What are the formalities for transferring your pleasure craft license? There are many questions surrounding the acquisition of a boat. Here are some tips to help you stay on course.

What to do first?

The sale and purchase of a boat between individuals require the buyer and seller to complete various formalities.

First, before selling or purchasing your property, it is recommended that you have a professional appraisal completed by a dealer or a marina to ensure that you are selling or buying it at the right price. It is very likely that the value of your boat has increased due to inflation during the pandemic.

For a free appraisal, you have access to APRIL Marine Assistance if you are a member of Club APRIL Marine. Simply call 1-866-683-6521.

In a few minutes, experts will establish a fair value for your boat after you provide them with the following information:

  • Description of the boat (length, manufacturer, model, year, width, hull material);
  • Engine description (type, number of engines, horsepower, manufacturer, year, hours, saltwater use);
  • Description of the trailer (length, manufacturer, model, year, number of axles, capacity);
  • Extras (autopilot, radar, GPS, air conditioning, etc.).

By doing so, you are sure to get it right and avoid losing money !

How can a buyer ensure the compliance of a boat for sale ?

On the regulatory side, the buyer will have to ensure the compliance of the boat at the time of the acquisition by checking:

Hull Serial Number (HIN): it’s a serial number on the hull of the boat that certifies that the boat meets Canadian construction standards. If the boat does not have one, insist that the seller obtain it and have it recorded where required. Note that hull serial numbers have been required since August 1, 1981. Boats built before this date do not have them.

Canadian Compliance Notice: according to Transport Canada, a Canadian Compliance Notice must be affixed to most powerboats sold in Canada. It’s proof that the boat met federal standards when it was built. If a boat has been modified over the years, its compliance notice may no longer be valid. So, before you buy your boat, make sure it’s compliant. You can ask a marine inspector to examine the boat and advise you, if necessary, of any modifications that need to be made to bring it into compliance before use. Please note that a Canadian Notice of Compliance is not required for a boat imported for personal use or used exclusively for racing, or an open boat built using traditional methods.

Sales contract and formalities to follow…

After the evaluation of the price and the regulatory compliance of the boat, you can proceed with signing your sales contract. This is not mandatory, but it is recommended and useful in case of possible problems. It should contain the contact details of both parties, the description of the boat, the agreement, the special clauses, the amount of the transaction, the date and the signatures.


Once the transaction is concluded, it will be necessary to formalize the transfer of the boat with Canadian Customs and Excise as soon as possible and to  complete the administrative formalities that follow the sale.

Prior to using the new boat, the purchaser may be required to apply for a Pleasure Craft Licence and/or a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Transfer of pleasure craft licences

The transfer of a pleasure craft licence is done in the case of the purchase of a motorboat of 10 HP (7.5 kW) or more. For boats of less than 10 HP, there is no need for a licence transfer.

To request a transfer of your licence, you can call  Transport Canada’s Office of Boating Safety at 1-800-267-6687 or download the dedicated online form available on their website.

The good news is that you can use your “new” boat while you get your own pleasure craft licence, for a period of 90 days following the purchase, on condition that you carry the licence obtained by the previous owner on board.

Once you receive your own pleasure craft licence, you must carry it on board at all times and display its number on both sides of the bow of the boat, above the waterline, in block letters:

  • of at least 7.5 centimetres (3 inches);
  • of a colour that contrasts with that of the bow.

Pleasure craft operator card

Before using your boat and depending on its characteristics, you may need to obtain a pleasure craft licence. This certificate proves that you have the expertise to operate your boat. Consider our partner for your training. Club APRIL Marine members get 25% off.

These articles could interest you

APRIL Marine Assistance: Sail at ease, we’ve got your back

Insurance broker portal just got a makeover!

Home Insurance vs. Marine Insurance