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3 Important Tasks When Buying a Used Boat

Used Boat Buying GuideIf you've always dreamed of sailing the seas on your own boat, feeling the wind in your hair and the ocean's spray on your skin, and if you've finally decided to make it a reality, read this guide first. Before you withdraw your life savings to pursue your passion, make sure you're making a smart investment. There are many factors to be considered, and buying a boat should never be a spur of the moment decision you jump into on a whim.

Make sure you consider what type of boating you'll be doing and that you seek out the appropriate watercraft. Other factors include the type of body of water you'll be boating on and the weather conditions. Make sure to do your homework and read up about all the different types of boats available. Go to your local yacht club and talk to some folks about what is available and what other boaters in the are sailing.

Finding Your Boat

Once you've narrowed it down and determined specifically what type of boat you're looking for, you can start looking. A used boat will not only be more inexpensive, but it will generally be better equipped than a brand new boat. Though buying a used boat is cheaper, you must consider the extra costs in repairs and upgrades. Even so, the deals to be had by buying a barely-used boat from someone who quit a hobby early into it may be well worth it.

Shopping for a used boat today is easier than ever. You can shop for your boat from the comfort of your own home or office by browsing ads and listings placed in your local newspaper, online classifieds, Web sites such as Boattrader, BoatLeeg or boating magazines. Check your local boat dealerships for deals on used boats that have been taken in as trade-ins. If there is a suitable boat available at a boat dealerships, there will be pros and cons to consider before buying that boat. On one hand, boats bought at dealerships may carry a limited warranty and is likely to have had at least basic maintenance in preparation for its sale. On the other hand, a boat purchased from a dealership rather than from a private party will tend to be more expensive due to the dealer's overhead and cost of business.

Research and Inspect


Once you have found a used boat that you are interested in purchasing, check with the U.S. Coast Guard to find out if there are any recalls on the model you are looking at. They should be able to tell you if any recalls have been issued. If there has been a recall, find out from the seller of the used boat if the necessary repairs have been performed. Be sure to ask the seller for documentation or proof that the repair was done.

Once you have confirmed that any manufacturer's recalls have been corrected, it is time to inspect the boat. The first and foremost concern when evaluating the condition of a used power boat is the engine itself. Since a power boat's engine works much harder than that of an automobile, it is crucial that your "new" boat's engine be in good condition. Checking the things on the following list should be able to provide you with some indication of the condition of the boat's engine.

* Check the bilge for oil. If oil is present, there may be a leak that will need further attention.
* Check the gaskets, freeze plugs and hoses for lubricant leakage.
* Check the condition of all hoses, belts and fittings.
* Pull a spark plug to evaluate its condition. If the spark plug looks relatively new, you can assume that the boat has been maintained regularly. If the spark plug looks rusty and corroded, you should ask for maintenance records.
* Check the engine and drive for white chalky residue. The presence of this residue may indicate that the engine has been running hot.
* Check the engine's oil. If the oil looks murky, water may have gotten into it and could cause problems down the road.
* Check gear case oil.
* Check the condition of the drive, rudder and propeller. Look for signs of damage caused by collision with underwater items.

After you've checked the engine, make sure to inspect the rest of the boat thoroughly. Some of the things you pay close attention to include:

* Check steering mechanism, throttle, controls and all cables
* Turn on and test all systems
* Ensure that all hardware is attached firmly
* Check the fuel tanks, fittings and lines. Look for any leaks.
* Check the batteries and fittings
* Check the propeller shaft and rudder stock
* Inspect the interior of the cabin

After inspecting a used boat and determining that you find it to be suitable, you may still want to have the boat inspected professionally. A qualified technician may be able to uncover problems you may not have noticed, saving you heartache and expensive problems down the road.

Demo Ride

If you have decided to hire a technician or boat broker to help you inspect a used boat you'd like to buy, try to schedule your "test drive" during a time that he or she is available to join you. If not, you should put the boat through a series of tests while on the water. Make sure you pay close attention to the following:

* Check to see if the engine is already warm before you turn it on. If the seller "warmed it up" before you arrived, he may be trying to hide problems with cold starts.
* Check the bilge before and after your demo ride to see if there are any oil leaks
* Maneuver the boat forward and in reverse before leaving the dock to get a sense for how smoothly and rapidly it responds to helm input.
* Put the boat through several slaloms and turns at varying speeds.
* Take waves at all angles to see how the boat handles them.