Six Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Boat
Many people dream of owning a boat for years and finally reach a point where they're ready to buy one. When buying your first vessel, a used boat can be a great option – and there are some advantages to buying used. But there are (obviously) some downsides to watch for, so you need to know what questions to ask when buying a boat that isn’t exactly “new.”
The condition of the boat, its motor, age, and several other factors can affect the price of the vessel and could even be grounds not to purchase that particular watercraft. To help you make the most informed decision, here are the questions to ask when buying used boats.
Why Buy a Used Boat
Buying a used boat has several advantages (especially for first-time buyers). The current owner has likely taken it out on the water. That means the vessel will have an established track record of quality. If there were any factory defects on it, they've probably been corrected by the current owner under the warranty. You can verify the history of the boat with the owner and ask for maintenance records.
Buying used also means you’re probably getting "more boat" (or one with more features) for less money than buying new. If you’re unsure if you’re really passionate about boating and fishing (or do not have the financial means to purchase a new vessel quite yet), buying a used boat is a good “test-run” investment.
What Questions to Ask When Buying a Boat Used
1. How many hours are on the motor?
There are two things to watch for when it comes to hours on a motor: A high number of hours for that specific type of motor or a low number of hours on an older motor.
Diesel boat motors generally have a lifespan of 6,000 to 8,000 hours before they need to be rebuilt. For gas-powered motors, it's much lower. They generally last 1,500 to 2,000 hours. If a motor has that many hours on it, you may need to rebuild or replace it sooner than you'd like.
If a motor has low hours on an older boat, you may want to ask why. If the motor was replaced, that's one thing. But if the boat hasn't been used much, there could be a reason. It may not run well, for example. Also, a boat that hasn't been used often might not have been kept on a regular maintenance schedule.
2. Where has the boat been stored?
The location and storage method can have an impact on the condition of a boat. An indoor storage facility is best because it protects the boat from environmental conditions. Outdoor storage exposes a boat to the sun's UV rays and other hazards. The sun's UV rays can wear out a boat's gel coat and degrade wood quality, vinyl seats, and other features. The sun can even create cracks in the hull if the boat is constantly exposed. These problems can happen even if the owner has kept the boat outdoors under a UV cover.
3. When was the last time the boat was in use?
If a boat has been in use recently, then the owner is probably aware of any problems it has. If it has been in storage for a long time, the boat may have developed problems that the owner isn't even aware of.
4. What problems has the boat had, if any?
Most boat owners are friendly and like-minded people, and they will be honest when you ask them questions like this. But every once in a while, that might not be the case. Ensure you visually inspect the boat when asking about any mechanical or performance issues. If the owner is singing the boat's praises, and you're spotting potential problems, they're likely not being honest with you.
Some things to look for, even as a layman, might be cracks in the hull or mildew spots inside the boat. A tiny spiderweb crack in a fiberglass hull isn't something to worry about. Cracks more than two inches in length could mean you'll need some expensive repairs. Check the condition of the belts on the alternator and power steering, too. If cracked or worn out, it could mean the owner hasn't taken good care of the boat.
5. Why are they selling?
This is more of a personal question to ask of the owner. A lot of times, people will sell a boat due to life changes. Maybe they're going through a divorce and need to liquidate assets, or they're moving to a new city for work, which will be too far away from boating opportunities. They may not have enough time for boating now and want to transfer it to someone who will get more use out of it.
If you get the sense that the seller has a sense of urgency – like they need to sell the boat sooner rather than later due to moving or some other reason – they will probably be willing to knock down the price a little.
6. Is there any warranty left, and is it transferable?
In a perfect world, you would find a used boat with a year or two left on the warranty, which can be transferred to you. In most cases, this won't happen. However, if you do happen to get lucky, and this is the case, it can give you more peace of mind when investing in a used boat. It doesn't hurt to ask!
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