“Always Buying, Consigning and Selling Queensland’s Best Used Boats Since 1964”

If you are looking at buying a boat, firstly congratulations on your decision to enter the boating fraternity.

Boating offers the family, couple or the single so much enjoyment and valuable skills. Children learn about responsibility, basic social skills, parents have some genuine quality time together with their partner and children. We all learn how beautiful our waterways are and also how fragile some areas can be!

I could talk about this all day, considering you are reading this section I’m sure I am writing to the converted!!

To those people who are considering purchasing, trading up or down to a secondhand boat, motor, trailer or rig. I would advise considering some of the following tips. These snippets of advice may save you from an extremely stressful and expensive “mistake” as outlined in the Stolen Boat Article.

John Crawford Marine has been trading, buying, consigning and selling Queensland’s best secondhand boats since establishing in 1964. The staff at John Crawford Marine have been expertly trained to assess a rig for any “signs” of tampering or suspicious cover ups.

Boat theft is something that does not make headline news however one of Australia’s leading boat insurers Club Marine and Nautilus Insurance say that $100’s of thousands of dollars of water craft were reported stolen last year alone.

No matter which way you look at it boats are not manufactured in the numbers or to the exacting standards of the automotive industry. Therefore boats are an easier target for re-badging, restyling, modifying colour, upholstery, biminis or canopies, re-powering, changing trailers, and the list goes on. If you change the colour or upholstery of a 2002 Toyota Prado, it is no difficult for any Toyota dealer to point out that the fabric or colour of the car is non-genuine!

This is why I always try and point out to the prospective buyer to try avoid the temptation of going for the “biggest boat for you buck” but rather the newest (maybe smaller in size) for you hard earned buck. I make this point as the older the rig the more chance of it being rebuilt, re-customised, modified or having major repairs etc.

For this reason John Crawford Marine’s policy regarding our stock listed for sale has to be in very good condition and show no signs of “backyard” boat renovation or “backyard rebuilds”.

Backyard boat renovators or mechanics generally sell their product privately via online sites like Gumtree and Trading Post  or through Auction Houses as there is no means of the buyer recourse if the product is faulty or not seaworthy (other than expensive legal proceedings). Most (!) boat dealers work very hard to maintain high standards with secondhand product and therefore if the dealer is not prepared to take the risk of selling you a “problem” boat then why should you? Most older boats are sold privately as they cannot be warranted by the selling dealer as many have problems being evident and the owner not willing to rectify the issue properly.

Some key pointers to check are outlined as follows.

The hull of nearly all Australian boats built later than approx 1985 should (?) have a manufacturer’s number attached or stamped into the hull. This number is now recognized as the Hull Identification Number (HIN number). The HIN number is a 14 digit number, coded to give you, the dealer and authority’s important information including manufacturer, date of manufacture, build number of the hull, country of manufacture. 

If this number cannot be found I would ask the question why? There may be a plausible explanation, however don’t take the risk or assume anything. Do some research and find out the reason. E.g. call the manufacturer or the dealer of that product. If there is no reasonable explanation, then you would be well advised to leave that rig and find another boat.

Trailer identification is another issue that also needs to be examined carefully. The Vehicle Identification Plate (VIN plate) is a metal plate that is attached to the trailer and is approx 20 cm long and 4 cm wide. It can be found generally on the drawbar of a trailer built after 1988. This plate identifies important information for identification, registration and engineering purposes. Information will include the Date of manufacture, Tare weight, ATM, Tyre size and dimensions, model number and GVM.


The VIN plate is used on trailers post 1988. Older trailers are hard to examine. Through experience we are able to determine the major brands eg. Old Redco and Tinka trailers as a guide used to use swept forward fibreglass guards. Generally the same colour as the hull that the trailer was sold under (looked great!)

Most trailers pre-1988 have the serial number stamped into the draw bar area or welded numbers on the frame. Another tip to be aware of is most pre 1988 trailers have relatively short numbers. This number pre 1988 is generally known as the chassis number. Due to this number being shorter. The VIN number has to be a 14 digit number. A 14 digit number also allows the REVS system to identify only one trailer. The REVS system may show several trailers with the same chassis number if shorter than 14 digits. We have experienced this in the past where an older trailer may have a chassis number eg 100383 and REVS has show 3 trailers including eg. a 12 wheeler, box trailer and boat trailer. Common sense must prevail as you know the trailer is neither a truck 12 wheeler nor a box trailer.

It does not matter in which state you live – the chassis number or VIN number always remains the same once allocated to a trailer frame. This is why, when an interstate rig comes to the boatyard, particular attention is paid to whether the trailer chassis or VIN number has been tampered with. As we have found some dumb crooks believe that they can change these when going interstate with stolen property. This is certainly not the case!

Finally the motor. All engines will have a serial number on them. This serial number is generally located on the mounting bracket on the engine near the swivel tube. As illustrated on the diagram the serial number “plate” is now mostly a very hard to remove sticker.


If the sticker/plate is not to be seen, again you need to wonder why. Is there any signs of forcible removable, with a blade or screwdriver? Any new paint covering the area? Or is the area just covered in grease and grime?

Most engines also house a small non painted metal disc approx 2 centimeters in diameter on the engine block. This disc is called a Welsh plug and almost all makes of outboards have one.

The serial number found on the leg of the outboard is also stamped on this welsh plug. It works as another means of checking the authenticity of the engine. Please note there are occasions when the plug may not be present or differ. Instances such as a replacement power head (still should have some identification number). Some older brands also didn’t have this system; they stamped the serial number into the block. If in doubt contact the brand of engine, local dealer for more advice.

When looking to buy a second hand marine component as covered in this brief article it is important to keep you wits about you, use common sense and utilise all available resources including reputable dealers, Queensland Department Transport, PPSR Searches. By buying through John Crawford Marine we can assure that the vessel you choose will not have a shady history!

As outlined above and in other articles on our site – there are loop holes. As I suppose there is everywhere, if you look hard enough. However, buying a boat is just like buying a house or car. Be careful, take your time, do not be rushed or allow pushy sales folk (either dealers or private sellers) to put you in an uncomfortable position.

When I’m buying boats for stock for John Crawford Marine, I always believe to go with my “gut instinct” and as the old adage goes “if in doubt – go without”. Another boat just as good will come around sooner rather than later!

Safe and enjoyable boating!



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