Buying a Used Boat Checklist For Avoiding Surprises

Buying a used boat is one of the easiest ways to achieve your sailing dreams, mostly if you have a little boating experience or a limited budget. Purchasing a used boat may be challenging and daunting, however, below are some of the things you should look into while buying a used boat.

Buying A Used Boat Checklist
Buying A Used Boat Checklist

Our Buying a Used Boat Checklist

When buying a used boat, one of the significant signs you should check out is the overall maintenance. The clues of the kind of love the boat had been portrayed eve in its fenders, lifejackets, and lines. Below are some of the things you should be keen on. You may also need to consult a pro when in doubt.

  • Think about your needs and use

Why do you need a boat? Do you use them for fishing or for having fun? How many people will be with you on the boat? Before going to get your boat you must think about these types of basic needs.

Another important point to think about is the type of boat you want. Think before you go for your one.

  • Don’t Forget to Check the Boat Documents

After selecting the type of boat, we need to confirm if the boat has registered documents. The documents will provide you with important information about the boat and the boat owner.

Check all the documents to understand the boat. You will be able to know when the boat has undergone services and revisions. If any part is changed recently, or if any of them needs to be changed, real conditions of the boat parts and many more things will come out through the papers.

  • Damage signs checkup

Moisture, flexing, mold, and cracking in the fiberglass and timbered areas such as transom, hull, and floor are indicators of decay, plywood delamination, fiberglass break down and decay in the stringers. These kinds of signs are indicators that the boat is not properly maintained.

Used Boat Inspection

If you find some problems in external inspection, try to estimate how much it may cost to repair the damages. Have a rough calculation to add to the expenditure list. For example, painting a boat will cost you time, energy, and money.

  • Oil testing

Be keen to identify engine wear and tear, which can be felt by the gritty feeling of oil between your finger. You should abandon the boat if the mechanic confirms it. The presence of milky oil in the lower unit or the engine means there is some water getting in.

A prop shaft that is bent can be uncoiled and worn out seal replaced. But that kind of impact might have caused some stress to the gears, and the bad news could be if the water is sipping in because the gears could get destroyed.

  • Examining fiberglass cracks below and above the waterline

Tiny cracks in localized parts are mainly cosmetic. They mostly appear around the screws that are not fixed correctly around the wind-shields, handles, and gunwales.

It is not much of a trouble, but it can get worse if not set. Cracks that exceed two inches indicate huge problems underneath. It would help if you asked whether the boat has ever been in a collision and also inspect for indicators that translate to massive repairs such as a gel coat. An expert is also very essential for the inspection.

  • Loose seat inspection

The loose seat could be as a result of the rotten floor or as a result of stripped bolts. The bolts get strained when one sits on the bench back while driving. The latter can get fixed quickly.

  • Mildew checkup

You should check whether the top of the boat, the seats, or the carpet has mildew or any other damage. Inspect the storage lockers also.

The covers and the upholstery can be replaced or cleaned, but lots of molds in the seats is not a good sign. Because fungi spread quickly, the areas with the spores may be an indicator of their presence in the wooden parts. A ski locker or a carpet, which is moldy, can also be a sign of more problems underneath.

  • Start the engine

Checking the engine is also crucial when buying a used boat. Check whether the engine start is a slip or rough, smoke, vibrate, or with a lot of noise. Plenty of oil or old gas in the first tune-up is easily fixed.

These symptoms are, however, indicators of more significant problems like low compression at the cylinders leading to the want of an expensive engine repair.

  • Inspect the electronics

When it comes to bilge pumps and burned-out bulbs, there are cheap solutions.

The presence of multiple devices failing to work could de due to a faulty battery or wiring is not a big problem. But when it comes to peeling up labels in the engine or melting of the insulation wires, there is trouble because that indicates that the driver is overheating.

  • Inspect the belts

Worn, thin, or cracked power-steering or alternator is a hint that the boat was not adequately maintained. The belts are supposed to be changed every 100 hours. When belts are damaged, laxity gets noted though you can cover it in your first service.

