Tips for Finding Better Used Boats for Sale

Tips for Finding Better Used Boats for Sale

Buying a used boat can be a great way to save money while also gaining access to the boat of your dreams. But if you’re buying a boat from a previous owner, there are some steps you’ll need to take to get the largest possible selection of options—and to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth.

In this guide, we’ll help prospective boat buyers find better used boats for sale by owner.

Knowing What to Look for in Boats for Sale

First, you should figure out what you’re truly looking for. There are dozens of types of boats you could potentially buy, each with a different purpose, look, and budget range. Which one best appeals to you? What kind of money are you able to spend? Do you have requirements on the condition of the vessel? How long are you planning on owning this boat?

Where to Find Boats for Sale

Next, you’ll need to look for boats for sale. Ideally, the more boats you have to see, the better. Not only will you have a wider selection of potential purchases, but you’ll also get the opportunity to see what you like and don’t like—and you’ll get to experiment with types of boats you may not have otherwise considered.

These are some of your best options:

  • Online platforms. The best modern option is working with an online boat selling platform. Online platforms have the potential to connect you with sellers from all over the world, and you’ll have the option to do all your research from the comfort of your home or office. You can also use dynamic search features to filter your options, narrowing down your search based on parameters you define. If you’re looking for a specific type of boat, it’s by far the best option.
  • Boat dealerships. You could also visit a local boat dealership. Boat dealerships generally have a wide selection, and good warranties and/or protective measures. However, you may have to deal with pushy salespeople.
  • Classified ads. You can also work from classified ads. These are generally used by individuals looking to sell a boat quickly, so you can find access to some amazing deals—but you may not be protected by any warranties or consumer protections.
  • Shows and meetups. Consider attending shows and meetups as well; even if you don’t find a good deal on a boat, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with other boat enthusiasts and learn more about your potential purchases.

Inspecting Boats for Sale

When you find a boat you like, you’ll want to conduct a basic inspection. Even if you’re not a boating expert, there are steps you can take to ensure the boat is in good condition, such as:

  • Walk around. First, conduct a simple walk-around. Look at the boat from all angles, up close and far away. Look at the exterior and the interior and try to notice all the little details. Is there anything that looks clearly out of place, or are there markings that indicate a potential problem? 
  • Remove the outboard cowling. Next, remove the outboard cowling and look for dry, white stains past the head gasket; this could indicate seepage. The shift and throttle linkages should also have no signs of corrosion and should be adequately greased. 
  • Look at the dipstick. If the oil looks black or thick, it could be the wrong viscosity—or it may be a sign that the oil wasn’t adequately changed. If it’s milky-looking, or if it smells burnt, it could be a sign of water. 
  • Inspect the wiring. Check the wiring throughout the boat to make sure it’s properly insulated and fully intact; exposed wires are a bad sign. 
  • Open the hatches. You shouldn’t see water where it isn’t supposed to be, and you definitely don’t want to smell gas. 
  • Look at the upholstery. Upholstery may not be your biggest concern when buying a boat, but it’s a sign of how well the vessel been taken care of. Is there any green algae creeping into the seat? Is it in bad condition overall? 
  • Talk to the owner about maintenance. Ask the owner for maintenance records, if they have them. Ongoing boat maintenance is a must to maximize its lifespan, and if the previous owner has neglected it, it could compromise the integrity of your purchase.

The above list is just for starters - there are many more checks that should be performed. We always recommend using a professional yacht surveyor.

Negotiating the Price of Boats for Sale

If you like what you see during the inspection, and you’re still excited to purchase this boat, you may have an opportunity to negotiate price. If you’re buying from an online platform, the price is already probably as low as it can go—but if you’re buying from a dealer or an individual seller, you may be able to score a better deal.

Start by researching both the new and used price for a boat like this. How much did the previous owner pay for this boat when they bought it new? How much is it expected to depreciate over time? What do used boats like this usually sell for? Are there any flaws or problems that could lead it to sell for a lower price than usual?

Take this information and make an offer; if you’re expecting a counteroffer, you may want to make a bid lower than your true target price. Also, keep market conditions in mind; if you’re competing with lots of other interested buyers, your low bid could cause you to miss out on the opportunity completely. But in a dry market, if the boat is hard to sell, you could get an amazing deal.

Remember, one of the best ways to find boats for sale by owner is to rely on the help of an online platform. At TheYachtMarket, we specialize in connecting boat buyers to boat sellers—and we have thousands of options available for your perusal. Search our boats for sale today, and get one step closer to finding the boat of your dreams!

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