What to Look for when Buying a Used Boat


Author: Lisa L. Wojcik, WaterwayStore.com


If you are thinking about buying a used boat there are some things that you should know to protect yourself from fraud or getting a boat that is unsafe. To help you protect you legally and to help you be more aware of some of the common issues that you might have to deal with when buying a boat.


There are many listings for used boats in Newspapers and on the Internet. Most have a picture and a brief description of the boat, this way you have the chance to look at a few before making a call. You need to know what type of boat that you want. You should also get an idea of what that boat should cost used, and the condition it is in. Do some research to find out about the type of boat that you are looking for.


Finding the perfect boat is a real job for someone that knows about boats. It can hard for a first time boat buyer. Choosing the right boat is all about of knowing what is really important to you. What will you be using your boat for; for fishing or just plan cruising, or is this boat for family use or entertaining friends. Be sure that you consider all of these factors.


Will you use the boat for weekends or will you be traveling to different locations in it? Your boat should be able to fit on a trailer if it will be traveled with. Also consider that the larger the boat, the more it will cost you to run it, maintain it, and store it. Many do not take these things into consideration when buying a boat.


Boats that have Galleys qualify for a write off as a second home in most states. This is a good benefit for you when it comes time to pay taxes. Check with an accountant before you buy a boat to see what the tax options and benefits might be.


Where do you plan to use your boat? On the Great Lakes or Ocean, if so you have to answer one question. Will you be taking it out overnight or be going far off shore, or going on day trips closer to shore. If you plan overnight stays on the boat then you need to take comfort and amenities in mind. A boat for this purpose should not be less than 25 ft for comfort when you are cruising the Great Lakes/Ocean or for overnight stays.


Check to see that the hull of the boat is made to hold up in rough waters like those in the Great Lakes. Not all boat hulls are designed for the type of wave patterns that are found on the Great Lakes. The hull should be a "V" shape rather than a "U" for the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair waters because their shallow depths make for very choppy waters. Keep this in mind when selecting your next boat. Sailboats are made to work with the wave patterns so they are not prone to the same problems as other types of boats, and are usually quite comfortable.


You need to do a physical eye search of the entire boat starting at one end of the boat and working your way around it. Use your hands and look closely with your eyes all along the side of the boat looking for scratches, stress cracks, dents, and possible repair areas, particularly around the console and splashwell area. Check the keel very closely; focus around the U bolt and check to be sure that the U bolt is attached tightly.


Lie on your back and look under the hull. If you hit something with a boat it is going to hit toward the back of the boat which is the Pad area. Look for fiberglass exposure, matting, major gouges etc. Lie on your back underneath the motor and look at the very back of the pad. Look in the bilge area to see if there is any water in it. If so drain the water out and when you take the boat for a test drive recheck the bilge for leaks. If there is water in the bilge after a short ride this can mean a good size leak exists. Make sure all of the electronics work like bilge pumps, battery charger, fish finders, rpm gauge, water pressure gauge, lights and any other electronics you find.


You also need to check the motor as this can be the biggest expense if there is anything wrong with it. Spin the prop to check for any wobble. Pull the cowl and look over the motor closely. Check all the head gaskets. Powerheads are assemblies that are painted when assembled so if the gaskets are not painted this is a tell tale sign

that the motor has been apart. This is okay as long as the seller has told you upfront about any problems. Run the motor for a few minutes on a hose. While the engine is running with the cowl off, check for fuel/water on exhaust leaks.


After you have taken the boat out on the lake for a test run; drain a bit of grease from the lower unit into your catch tray. If you get water with no grease you have a big problem. If the grease looks milky-brown, there may be water in it and you might need a seal change.


Once you have done all of these checks, evaluate the condition of the boat. Then if there are repairs that need to be made, try to come up with a price of what you think the repairs will cost. Then try to negotiate the price with the seller explaining your findings and cost of repairs. If you really want the boat, and the repairs are minor, you may just want to buy the boat as is if the price is decent and the seller will not negotiate. Once the deal is made you have yourself a boat.

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