When purchasing a boat, intended use is of the utmost concern. Naturally, you want a boat that is well suited to your purposes. If you plan to go deep-ocean fishing, chances are you’ll get a very different boat than if you prefer to go water skiing on a small, local lake. A boat that offers ideal performance for one of these activities is unlikely to be well-suited to the other.
If you want a boat that’s great for water sports, you’ve probably already narrowed down your options to watercraft that have the right size, capacity, motor, drive configuration, and other features. You may have chosen a specific make and model. If you’re detail-oriented, you might even have top picks for boat batteries or finishing materials. And if you’re on a budget, you could save some dough by purchasing a used boat.
This is a wise financial decision, but only if the used boat you choose is in fantastic condition. How can you tell if you’re getting a good deal or if you’re throwing money into a sinking ship, so to speak? Here are a few important factors you’ll want to consider before you purchase a used boat for water sports.
1. General Inspection
The best place to start when considering a used boat for purchase is with a visual inspection. How does the hull look? Are the floors in good condition? What about the engine and propellers? Good cosmetic appearance speaks to general maintenance and care. If at all possible, bring along someone familiar with overall boat condition, and ideally engine maintenance, to help you assess the boat before you make a purchase.
2. Age, Usage, and Maintenance Records
Just because a boat is older doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in bad shape. It could depend on how often it’s been used and how well it’s been maintained. If you’re looking for a classic muscle car and you find an all original, 1965 Mustang that has less than 10,000 miles and has been regularly serviced and maintained over the years, chances are you’re going to snap it up. The same basic principle applies to a used sports boat.
You’ll want to ask how many hours are on the boat (just like you’d check the odometer on a car). If the usage is up over the 500-hour mark, you can reasonably expect to have to perform some maintenance, repairs, and upgrades on the boat, if not immediately, then soon. However, you should also ask for maintenance records. It may be that the owner has recently dropped in a new motor or done other upgrades or repairs that will give you extra incentive to buy.
If at all possible, you need to take a used boat for a test drive before you buy. In truth, you should do this when you buy a new boat, as well, but with a brand-new product, you can reasonably expect it to be in good working condition, and you’ll have warranties and lemon laws to fall back on if it doesn’t.
When you make your purchase contingent on a test drive, you’ll have the opportunity to make sure the boat starts and runs smoothly and all the gauges and instruments work. You can also get an idea of how the boat handles and performs in terms of shifting, planning, responsiveness, and so on, and you can pay attention to noises, vibrations, and other potential problem areas. Performance is important for water sports, so a test drive is a must.
You’re not likely to get a warranty when you buy a used boat, but it could come with a slew of extras if you know what to ask for and you drive a hard bargain. For one thing, you’re going to have to transport the boat, so you’ll need a suitable trailer. Chances are the seller has one and if you ask, you might just be able to bundle it into the deal. Even if you own other boats, your trailer might not be right for the sports boat you’re buying, so consider this before you finalize your purchase.
The boat may also be outfitted with a number of handy peripherals like a depth finder, a speed control device, a shade kit, a stereo, and even boating safety equipment like life jackets, a life preserver, or an anchor, just for example. Some sellers will want to keep these extras for their next boat, but if they don’t plan to purchase another boat, they may be happy to throw them in for a few extra bucks, or even for free.