Buying a pleasure craft

If you are buying a pleasure craft (recreational boat) in Canada, you need to make sure it meets legislative requirements (such as those in the Small Vessel Regulations). Before you operate your pleasure craft, you may need to get a Pleasure Craft Licence and/or a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.

Before you buy a pleasure craft

Before you buy a pleasure craft in Canada, you should make sure it complies with the following requirements:

  • Hull Serial Number: Manufacturers and importers must ensure that a Hull Serial Number is placed on every boat to be sold in Canada (after demonstrating that it meets the relevant construction standards). If you see a boat for sale that does not have the required serial number, insist that the seller get it and inscribe it before you buy.

    Hull Serial Numbers only became mandatory on 1 August 1981. Vessels constructed prior to this date will not have a Hull Serial Number.

  • Canadian Compliance Notice: Most boats sold in Canada that are powered by a motor must carry a Canadian Compliance Notice. This notice means that the boat met the department’s construction standards at the time it was built.
    • Changes to the boat over time may mean that the compliance notice is no longer valid. If you are thinking about buying a used boat, make sure that it still meets the construction standards. You can hire a marine surveyor to examine the boat and let you know what changes (if any) need to be made to bring it up to the standard. You must make sure that a boat you own meets the relevant standard before you operate it.

    A Canadian Compliance Notice is not required for a vessel imported for personal use, a vessel used exclusively for racing, or a vessel of open construction built using traditional methods.

  • If you are buying a pleasure craft from another country, remember that construction standards differ from country to country. Make sure that the boat meets Transport Canada’s Construction Standards for Small Vessels or that you can modify the boat to meet these standards before you operate it.
    • The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will ask you for specific documents as well as information on the boat and the seller to confirm the sale and assess the duties and taxes on the boat. Before buying the boat, contact the CBSA to find out what you will need from the seller to bring the boat to Canada.
    • If you will be towing the boat on a trailer, you should know that a trailer is considered a motor vehicle (with requirements that are different from those that apply to your boat). Contact the CBSA to learn more. If you are buying a trailer, contact your provincial or territorial transportation office to learn about any requirements that may apply.
    • Since there may be export requirements in the country where you plan to buy the boat (and the trailer if you are buying one), contact the authorities in that country to find out what they are.

After you buy a pleasure craft

Depending on the characteristics of your boat, you may need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Licence from Transport Canada.

Also, before you operate your recreational boat you may need to get a Pleasure Craft Operator Card or otherwise ensure that you meet the requirement for proof of pleasure craft operator competency.

For information on safe boating, contact the Office of Boating Safety or refer to the Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide.


Safe Boating Guide
(PDF, 5.5 MB)