Buying a used boat can be a fantastic way to get into boating, while letting someone else take the big depreciation hit on the new boat. However, before you buy a used boat, you need to understand the risks. Unfortunately, many buyers have learned hard and expensive lessons by not knowing exactly what to look for. We have listed 5 questions you should ask before you buy a used boat that will set you up for success!
It has been said many times, the 2 happiest days in a boat owners life are the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell their boat. If you are shopping for a used boat, you need to be aware that someone wants to get rid of that boat for some reason. The following questions will help you avoid common traps used boat buyers often fall into.
1. What should I expect a used boat to cost?
Boats depreciate a lot. When you buy a used boat, you are letting someone else take the hit, and as long as you do your due-diligence and check the boat out thoroughly, it is a great way to go. Used boat values can vary greatly – as a rule of thumb, a 5-10 year-old pontoon boat could cost you anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 if it well maintained and in good shape. The same sport boat could cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 in good shape. One of the best tools around before buying a used boat is the NADA used boat guide. Look up anything you are considering purchasing there, and make sure you are an informed buyer!
2. Does the owner have maintenance records?
This is crucial. If this is a 10 year boat and the owner didn’t bother to winterize it over the last winter – then that boat may be dead in the water the first time you start it. Inspect the engine and prop and make sure they are in good shape. Inspect the hull and make sure the fiberglass is in good shape, or in the case of a pontoon – that the tubes and fittings are all in good shape. You can get a good sense of how well a boat has been “loved” by a quick visual inspection.
3. Insist on a test drive before you buy a used boat.
If you are are buying from an individual, you should insist that they meet you at your favorite marina, launch the boat, and let you take it for a test-drive. Getting a boat on the water will clue you in to lots of potential problems. How does the engine run? does it handle well? If you buy a boat from someone’s front yard, don’t be surprised if you find yourself stranded the first time you take it out on the lake. A test drive is a must for this reason. If the seller resists, that is a good clue that the boat is a big headache and they just want to get rid of it.
4. Have you checked with local boat dealers?
Buying a boat is a lot like buying a car, and dealers will often take used boats in on trade. Buying a used boat from a dealer is a great way to ensure that you can test-drive the boat, and also have it inspected by their service department before any transaction takes place.
5. How many hours (miles) does the boat have on it?
For those who are new to boating – there is no odometer. Boat usage is measured in hours. Basically – a boat with 1000 hours on it is much like a car with 100,000 miles on it. Checking the usage on the boat will give you leverage in determining the value.
So, is buying a used boat right for me?
If you do your homework and ask the right questions, buying a used boat can be a fantastic way to get into boating without taking out a second mortgage on your home. However, if after reading through these questions you are scared to death of the prospect of buying a used boat, you might want to explore some other options.
One fantastic trend we see these days are Boat Clubs. A boat club is much like a country club – you pay an amount of money each month and in turn – you have access to an entire fleet of boats, rather than only the boat you purchased. Much like a country club member reserves a tee-time, a boat club member reserves their time on the boat. Boat clubs are perfect for those who just want to enjoy boating, but don’t want to sign up for a lifetime of maintenance and all the other hassles that come with boat ownership. If you haven’t looked into this option – it’s a great thing to consider before purchasing a used or new boat.
We hope this article helps in making the best decision possible. The boating lifestyle is one of the most rewarding choices you can make for you and your family, and the memories you make on the water will last a lifetime. Happy boating, and we’ll see you on the water!