How to Buy a Used Performance Boat

This article will assist those planning to buy a used performance boat. A performance boat is not the same as other boats. The manufacturer is usually smaller and more customized than other larger manufacturers. The general location this will be referring to is the Southern California area.


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    Become familiar with performance boats. Go out with friends, rent a boat, do whatever it takes to educate yourself with the different types, sizes and styles.
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    Determine how large of a boat you need. Get to know your local boating locations and find out if they have any size restrictions. Then look for the size boat based on what you plan to do with your boat and where you'll be doing it. The larger the lake, the more turbulent the water conditions will be. Bigger boats make larger wakes. Combine that with wind conditions and you can be in for a rough ride. Bigger is not always better. If your interest is a smooth ride, a larger boat will do well. If your interest is wake boarding skiing and so on, a smaller boat may suit you better. Generally in the local lakes the size would be between 21 and 27 feet.
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    Look at the deck layout of different boat models. Cuddy cabin vs walkthrough. Normally the 21 to 23 boats are walkthrough bow riders and the 24 and above are cuddy cabin crawl through bow riders. This is a matter of suiting your needs most people think they will use the cuddy area and do not because its not the most comfortable place to be on a hot day, but it is a personal choice.
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    Compare Vee bottom vs Deck Boat. So far we have been talking about V bottom boats. The Deck Boat is gaining momentum in the performance boating arena. Deck Boats are usually 26' in length to about 29 but usually around 28'. You will find that the deck boat will give you the smoothest ride in choppy water. Compared to a V bottom in its size range. The Deck Boat will also give you the roomiest floor plan combined with more storage. This does not mean the deck boat is aways the best way to go. The turning radius as well as the handling on a turn is not in any way comparable to a v bottom's tight responsiveness. The twin sponson is the reason for the smooth ride as well as the inferior handling. Remember this, one boat is not better than another; just better for a specified purpose.
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    Look at engines and drives. In purchasing a used performance boat it is not common to have a boat that is underpowered. Usually the performance market does not run V6 engines or 4 cylinders on these boats. Performance boats are usually over-powered. The question is what motor is best for the size boat your buying. A 21' to 23' boat will usually do fine with a 350 Mag Mercruiser Bravo 1 drive. Mercruiser is almost the only power plant used in the Southern California Performance Boat market. With a 24' boat to 29' boat you should expect a 496 or an 8.2 with a Bravo 1 drive. You may see a Bravo 3 drive (dual prop configuration). High performance motors may be impressive in speed runs but usually have a bit more mechanical risks do to harder run times and potentially added service demands.
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    Look at what to do to check out your potential used performance boat? First look at the boat; you can almost always tell if the owner is meticulous with their boat or not. Look at the gelcoat and see if there are scratches are all over. Look on the bottom to see if they beached it all the time. Look at the color of the gelcoat to see fading as it may have been kept out in the sun. Feel the vinyl for hardening and discoloration. Spring on the floor to feel a spongy softness which reveals water damage in the wood of the floor. If it's a fiberglass floor, the spring may be normal. Grab the drive and attempt to move it side to side, looking for play in the drive (make sure the steering wheel is not moving. Play is a bad thing, and the gimbal bearing could be costly to replace. Now as for the motor try to get records of the periodic maintenance, preferably once a year by a dealer not by the owner. Some boat owners do their own oil changes and assume they serviced the boat. Many times this results in costly repairs. Validate the stated hours with the hour meter and a computer diagnosis tool. You would need a Mercruiser mechanic for this. Remember the motor's computer has the actual running hours of the boat and is not easy to tamper with. An hour meter can be replaced anytime along the way. If possible run a compression test on the motor if your interested it would be money well spent. Prop damage speaks for itself. Do not let a dented prop run for long it will create further damage to the drive.
