How Do You Test a Used Boat?

What Should You Inspect on a Used Boat?

One of the best ways to save money on a boat and increase the number of options you have to consider is to shop for used vessels. Boat depreciation sets in fast, so you can often find relatively new vessels for a deeply discounted price. Additionally, you'll have a much wider range of makes and models to potentially select – especially considering recent inventory issues with new vessels.

Buying used does present a problem, however. You never know exactly what you're going to get. A used boat, on the surface, may appear to be aesthetically unflawed and in operating condition – but this doesn't mean it's going to work as intended, nor does it guarantee a long life span. You also have no idea what this boat's history has been or how it's been maintained in the past.

To make sure you aren't wasting or losing money on this deal, it's important to test a used boat before finalising your purchase. But how exactly are you supposed to test a used boat?

Good Strategies to Start With

Let's start with a handful of strategies that can get you started correctly:

  • Do your research. Always take the time to do your research before initiating any boat purchase. If you're new to the boating world, you should familiarize yourself with the basic terminology for different parts of your vessel and understand any boat transaction laws that apply to you; different areas have different standards for titling and registration, so make sure you understand how the transfer is going to work.
  • Choose the right platform. You can buy a used vessel from many different individuals and organisations. For example, you can buy used vessels through a reputable dealer, like those found on TheYachtMarket; dealers are more likely to offer used boats in good condition, and they'll help protect you if the boat fails to meet expectations.
  • Consider hiring a surveyor/inspector. It is usually a good idea to hire a boat surveyor. If you don't have much boating experience, or if you just want a second set of eyes to review the vessel, this can be a good investment.
  • Be prepared to walk away. You may be excited about getting a boat as soon as possible, and you may be excited about purchasing a particular boat that fits your needs perfectly. Still, it's important to be mentally prepared to walk away at any time. If you find glaring defects or questionable qualities with the vessel, this may turn out to be a bad deal.

Repair and Maintenance History

Ask about the repair and maintenance history for this vessel and see if you can get copies of those reports. Did the previous owner of this boat take good care of it? Was it ever involved in an accident, or did it suffer any major forms of damage? Don't stop considering a boat just because it had major repairs in the past but do keep those repairs in mind as you conduct your other evaluations.

Titling and Registration

Verify the titling and registration of this vessel. Make sure all the information matches, noting the make, model, and hull identification number (HIN). You'll also want to verify that the registration has the accurate name and address of the current owner. When you're ready to complete the sale, make sure the owner is willing to sign a detailed bill of sale. Before proceeding with the purchase, make sure you understand how title transfers work in your area.


Not all used vessel sellers are going to offer warranties. But it's a good idea to ask if any warranties apply and how they apply. Any warranty coverage you have should be in writing and should be clearly explained. Is this seller going to be responsible for specific repairs, if needed? And for how long will they offer that responsibility?

The Hull

The hull is the main section of the boat, so it should be one of the first things you check when inspecting a used vessel. Look for any major defects that are plainly visible, such as holes or dents. It's also important to look for subtle irregularities that may have indicated a repair in the past. It's especially important to inspect the hull below the water line, since it's easy to miss defects here (but they’re also more common). If you notice cracks or repairs greater than two inches in length, it could be a sign that the boat was in a collision in the past.

The Deck

On the deck, you should be looking for defects like dents and holes as well. You should also be evaluating the structural integrity, making sure there's no rot in play. While you're at it, look for mould and mildew, and be on the lookout for signs of excessive or unnatural wear.

The Engine and Battery

The engine is the most expensive part of most boats, and it's the mechanism responsible for making the vessel move, so it's one of your highest priorities. Check for any corrosion under the engine cover, look for any signs of degradation across the belts and hoses, and consider running a fluid and analysis check. It's also important to look for signs of smoking, noise, or clunkiness while the engine is running (and when the engine is at full throttle). Additionally, understand that all boat batteries have a finite lifespan; check this battery for any corrosion or visible problems.

Electricity and Wiring

Does the electricity and wiring seem to be working properly? Are you able to use all lights available on the vessel as well as all outlets?

The Test Drive

Always take part in a test drive. Make sure the vessel is operable, with responsive steering.

At TheYachtMarket, used boats are our specialty. We have thousands of new and used vessels for sale across the United States, Europe and rest of the world, meaning we probably have exactly what you're looking for. Browse our vast and growing selection today.

Change units of measure

This feature requires cookies to be enabled on your browser.

Show price in:

Show lengths, beam and draft in:

Show displacement or weight in:

Show capacity or volume in:

Show speed in:

Show distance in: