wikiHow to Buy a Used Boat

Many people enjoy using boats for recreational purposes, such as fishing, family fun, or relaxation. However, before you can appreciate the freedom of the open water, you need a boat! This article will help you select a watercraft that fits your lifestyle.


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    Decide what kind of boat you want. Answering these questions will help you find that out: do you want a fibreglass or aluminum hull; inboard engine or outboard; what length; is there a type or brand of engine you would prefer, and how powerful, in horsepower, do you need it to be? Do you want a hardtop cover, canvas, or none? One of the best ways to answer these questions is to know what you are going to be doing with it. Will you be on a lake, a river, or ocean? Is it for fishing, hunting, cruising, skiing, or racing?
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    Spend about a week looking and comparing prices on used boats you like. This is to get a feel for the market. See what is selling and what isn't in your community.
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    Once you have found what you think is a reasonable price, for a boat you feel suits your needs, call the owner or talk to the dealer. Don't say you want to buy the boat. Simply call to ask them some simple questions. Write the questions and answers down on paper. Here are some simple questions:
    • Find out the year and make of engine and boat hull. If the difference between the two is more than three years, chances are the engine has been replaced.
    • Ask if they are the original owner, if it has been in salt water, when was it last used, how was it stored in the winter, and if it has had any major or minor problems fixed (new wiring, crack in hull, replaced engine head) or still existing. If you are talking to the owner, pay attention to their tone. If they seem nervous, in a hurry, or annoyed, they may be hiding something. One of the most important questions you need answered is why they are selling. This, more than anything else, can affect how much you offer.
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    If, after all these questions, you are still interested, make an appointment to see the boat, and let him know you want to take it out on the water. If you don't want to do that, you can also hook up a water hose to the engine to check if it works properly. Either way if he or she tells you they don't have time; walk away. Do not waste your time.
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    When you look at the boat, note any fixed hull cracks, see if any parts look newer than others, and look for signs of neglect. Neglect in one area, such as the hull or upholstery, may mean neglect in other areas, such as the engine. Depending on what you are looking to spend, and what you are capable of repairing on your own, this may be a good or bad thing. If there seems to be any major inconsistency between what they said on the phone and what you see, walk away. If they refuse to take it out on the water after they said they would, no matter the deal, walk away. Now is a good time to find out how many hours are on the engine.
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    Find out why the boat is being sold. Assuming everything runs great, this is where the 'why' he is selling it comes into play. Is he moving? Maybe you can offer him less. Is he paying off a debt? He may accept a lower offer. Does he have a better boat or want to buy a better boat? Then he'll probably hold out for a better price. Every defect you identify works to your advantage in getting a better price. Try offering cash (it looks sexier than a cashier's check) for less than you think it's worth based on these questions and on its local market value. At very least, don't pay more than you think it's worth; there will always be another deal, so you need not worry, especial as summer turns to fall.


  • Pick a boat to look at and go through the steps mentioned above. Then walk away; you might be surprised at the deal they offer you.
  • Being polite and friendly even when you know they might be trying to sell you a lemon helps you to learn to keep your emotions in check.
  • Take a friend who knows about boats or engines with you if you are not 'in the know' about boats.
  • Generally if the owner doesn't offer to take the boat out on the water or to take it to a mechanic, it has a major problem.
  • When negotiating in person, be sure to bring cash, as opposed to a check or credit card. The sight of money can sometimes prompt a seller into a decision before giving it much thought.
  • Make use of websites such as to compare the prices of other boats, and to get a general feel of the value of a boat.
  • Learn how to care for and winterize boats for when you do have one.
  • Follow your gut feelings; More often than not, your first inclination is the right one.
  • Have fun. If you start getting frustrated, take some time off.
  • It's a good idea to negotiate a price with a a full stomach, plenty of sleep, and no recent emotional drama happening in your life.


  • Never buy a boat without making sure the engine runs. As 80% of a boat's value is the engine. (New ones are expensive, and putting them on and taking them off is not cheap or easy).
  • Never let the owner or seller make you feel rushed. Generally, a good boat should sells itself. Feel free to walk away. A better deal will come along.

Things You'll Need

  • Cash
  • Internet
  • Pen and paper

Article Info

Categories: Purchasing Boats