Buying A Boat: What Is The Process In NSW?

So you’ve decided on the boat you want to buy, but where to from here? What paperwork do you need? Typically the process works as follows, although some people will do certain parts differently. This only applies for a boat bought and registered in NSW.

Are you insuring the boat?

Before organising an inspection, you need to consider which insurance company you will be using and confirm their requirements. Depending on the insurer, some require an out of water Marine Survey if the boat is over 5-10 years old. If you have this information first, you can then get the required inspections done together and save time and money.

Book an inspection

If you have any concerns about the condition of the boat, or want to put your mind at ease – it’s a good idea to book in an inspection with a Marine Engineer.


Putting money down will secure the sale of a boat if you’re leaning towards buying it (even before you’ve done any of the above steps). If no deposit is left and no agreement made, the seller can sell the boat to whoever produces the cash first. When drafting the receipt, it should be clear and include:

  1. Date
  2. Seller and purchaser’s full name and address
  3. Deposit amount
  4. Final purchase amount
  5. Location
  6. Signatures
  7. Agreed terms

What paper work is required when buying a boat?

The last check worth doing is a PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register). This is a government website allowing you to find out if the boat has any financial interests registered (finance owning). The PPSR check is best done just before the sale, because if done earlier a new interest could have been registered. They can be done online for boats here, or by calling 1300 007 777.

Make sure you check the registration papers and actual serial numbers/HIN (Hull Identification Number) match – your receipt will be invalid if the details do not match the boat you have purchased. You will also need to ensure the registration is current.

Manufacturers HIN – usually found near the transom
Boatcode HIN – usually found on older boats that don’t have a manufacturers engraving

You will need to take your licence on the day of handover, as the seller will need licence numbers on the paperwork for the notice of disposal. Make sure the papers are in the same name as the person selling you the boat, unless a broker is involved.

The final 3 piece of paperwork you should have are:

  1. Vessel registration papers filled out and signed. The seller takes the notice of disposal and you take the remaining half.
  2. Trailer registration papers filled out and signed. The seller takes the notice of disposal and you take the remaining half.
  3. Receipt with all the relevant information signed by both the seller and purchaser.

How to transfer your boat’s registration?

Once you’ve bought a used boat, you have 14 days from the date of purchase to transfer the registration into your name. Failure to do so in NSW will cost you in the form of a fine.

Provided the boat was bought in NSW and you have the current registration papers, you won’t need to get a HIN/Boat Code inspection. If the boat is bought interstate, you will need to book in a boat code inspection with an authorised agent from this list on the RMS website. They will inspect the HIN/Boat Code to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with, and the boat hasn’t been stolen.

You’re now ready to attend your local Service NSW, or alternatively you can mail in your transfer paperwork.

You will need to:

  1. Fill out an Application for Transfer of Vessel Registration for the boat and Application for Transfer of Registration for the trailer which can be done at Service NSW.
  2. Provide photo ID
  3. Ensure all the sections on the registration papers are filled out

They will then charge you the transfer fee ($31), and provide you with new registration papers in your name. If the boat comes with a trailer, that will need to be transferred into your name too, and you’ll need to repeat the process above.

How do I transfer boat registration?

Service NSW and Maritime logos

In NSW you will require signed registration papers, which you will need to take to your local Service NSW. You will need to fill out an Application for Transfer of Vessel Registration, along with paying a fee and providing identification.

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