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    How to know if you're paying the right price? You've heard of the phrase "knowledge is power"? In purchasing a used performance boat this is an understatement. Check the local used boat market to see if the boat you want is in your price range. You may be forced to step up price wise or step down on your desired boat. Do not go for the cheapest boat, you will pay for that mistake in the long run. Remember you are buying a boat not a car or a house. You do not need a performance boat, you want one. Enjoy yourself, it could be educational and fun. If you find yourself considering a boat that you are not really happy with in an attempt to fit your budget, you may want to hold off and scrape up a few more dollars. Some people advise you to "stand by your price without budging, walk away if they don't give you what you want." It just doesn't work like that, the conditions and opportunities command you to be more fluid. You must be ready to maneuver to pay more than you had originally assumed because you are not an expert. You need to learn the market by seeing what X amount will get you. Don't be afraid to raise your original budget. DO NOT BUY SOMETHING YOU DON'T LIKE BECAUSE IT FITS YOUR BUDGET. If you can't afford it then wait till you can. Limit your shopping to a few months or you will become a career shopper achieving nothing in the long run. You may have heard "a boat is a hole in the water in which you pour your money into". This occurs when people try to steal a boat and the laugh ends up being on them. Also when boat owners attempt to cut corners on services they find themselves paying for drive replacements. If you can't afford to own, store, and maintain your boat then don't buy one maybe golf is your thing.
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    Be prepared for wheeling and dealing. It is important to be considerate to those selling the boat. Price and value should be known before seeing the boat. You may not have the bottom line but don't just call people up and throw a ridiculous and insulting offer just to appear shrewd, this will expose your apparent ignorance. Know the value, know a good deal. If the boat looks great and the owner seems honest and took good care of his boat then don't be afraid to tell him so. No one likes doing business with someone that is griping about the condition of the boat to get a better deal. This will only cause a distance between the two of you pushing the seller away. If the boat is at a fair price and you like it then do not lie and say "this is all I have". Again no one likes a sleazy sales person and no one likes a sleazy buyer. Offer the seller a lower price and back it up by telling them about other boats that put his price out of the market price. If the boat is a sweet deal then buy it. More people lose great deals getting caught up in the game. If you love it but it happens to be a bit more than you wanted to pay then it may benefit you to move your price to fit your needs. Many times buyers are informed to move their needs to fit their price. In some ways it may be necessary but remember, your boat is solely about your enjoyment. If you're walking out on a great boat over a few dollars, then something went wrong in your negotiation. DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR OBJECTIVE, YOUR BUYING A BOAT NOT WINNING A NEGOTIATION WAR. Your ego may need to take a back seat for a moment.
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    Be respectful to the sellers you will get much more from them. There are a lot of great people (sellers) that will help you more than you know. if you just lose those boxing gloves and just talk. Bonding with the seller will inspire them to give you useful hints. If the seller is getting out of boating, they may be inspired to give you some or all of the boating toys and accessories that will just be taking up space in their garage. Some people may let you test drive the boat, some may not. Do not pass up a boat for this reason if you know the boat, which you should, if you did your homework. Then check out the motor and other criteria and be sure to run the motor before you buy. Do not ask to run the motor unless you plan to buy.


  • Check the trailer break mechanism and tires/ bearing buddies.


  • Understand if the boat is a California registered boat it could have an unsecured property tax lean on it. Find out by checking with the California State controllers office unsecured property tax division.
  • If a lienholder is on title go to the bank and pay the balance with the seller.
  • If you register your boat in the state of California you will be paying this property tax as an additional fee each year. You may want to register the boat in Arizona if you use your boat there over 50 % of the time. This will eliminate the annual property tax. This is not illegal or cheating. You do not need to own property in Arizona in order to do this. Your boat is not a vehicle it is a vessel. Your vessel is supposed to be registered in the state in which you are boating, not in which you live. Your trailer on the other hand is a vehicle and must be registered to your home address it must match your towing vehicle plates. If your towing vehicle is registered in California then your trailer needs to be as well.

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Categories: Purchasing Boats