HOW TO BUY A USED BOAT - Easy Tips To Follow
How do I buy the right used boat for my use? Do you know were I can get a deal?, These are the most common questions anyone in the marine service industry gets asked. I have read many advise articles on this topic over the years, most of them are written by persons who are in boat sales or prepared by a boat manufacturer. This is not the case with what you are about to read.
I have had 30 plus years to think of how I would answer these questions. There is a whole host of considerations that need to be addressed before you even think about the boat itself. The first consideration is the plan you have to use and store the boat. Are you going to keep the boat in one location such as, your cottage, a marina, your driveway, or in a storage facility some were. This may seem like an odd first question but it is important. Each one of these answers has specific limitations or costs associated with it. You need to consider the cost of ownership over and above the purchase price of the boat you love. It seems a lot of new boat owners have very limited knowledge of the annual cost of ownership and the complications that boat ownership can create.
If you are considering a trailer boat so you can take the boat with you from one location to another for sport fishing, water skiing, or you may just enjoy seeing and experiencing different bodies of water across the province. Then if this is your choice here are some considerations you need to give to your boat purchase. First do you have an appropriate tow vehicle for the size of boat you want to buy or do you need to keep the boat inside the towing limitations of your current tow vehicle. Are you allowed to store your vessel at home in your driveway or do you need to rent a location to store the boat. This may restrict the size of boat you are able to buy. Remember the distances you plan to tow your boat will dictate the type of trailer you will need to have under the boat and the trailer can add several feet to the length of area you will need to have available for storage.
If you are purchasing a boat to have at your cottage or home on the water, this presents other concerns you need to plan for. What is the depth of the water you have available at your dock, and how long is your dock. Will you be prepared to spend the money to change your dock if necessary. Are there any restrictions on horse power or noise. Do you have facilities were you can go for waste pump outs and gas. What is the nature of the body of water you are using, can it get nasty in bad weather, does the lake have a rocky bottom, is it well marked or hard to navigate, is it common for boats to hit the bottom or hit hidden debris, where can you launch the boat. You may only have access to a shallow ramp or a beach front.
If you have selected a marina or yacht club you want to belong to, you must find out what slips are available. Do not buy a boat and assume that your choice of marina will be able to facilitate your boat some marinas have waiting lists for slips. Look at the slip set up and make sure that the boat you purchase will fit. If the boat is wide in beam or to long you will be afraid to take the boat out of the slip, you need to have a comfortable slip to get in and out of. Be sure they have the required facilities your boat will require need such as dockside water and appropriate shore power plug (You may require more than 1 30 amp plug). Know the costs of mooring your boat ,some marinas will charge by length over all and others will charge by the length of the slip do not calculate the cost by the length that the manufacturer places on the boat (an example of this is a 2855 Bayliner is 33 feet length over all). Make sure you can accommodate your extra boating requirements such as storage, BBQ or other on the water toys that you may add to your fleet, such as a tender or a jet ski.
All of the above considerations will cost you money over and above the boat, these costs can pile up and this does not include insurance. If you are not prepared you may have your boat for sale after the first season. I have seen these costs drive out a new boater.
Now lets talk the boat! The biggest consideration for your boat is the budget. Have you ever driven or spent much time on a variety of boats and why are you buying a boat? How large will your immediate crew be? do you have pets? any crew members with physical restrictions? Is the boat for a weekend cottage or do you plan to get out on the water? Are you a family or person who enjoys camping or will you be a day boater only? It is popular to have a boat for corporate use were you will be entertaining guests? Do you have friends with boats and are you planning to spend a lot of time at and on the boat? Does this boat purchase have to satisfy many personalities and expectations you must be realistic and able to satisfy all the persons who will be spending time on the boat other wise you will be boating alone or selling the boat. Boating is a great way to spend time with friends and family however this only works when you have found the right boat.
These are a lot of questions the more time you spend answering these questions the happier you will be with your choice.
Once you have selected the size of boat and the style (Cruiser, Fishing Boat etc.) of boat you will be shopping for we can then put together a list of things to look for to determine if the boat has been well maintained. We will divide the assessment of the boat into three areas the boat itself which is the structure, the systems which are all the accessories and items added to the boat and motors the propulsion system that gets you through the water. It really doesn't matter the size of the boat when it comes to the structure the same rule of thumb applies. There is the hull, the deck and the internal structure of the boat (stringers and the bulkheads). The hull of the boat is reasonably straight forward. Always inspect the boat out of the water. Never assume that because the top side of the boat is fantastic that the same goes for the bottom. If you are buying a boat that will be living on the trailer all the time you are not using it then there are some boats you can immediately knock off the list. The first boat off the list is any boat with bottom paint, this bottom paint will become an unnecessary hassle for you as it will dry up and flake of leaving the boat looking nasty. You will then have to repaint for no reason a waste of money. The next boat to be weary of are boats with painted hulls, the paint can hide a world of damage also paint is not designed to live most of its life underwater.I would not buy a painted hull boat., they are more expensive to fix All boats will get some degree of dock damage. However there are exceptions to every rule, some boats only come factory painted. These are boats such as a Donzi, Chris Craft and large yachts you can rest assured these are fine, you just need to remember the cost of repair if this is your first boat. Other places to look for use and abuse is along the keel of the boat, and at the transom corners, over and above the normal wear and tear of docks and fenders the keel and the two back corners take the most abuse. What you are looking for is gel coat damage or damage that has been patched up (if the back corners are damaged this could be a sign of a hard boat to handle in reverse). Gel coat repair is generally not hard to spot you look for either areas that don't match in color, are too shiny(a sign of a paint repair) or to dull (indicates old repair area). Some of the other signs of damage are patched up hull graphics or no hull graphics at all. If all of the factory graphics and logos are gone the boat has probably had repaired damage, these graphics are expensive to purchase and apply and are not always available.
