If you buy a stolen boat that is eventually recovered by the police, the boat will be confiscated and you may be charged with a criminal offence.
Check the Police database to see if a boat is stolen.
There are several things you can look for which indicate a boat might be stolen.
Is the boat stolen?
Pay a reasonable price for the boat. Beware of paying a cheap price for a boat that is obviously worth a lot more. "Have I got a deal for you mate" might indicate that the boat is stolen.
Serial number of the boat
Some boat manufacturers attach an aluminium tag with the serial number onto the boat. It may be located on the dashboard, outboard well or the transom. Not all boats have this tag.
How long has the seller had the boat and why are they selling it?
If they have not had the boat long, this may indicate that there is something wrong with it or that it is stolen.
Trace the boat ownership history
You should establish the previous owner's details. Contact them to confirm that they sold the boat to the person selling it. The further back you can trace the people who have owned the boat the better. Ideally you want to go right back to the original dealer who sold the boat new. That way you can confirm that the boat has not been stolen.
Confirm the details of the seller
Confirm where they live and the vehicle they drive. Don't meet the seller in a public place or deal over a cell phone.
Check if money is owed on the boat
The seller may have secured a loan from a bank or finance company to buy the boat. The bank or finance company will then have a financial interest in the boat. This could affect you as the new owner.
Motorweb Vehicle Information Authority can tell you if the trailer is stolen and if money is owed on it. You will need the registration number of the trailer. There is a charge for this service.
They may not be able to say if money is owed on the boat itself as most boats don't have any permanent form of identification. For this reason banks and finance companies use the trailer as an identifiable object.
Visit the website of Motorweb
Is the trailer stolen?
Check if the trailer is stolen
Contact your local police station with the registration number of the trailer. They will tell you if the trailer has been reported stolen.
Has the trailer been registered recently?
Does the registration date of the trailer match the manufacturing date of the boat? If the boat is being sold on an unregistered trailer or a recently re-registered trailer, ask why. It may be that the boat and trailer are stolen and the offenders have re-registered the stolen trailer in an attempt to disguise it.
Is the motor stolen?
Outboard motor serial number missing
All outboard motors should have the serial number on an aluminium tag or sticker that is attached to the transom-mounting bracket. You should be suspicious if the sticker or the tag has been removed. Don't accept an explanation that the tag or sticker has fallen off. The serial number may also be stamped into the frost plug that is located in the block of the outboard motor. You will need to take off the outboard motor cowling to see it.