Buying A Boat: What Is The Process In NSW?

Buying A Boat: What Is The Process In NSW?

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

Insurance Considerations

Before you arrange for an inspection, decide on an insurance provider and verify their prerequisites. For boats older than 5-10 years that are moored, many insurers mandate an out-of-water Marine Insurance Survey. Knowing these requirements upfront allows you to consolidate necessary inspections, saving both time and money.

Scheduling an Inspection

Should you have any concerns about the boat’s condition or simply seek peace of mind, arranging a full survey and mechanical inspection prior to purchase is a wise move.

Securing the Deal with a Deposit

A deposit not only secures the boat’s sale for you but also protects against the seller opting for another buyer who presents payment first. Ensure the deposit receipt includes clear details such as the date, full names and addresses of the seller and purchaser, deposit and final purchase amounts, location, signatures, and agreed terms.

If you would like a contract suitable, you can download our free boat purchase contract.

Required Paperwork for Buying a Boat

A crucial step involves checking the boat’s history through a PPSR (Personal Property Securities Register) search to identify any existing financial interests. Conduct this search close to the sale date to avoid overlooking newly registered interests. Also, verify that the registration papers and actual serial numbers/HIN (Hull Identification Number) match to ensure your receipt’s validity. Confirm the registration’s currency and be prepared to present your licence during the registration transfer paperwork, as the seller will need it for the notice of disposal paperwork. It’s essential that the paperwork matches the seller’s name.

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

If you’re having trouble finding hull numbers or engine serials, check out our articles on common locations.

Ensure you obtain the following documents prior to payment:

  1. Vessel registration papers, signed and filled out.
  2. Trailer registration papers, signed and filled out.
  3. A comprehensive receipt signed by both the seller and buyer.

Transferring the Boat’s Registration

Upon purchasing a used boat, you have 14 days to transfer the registration into your name in NSW, failing which incurs a fine.

For a boat purchased in NSW with current registration papers, a HIN/Boat Code inspection is unnecessary. However, for boats bought from another state, an inspection is mandatory to verify the HIN/Boat Code against tampering and theft. This inspection can be arranged through an authorised agent listed on the RMS website.

Finally, visit your local Service NSW centre and:

  • Complete an Application for Transfer of Vessel Registration for the boat and an Application for Transfer of Registration for the trailer.
  • Provide photo ID.
  • Ensure all sections on the registration papers are correctly filled out.

Service NSW will then process the transfer, charge a fee ($31), and issue new registration papers in your name. If the boat includes a trailer, you’ll need to transfer that into your name as well, following the same procedure.

By following these streamlined steps, you’ll navigate the purchase and registration process efficiently, ensuring your new boat is ready for the water.

How do I transfer boat registration?

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.

How do I transfer a boat trailer 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 Registration, along with paying a fee and providing identification.

About the Author


Aaron O’Donoghue is a qualified Marine Surveyor & Engineer with nearly two decades of experience in the industry. He is an experienced boater from Sydney who grew up on the waters of Sydney Harbour. He left school at 15 to complete an apprenticeship as a Marine Mechanic. In 2015, he founded BoatBuy, where he has inspected thousands of boats and is passionate about helping others enjoy their time on the water. He has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field. Do you have a boating related question? Feel free to reach out to me via email here.

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