The deck of a boat can have all of the same issues finish issues as the hull. When it comes to the deck there are obviously a lot more items that will have to be checked over. You will need to check over all the hatches on the deck that are part of the original deck (motor, storage, anchor locker).Open them all up and check the inside for cracks inside of the lids. older hatches could have long cracks across them and newer style hatches that are mold finished inside will develop cracks around the inside edges. These cracks are a sign that the core is wet. Verify the hatches fit correctly and that the latches close when the hatches are closed. Next inspect around the rails and mounted hardware for sealant that has been added after the boat was assembled. This includes around the windshield area. Any build up of sealant is a sure sign that there are leaks in this area which have likely been getting inside the boat. Look over the sides of the deck above the deck and hull joint for cracks in the gel coat. The areas under the cleats are were stress will show up the most, this is a sign that the boat has been in some really bad weather and the cleats have been stressed. If the boat has an arch or a hard top, get up and take a look on top. If this area if it is clean and waxed it is a sign the boat has had genuine care, this area will also show if the boat has had electronics changed or removed usually boaters will just fill these holes on top with silicone. Check the transom door for the fit see if there are any problems with the fit or if the latches have been modified or do not work. Take your time and look over the non skid around the edges you are looking for bad mould areas were the non-skid doesn't have nice clean moulded edges, these problems can also exist in the center areas of the non skid. This is a sign of air voids and lamination issues when the boat was built. If the non skid on the boat is not the same type or design all over the boat this is a bad sign this boat has had serious work done to the deck. The only acceptable time to see different non skid is when a boater has added a after market swim platform.
If you are looking at a boat that has extra items like swim platforms, radar arch, generators, hardtops added to the boat buy an owner at some point be very careful. Boats are sensitive to center of gravity and center line load weight shifts. These are just terms to tell you that adding weight to the vessel after construction can change the performance. If you are looking at a boat that has seen extra accessories like the above list added be sure you run a boat that is an unmodified version to compare too. When you start to mess with center of gravity and load distribution you can destroy the way a boat runs you may need a ladder at the dash to see over the bow when you try to get on plain, no joke... if the boat will not get on plane without full trim tabs maximum trim and all kinds of other tricks then do not buy it.
When you assessing the motors and the mechanical's the first thing you need to check are the hours. In a car we go by mileage when we are calculating a value, in the boat industry we look at hours. A standard rule is 40 hours per year, less is fine with the correct maintenance but way less is not great. Once you start to put time on the boat it will start to cost you money, parts will break down. Don't be afraid if there are more hours its not a bad thing it tells you the boat has been used. This means that everything likely works as you are buying from a seasoned boater. The truth is you need a mechanics opinion, you can take oil samples, hook up diagnostic computers, read spark plugs, compression checks and much more. Get an independent opinion, when you do this have the seller provide any records of maintenance. Do yourself a favor even if you love the boat, listen to your mechanic. The mechanic may break your heart. The cost associated to this service is peanuts compare to a bad motor or drive. Do not buy a boat that has a drive or engine package that were removed from the market, an example of this is Yamaha inboard outboard configuration , OMC king cobra drive, or any composite drives. You can write a book on this subject here is my suggestion find a good mechanic who will give you the straight truth good or bad have him/her be detailed do not stop at the motors and drives. Have the generator , batteries and other systems checked. I recommend a mechanical survey. Ask for the manuals that came with the boat these manuals contain serial numbers for the motors and drives. If the drives do not match just be sure that the replacements are an exact match for the factory drives this includes rotation and gear ratio. If the motor or motors have been changed unless they are brand new walk away, rebuilt marine engines have a horrible reputation for not lasting long.
The last items that can really hurt the pocket book are the canvas and upholstery. The canvas is just as it seems if it is old and crappy looking and will need to be replaced, even in a year or so get an estimate for money and time. Canvas on a large boat of 30 feet or more can easily exceed $8000.00 dollars. Upholstery can be of a similar cost be careful. There are lots of boats for sale don't be a speed buyer.
No matter what boat you wish to buy get a mechanical survey and a condition survey, this should reduce the chances of getting a bad deal. Always make your deal based on a sea trial, if this is your first boat bring an experienced boater with you and take the boat from the slip out and back yourself if you can. DO NOT buy a boat you are afraid of and do not pick the perfect day some wind some waves. I cannot stress enough the need to understand your boat and how it works, Do not buy a highly modified boat. Buy a good clean original boat for your first boat. Your first boat will be a learning curve it usually takes owning more than one boat before a boater settles into long term ownership. I cannot advise anyone on a brand or style that's a personal choice buy what works for you. I can suggest that if it is a boat you have not seen a lot of call the manufacturer and see how many were built , go online and check with boat owners clubs or groups this is were you will get the truth about the boat your thinking of buying. This may seem like a simple list but these are the things that are the easiest and fastest to find. Any red flags walk away, always get a professional opinion, do not rely on your friend who owns a boat.
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