Tips for buying a used boat

Let me just say, I am not an expert at buying used boats or boats in general. This is just some helpful info that I learned along the way to finding our perfect used boat

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During our boat buying process, I learned a lot! Here I’ll explain a few things to consider when buying a used boat, and things that helped us. Since we bought a ski/wakeboard boat, this list will cater more to that type of boat. Hope this helps!

  • Budget: First things first, deciding what your budget will be. This will help you with all the other details along the way and narrow your search down. You definitely don’t want to fall in a love with a boat that you can’t afford.

*Things to consider: Will you be paying up front, will you be partially paying/partially financing, or will you be putting down the minimum and financing the rest? Be sure to factor in budge for the trailer too, if it’s not included in the listed price. You will also have to pay taxes on the sale of the boat and trailer. I believe we paid 6% of the sale price. Make sure to fit that into your budget.

  • Craigslist/Boattrader.com: You will likely be able to find used boats at boat dealers around your area, but don’t forget to search Craigslist as well. For sale by owner will usually be cheaper than the boat dealers or sites like boattrader.com. Boat trader and boat dealers will most likely have a surcharge of about 10%, so if you can cut out the middle man, that would be ideal. Sometimes, the boat dealer is willing to get you in contact with the seller directly, and working with the seller directly, you can definitely try and negotiate the price.

*Things to consider: Be flexible on location and be willing to travel! Living in a place like Austin, boats are posted and sold quick! With full lakes, boats don’t hang around too long. Consider broadening your search area. We found our boat in the Houston and drove about 160 miles one way. It was worth it for us, for sure!

  • Hire a reputable inspector: Trust me, it is worth the money! Especially if you’re buying a boat off craigslist. We found our surveyor on this website. He was very thorough with the whole inspection and was very upfront about anything he saw that could be a potential concern. He will also run the numbers on the boat for accidents, taxes, actual value of the boat, etc. A surveyor will provide you with peace of mind.

*Things to consider: This will run you around $450, at least that’s what ours was. Be sure to factor that into your budget.

  • Engine type: This was important to us. There are three types of motors for a ski boats. Some are better than others, in my opinion. The picture below gives you a pretty good idea of the different motors. The Outboard motor sits on the back of the boat, the Inboard/Outboard motor is at the end of the boat with the propeller just under the swim deck, and the Inboard motor is on the boat with the propeller under the boat completely. For safety reasons, an inboard was the only boat I would consider.

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*Things to consider: There are two options for inboard boats. Direct drive, which has the motor in the middle of the boat. V drive has the motor at the back of the boat. There are some pros and cons out there, but it really comes down to personal preference. We went with an inboard direct drive.

  • Engine hours: Boating hours are a way of tracking how much use the boat has gotten, similar to the way our cars track mileage. The average boating hours should be 50-80 hrs a year. For example, if you buy an 8 year old boat with 400 hrs, that’s 50 boat hours a year. Having too little or too high is a bad sign. Look for the average 50-80 hrs a year.

*Things to consider: Not all boats will fall into this category of 50-80 hrs/year. Our boat actually averaged 21 hrs a year. To some people that would be alarming. I’ve read that an underused boat is an under maintained boat. On the flip side, 100 hrs and poor maintenance could be a bad sign too. We looked for boat with 200-400 boat hrs.

  • Boat year: We mostly looked at boats less than 10 years old. Of course you may come across a boat that is over 10 years old, that’s in mint condition with low boating hours or a new engine, but that may be a rare find. I feel like the boat year is flexible. Although, we did think about the future and the resale of the boat. We chose an 8 yr old boat. Boat year will REALLY depend on your budget.
  • Brand: This is also very flexible. Brands to look for: Malibu, Supra, Master Craft, Tigé, Ski/Air Nautique, Moomba, Centurion. They all have something different to offer. You will need to do some research to figure which brand fits your needs best.

A couple things I’d like to point out that apply to any kind of boat your buying…

  1. Always test drive a boat. (and hire an inspector!) Your inspector will insist on water testing the boat.
  2. Make sure it has not been in salt water. Salt water does some serious damage if the boat isn’t flushed out after each use.
  3. Interior Condition… boat upholstery is expensive! Try to find a boat that has minimal damage to the interior. Also, look for mildew.
  4. Consider getting your boaters license. I found out that a license is not required to drive a boat, but is actually VERY beneficial. We got licensed online at www.boaterexam.com
  5. Lastly, what are you willing to compromise on? What are your priorities?

Remember, buying a boat is not an investment and you’re probably not going to make any money off of it when you go to sell it. It requires yearly maintenance, boat wipe downs, cleaning, accessories, etc. A boat is simply an investment in your fun. With proper maintenance, a boat can last you 20 years! (<-true statement spoken and lived by my dad, Jerry. Long live the 1990 Ski Brendella!)

Anything you would add to this list? Email me!

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