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Tips for Buying a Used Boat

Tips for Buying a Used Boat

There are numerous benefits to buying a used boat. Once obvious benefit is the model has been tried and tested by people who bought them new. This is a big factor in determining which boat models are reliable. Another reason is monetary savings. Buying pre-owned can save a significant amount of money, when compared to purchasing new. This may be the reason, "60 percent of first-time boat buyers, purchase a used boat," as reported by the NMMA (National Marine Manufactures Association).

Purchasing a used boat does have risks. You should make sure the boat was properly maintained. Simply put, if things go wrong on a boat, all passengers will likely remember the experience with great detail. For this reason, inspect a used boat carefully before purchasing. If possible, have the boat reviewed by an experienced marine mechanic. In addition, never purchase a watercraft without a test cruise with the owner.

First-time boat buyers

First-time boat buyers often find themselves lost at sea before they step foot on a boat. There are numerous models to choose and Coast Guard regulations affecting their use. Before you start glancing at used boats, know what the boats primary use will be. If you are looking to spending time cruising in peace, a sail boat may be ideal. On the other hand, if you are looking for an all-around boat, Bow Riders and Cuddy Cabins may be practical. To ensure you make the right decision, place considerable thought into boating plans. Once you have an idea, research the Coast Guard operation requirements, and the models that suite your needs.

At times, when you view a used watercraft, the boat may not be in water. It is common, depending on the region, to find boats for sale at the owners' home or the Marina. You can make a reasonable assessment without the craft being in water. Still, if a boat is, "the right one for you," ask to take the boat for a test cruise before buying. An accurate assessment can not be achieved, unless the boat is operated in the water.

Always review the boat manufacturers' recommendations. Most importantly, consider the recommended maximum weight and number of occupants for the boat. If you plan on spending long days on the water with family, you want room to be comfortable. Also, make sure the recommended maximum weight leaves room for occupants plus carry on articles. On power boats, new or upgraded engines may offset the recommended operation weight or horsepower. The new motor may lack power to bring the boat, "on plane," or be to strong for the Hull's design. Also consider the added or reduced weight of the motor. Never exceed the manufactures maximum ratings, especially for a new boat owner.

Appearance review of a Used Boat

When assessing a boats condition, go by your first impression. If a boat looks horrible, it more than likely was not maintained properly. Remember, Salt attacks everything. If a boat was not properly cleaned, the salt caused damage to the boat. Here are ways to determine if a boat was maintained:

- Lift any objects on the boat. Pick up coiled ropes, flooring materials, or articles on deck. Look for discoloration or moss. Light discoloration may be fairly common, but deep discoloration or moss, is a sign the boat was neglected. Moss will commonly be found on the Northern side of any objects and the craft.

- Look at metal and wood surfaces. Do you see corrosion? Unprotected surfaces in a salty environment deteriorate rapidly. Teak (Common Wood for Boats) will become unsightly, if not oiled. Aluminum will pit, and it may be cracked or appear weakened.

- Look over material used for rigging, depending on the craft. Nylon may appear dirty, frayed, or weakened. On certain water craft, sailboats in particular, rigging is important.

- Analyze the Gel-Coat. The Gel-Coat should be waxed annually. This depends how often the boat was cruised. If not done sufficiently, the Gel-Coat will have a dull appearance. Rub your fingertip over the finish. If you notice chalk, you either have to live with a dull appearance or paint the boat. As some people may disagree with this statement, let me say, "I know many people that tried restoring the finish of a boat, but I have never seen anyone succeed. Even buffers and compounds failed".

- Examine the Hull's for problem areas. This will be seen by a discoloration in the Gel-Coat. If you believe the hull was repaired, inquire about the matter. Ensure the repair was done right.

- Make sure bulk heads are secure. Often bulk heads are secured with a laminate. This laminate may separate from the hull over time, leaving the bulk heads loose. If this is the case, I strongly urge you do not purchase the boat.

These are areas of interest to find neglect on a used boat. Some of the areas mentioned are irrelevant to performance. They will alert you to little annoyances that need to be replaced in the future. For most boat owners, appearance of the craft is important. Spending hours on a dull and unsightly boat is not enjoyable. However, this reverts back to intentions of the boats.

Mechanical review of a Used Boat

Depending on the type of boat you are planning to purchase, the mechanics are one of the most important areas. Marine engines are expensive, when compared to Automobiles. In addition, with single engine boats, failures can leave you stranded. Once again, I suggest taking the boat for a test run, and have the motor reviewed by an experienced marine mechanic. For your initial inspection, here are some factors to examine:

- Is the engine clean? A dirty engine is a good sign of neglect. As a boat owner, I routinely clean my engine after each use. In addition, I give extra care to the engine after it is run in salt water. Most engines produce an oily film when run. This film will cause salt to stick and induce pitting and corrosion to important parts.

- Are there heavy deposits of grime near gaskets or seals? This will indicate both neglect and possibly a significant leak. Additionally, they are a good indicator that the engine was exposed to salt for a long period of time.

- If the engine is rusted, there may be problems with the cooling system. Salt water that passes through the engine may be leaking. Freeze plugs should be made from brass, not steel. If steel freeze plugs are on the engine block, they should be replaced.

- If applicable, pull the dip-stick and look at the oil. If the boat has a diesel engine, the oil will be black. Oil with a foamy film may indicate cracks or neglected seals. Two-stroke, oil injected engines have additional components that properly lubricate the engine. Ask if the system has been checked or if any parts been replaced. Consult with the documentation to review the maintenance schedule.

- Check the batteries. This should be done whenever you take a boat for a cruise. But for review purposes, if the water is low, you will need to replace the batteries.

- Check any steering cables by giving a little tug. If loose, they need attention.

- Make sure the bilge pump works. The bilge pump removes water from the Hull. This is an important component.

- In addition to the bilge pump, some boats have bilge blowers. Generally bilge blowers are on Gasoline powered boats, but may be found on Diesel powered boat as well. The U.S. Coast Guard requires, "The use of a mechanical ventilation system for all non-open type boats built after July 31, 1980 which run on gasoline". Always refer to the manufactures suggestion for the bilge blower, especially on Gasoline powered boats.

Buying a Used Boat Summary

Never mistake the importance of a water crafts condition. At any given time, your life and the people on board may rely on the boat. The most recent report issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, showed, 5,705 reported accidents, 4,062 injuries, and 750 fatalities. They further reported, "capsizing and falls overboard are the most reported types of fatal accidents and account for over half (56%) of all boating fatalities". In addition, "machinery system failure," was reported the eighth highest factor, accounting for 276 accidents, and 23 fatalities.

On a personal note, the number of capsizing boats demonstrates exceeding the boats recommended operation. Also, I believe some accidents could have been avoided, by determining the right boat for the activity and detailed inspections. Keep in mind, no used boat will pass an overly meticulous review. There are will be signs of use on boats that been used. However, a neglected boat is something that should be avoided, unless you intend to invest the time and money toward repairs.

Image by: Tim Donnelly