  • Survey the Boat if necessary

If you have selected a boat roughly but you don’t have sufficient knowledge to finalize the boat, you may take the help of a registered surveyor. It will definitely impact the cost of owning a boat.

This type of service is not very costly today. It may cost something like 20 to 50 dollars only. But you will get great professional support to confirm your boat.

The boat surveyors may be particulars, from the insurance or from an agency.

Surveying a small boat may take around 20 minutes.

Advantages of Buying a Used Boat

Buying a second-hand boat

Buying a used boat has its benefits; that’s why some buyers would prefer going a used one to a new one. Some of these advantages are:

  • The price

One of the best advantages of buying a used boat is that you will buy the same boat at a lower price. The cost of a used boat is less compared to a new boat; therefore, if you happen to be on a tight budget, you can save a lot of money, if a good dealer with a quality boat can come along, one can be able to save a lot of money. But all the same, it’s good to check if every part of it is in excellent condition.

  • Purpose of the boat

The plan you have for the boat also matters. If your project is to use it for recreation purposes, the used boat is perfect for that use because it will not get used regularly. Most of the boats sold by the dealers are of good quality, but in case you are not satisfied with its looks, you can tailor it to your preference.

  • Additional items negotiation

When purchasing a brand new boat, you will spend quite a large amount of money on it and also on the additional requirements which are necessary as well. For example, you will require safety equipment and other things of that kind.

But when it comes to buying a used boat, you can acquire the additional materials by negotiating with the owner for a reasonable price. It will help you save a lot of money.

  • Record of maintenance

By checking the boat’s maintenance record, you will be able to identify the parts of the boat have been replaced. It ensures you are fully aware of the condition of the boat, and in case of any new items to be acquired, you may negotiate.

You can also give the boat a new look by painting it and mastering the parts that need more observation with the help of the maintenance record.

Disadvantages of Buying a Used Boat

Buying a used boat has its disadvantages. Here are some of the difficulties that come with buying a used boat.

  • No warranty

Most of the used boats are usually out of warranty for the engine, appliances, and equipment inside. This means if you decide to buy it, you will have to take it as it is, and in any complication that arises later, it’s all in your hands.

  • Hose clamp and rubber hose failure

A new boat rarely has the broken hose clamp or spitting hose failure. But when it comes to used boats, this is a common problem. A boat with a rotten hose causes the overheating of the engine and can as far as making the boat to sink.

  • Oxidized or faded gel coat

Worn out coat is a common problem in used boats. Reviving the gel coat’s luster is very hard unless the outboard had vigorous maintenance by baffling and compounding several times in a year.

  • Old styling

When someone is not familiar with boats, a used boat may look okay and great, but there are high chances that the styling is outdated. Like in the automobile world, boat designs change and advance after a minimum of four years and a maximum of seven.

  • Calloused-riding hull

Though most builders never talk about it, the fact is that most old boats have rocky –riding hulls. The reason for this mostly varies from brand to brand.

  • Poor electrical wiring

One of the most problematic systems in a used boat is the condition of the electrical wiring. Until the previous decade, the connected wires used to be exposed in the air and therefore corroded.

Wires go through the partitions which were not getting adequate protection from wearing. Tracing the wires when something has gone wrong and replacing junction blocks can end up being expensive.

  • Wrong perception

The status and pride of owning a boat make many people purchase one. However, buying an old boat is an indication that they can’t afford a new one; this ends up being more problematic to them.

  • Poor engines

Engine makers keep improving the engine’s efficiency over the years. It leads to more efficient engines in both inboards and outboards engines, which are more reliable.

  • Structures made of encapsulated wood

Many builders were using wood in the decks, transom, and stringers in the making of fiberglass boats. It would make the wood to end up soaking the water mostly because of the drilled holes into the transom. The wood would end up soft and dense, and to some point, it would even rot. So if one is not keen on buying a used boat, it may be problematic for them.


Buying a used boat can help you achieve tour sailing dreams and, at the same time, turn out to be a nightmare for you if you fail to do a thorough inspection before buying. Weigh your options wisely and make a decision that will assure you of value for your money.

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