Owning a boat

Whether you own a boat or are thinking about buying one, you need to know about things like registration, trailers, insurance and security.

Take note of this information to make the most of your boat and ensure that it complies with the law.

Buying a boat

Before buying a boat check the vessel's encumbrance.

Registering a boat

Boats fitted with an engine must be registered to travel in South Australian waters. This includes sailing and row boats fitted with an auxiliary engine.

  • If you are visiting from interstate and your vessel is registered in another State or Territory, your interstate registration will be recognised for a period of 90 days, after which you will need to apply for registration in South Australia. Membership on the Australian Register of Ships does not satisfy the registration requirement (this registration is for vessels travelling overseas).
  • When a registered motor boat is sold, the new owner must apply for transfer or new owner re-registration within 14 days.
  • To register a vessel in your name for the first time, you will need the boat details (size, length etc.) proof of ownership, evidence of identity and BoatCode Hull Identification Number (HIN) plates.

Operating a boat

To operate any vessel fitted with a motor, you must hold a recreational boat operators licence. Children aged 12 to 15 years can apply for a restricted boat licence.

Boat licences

If you are visiting from interstate, your interstate recreational boat licence will be recognised for a period of 90 days, after which you will need to apply for a South Australian licence.

Boat trailers

You and your boat trailer (539.7 KB PDF) is a comprehensive brochure that will provide you with legal requirements and hints and tips about your trailer. Download a printer friendly version (523.6 KB PDF).

For information regarding boat trailer standards, phone Vehicle Standards on 1300 882 248.

Remember to maintain your trailer in good working order and keep it registered to avoid delay or inconvenience when you want to go out on the water.


Insurance is completely voluntary but it is strongly advised that you take out some form of cover, particularly for liability against loss of life or serious injury.

Incidents that result in little or no property damage can still cause serious injuries and damage claims for personal injuries can amount to many thousands of dollars.

Without adequate third-party insurance the consequences of a claim for personal injury or property damage could be personally disastrous and lead to financial ruin.

Insurance can be arranged through most insurance companies and is reasonably inexpensive.

Theft and security

Recreational boats are desirable targets for thieves and can be the subject of disputed ownership.

Proof of ownership provided when registering a boat helps to protect the security of your boat by making it harder to rebirth and register without appropriate documentation.

BoatCode is a unique identification system that helps to track your vessel if it is stolen. BoatCode is compulsory when registering a boat for the first time or changing ownership but all boat owners are encouraged to apply.

Australian Builders Plate

The Australian Builders Plate provides safety information on recreational boats built after 4 February 2008 (unless exempt). There is a national requirement to have one.

In South Australia it is an offence to sell a recreational boat built on or after the 4th February 2008 without an Australian Builders Plate fitted, unless the vessel is a type exempted from the ABP requirements.

Always check the plate before purchasing a boat, as it is designed to give potential buyers the information to assess whether the boat is suitable for their needs.

The plate includes the following details:

  • the maximum weight and power rating of the engine
  • how many people can be carried
  • the maximum load that the boat can carry - including people and equipment.

Boats up to six metres in length will also include a buoyancy statement.

Review of standards for Australian Builders Plate

The Australian Recreational Boating Safety Committee, representing Federal, state and territory marine regulators, formed an Australian Builders Plate (ABP) Working Group in 2018 that has drafted a proposed update of the ABP Standard. As part of the review process, all jurisdictions, including DIT, are seeking comments on the current Standard and proposed changes.

The updates to the Standard are designed to reduce ambiguity and to align Standard outcomes with objectives. Some of the key issues covered in the draft are:

  • how to determine values in accordance with the specified standards
  • requiring buoyancy standards to comply with specified standards
  • addressing whether the standard is appropriate as written.

Following the consultation period, feedback will be reviewed and incorporated by a working group comprised of industry and government representatives.

For more information please access Marine Safety Queensland.

You can provide your feedback using the Proposed ABP Standard Edition 5 Questions for Consultation by 31 January 2020. If you experience problems with this form, please send an email to abpconsultation@msq.qld.gov.au.

Related information

Other websites

Australian builders plates for recreational boats - National Marine Safety Committee

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Page last updated 18 August 2020

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