Owning a boat

Whether you own a boat or are thinking about buying one, you need to know about:

  • registration
  • trailers
  • insurance
  • security.

This will help you make the most of your boat and ensure it complies with the law.

Buying a boat

Before buying a boat check that the vessel isn't under finance, or that it has been stolen or written off.

Registering a boat

Boats fitted with an engine must be registered to travel in South Australian waters. This includes sailing and rowboats 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 90 days 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 motorboat 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:

Operating a boat

To operate any vessel fitted with a motor, you must hold a recreational boat operator's 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 90 days you will need to apply for a South Australian boat 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 print-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.

Get a copy of the 5th edition National Standard for the Australian Builders Plate for Recreational Boats (the Standard).

The standard aims to improve clarity and ease of use, and to deliver better safety guidance for Australian boaters.

Major changes in the new standard include:

  • The person capacity must now be displayed in compliance with the specified standard. Previously it was recommended by the boat builder.
  • Flotation must be fitted in accordance with the standard requirements. Most boat builders must choose a standard that allows basic flotation (for example, AS1799 – 2009) if they wish to fit that type of flotation to a boat. Previous standards allowed boat builders to fit either basic or level flotation, regardless of the flotation type specified by the standard.
  • Person capacity will now be shown as a number of persons on board or not exceeding a certain weight in kg.
  • Auxiliary outboard mass and associated equipment must be considered as part of the Australian Builders Plate generic ‘maximum load’. The previous standard required boat builders to only consider this.
  • When a HIN is already affixed to a boat, the HIN must also be displayed on the Australian Builders Plate. When a HIN is not present a build date can still be used.
  • The standard requires all Australian Builders Plates to include a warning statement regarding the decrease of loading masses in adverse conditions. This was previously optional.
  • All boats with a flybridge must include a warning statement on their Australian Building Plate stating the maximum passenger capacity of the flybridge and to fit an additional Australian Builders Plate adjacent to the flybridge steering position.

Boatbuilders must apply the new standard.

In South Australia, it is an offence to sell a recreational boat built on or after 4 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 not exceeding a certain weight
  • 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.

Related information

Other websites

Australian Builders Plates - associated documents - Australian New Zealand Safe Boating Education Group

Was this page useful?

Thanks for contributing - your feedback helps us improve this website.

Page last updated 13 July 2022

Provided by:
Department for Infrastructure and Transport
Last Updated:
Printed on:
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2022