New boats are a fun time for everyone in the family, but brandnew boats can also be expensive. So, how do you save on costs while still enjoying one of your favorite outdoor activities? The answer is simple: look into buying a used boat. But how do you buy the right one for you and ensure you’re getting a quality watercraft? Don’t worry — this helpful guide has you covered. It will go over everything you need to know about what to look for when buying a used boat.

With a few tips for buying a used boat, you can find your dream boat for less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) — and no longer have to sacrifice quality to achieve affordability. Keep reading to learn how to buy a used boat, questions to ask when buying a used boat, and what to check when buying a used boat.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Boat

Your used-boat-buying checklist will look a little different from the checklist you use when buying a new boat. When you purchase a boat new, it should still be in factory condition, which generally means you can trust everything is in ship shape. 

Buying an older boat is a little different. Pre-owned boats have a whole history you don’t know anything about. That’s why it’s so essential to perform a used boat inspection. This careful evaluation will help you understand what condition a boat is in and how it will perform for you. Even though buying a used boat can be more affordable than buying a new one, it’s still an investment — and an investment you want to protect so you can enjoy it for many years to come.

The following are things to look for when buying a used boat:

  • Title and registration: See that the person selling the boat has the title and registration. At the same time, you should check that everything is valid and correct, including the hull identification number, and verify that there are no liens on the boat. With the title on hand, it can change hands as soon as the boat is bought. This means you don’t have to wait; you can take ownership of it right away.
  • Hull: You’ll also want to inspect the boat’s exterior. Make sure you get a look at the hull out of the water. Look for anything out of place, such as scratches, cracks, and paint condition. A common sign of boat aging is “hull blisters,” an indication that moisture is trapped underneath or between the hull and the fiberglass. These blisters are almost always found below the waterline and can lower the boat’s value. Although not initially problematic to the foundation of the boat, blisters can pop and cause detrimental damage with time.
  • Corrosion: As you continue your inspection, look for signs of decay. It can be white and chalky-looking or reddish-brown streaks. Boats only used in freshwater will typically have fewer signs of corrosion than saltwater boats. However, corrosion can be found anywhere there is metal on the boat. Crucial areas to check are the battery and the engine. Corroded parts on any electrical and interior component can indicate a costly repair or hazardous machinery.
  • Deck: Next, you’ll want to scrutinize the deck. Look for holes, dents, cracks, and anything out of place. These might seem like trivial blemishes, but repairs can be expensive. If the deck has upholstery or carpet, be sure to check that as well.
  • Upholstery: A boat’s upholstery goes through a lot. From sun damage and mold to rips and tears, the upholstery paints a picture of the boat’s condition — so check everything. Upholstery can be expensive to repair on boats due to size.
  • Steering system: A well-maintained steering system is crucial to a boat purchase. If the steering system isn’t up to usual standards, you’ll see the signs of wear and tear in the mount and the cables. Check the cables for fraying and rust, and make sure all the components move smoothly.
  • Engine: Before buying a used boat, it’s vital to make sure the engine is in good repair. If you can, take the boat for a test drive to get a feel for how the engine is performing. Observe how the engine starts. Smooth is the goal here. Look out for troubling signs like smoke and leaks. Ask the owner how old the engine is, how many engines there are, and check both inbound and outbound motors. Run the throttle, check for loose components, and ensure the engine bay is clean and dry. The engine is often the most expensive part of a boat to repair. 
  • Fuel tank: Smell the fuel tank to check the fuel. If you notice a bad or foul odor, it could signify contaminated or old fuel. You can find a marina to perform fuel testing if this is a concern.
  • Battery: We’ve already talked about checking the battery for corrosion, but you’ll also want to ask the boat owner how old the battery is. Most batteries have a five-year (opens in a new window) lifespan. Other things to check for are bulges, cracks, and clean connections. Make sure the battery is dry. You also want to make sure the battery isn’t loose, as this can be a hazard leading to short circuits and fires. 
  • Electrical system: Check the electronics on your boat to ensure everything is in good condition. Include the lights, GPS, appliances, and wires. Turn things on and off and keep track of issues as you go.  
  • Brand: Do your research beforehand to know which brands are more reputable. The more well-known a brand is, the more information you will be able to find about specific models. Check reviews and talk to other boat owners to get a feel for the brands that have better longevity and quality. This way, you can watch for problematic models to avoid.
  • Trailer: The trailer needs to be in good shape so you can haul it when you need to. Survey where the tongue connects to the trailer point. This point can often reveal structural failure. Also, look at the rollers, tires, and bunks. Make sure your vehicle is strong enough to haul the boat and trailer together. 

Now that you have an idea of how to perform a used boat inspection, we can move on to what key questions you need to ask. And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable performing the inspection on your own, you can always enlist the help of a marine survey.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Boat

As you consider what type, brand, and model of boat you want to purchase, you need to show you’ve done your research by coming prepared with questions to ask the owner. Some good questions to ask to get the ball rolling are:

  • What year is the boat?
  • What are the engine hours?
  • Where has the boat been used?
  • Is the boat still under warranty?

As you come up with more questions, you can narrow it down to learn if this is the right boat for you.

Is Buying a Used Boat the Right Choice for You?

Buying a used boat can be beneficial for many reasons. If you feel like a pre-owned boat is right for you after reading this article, let Germaine Marine help you find the right one. We are a used boat dealer specializing in high-quality, thoroughly vetted boats. Get out on the water as soon as possible for a smooth and unforgettable ride with our help. We have locations in CA, AZ, and UT. Check out our available boats today.

GET INTO A CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED BOATContact us by calling 1-855-938-1370 or fill out the form below for exclusive details on our Certified Pre-Owned inventory

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