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How to Buy a Used Boat: Your Complete Guide

How to Buy a Used Boat

If you tell someone you want to buy a boat and they tell you that it’s a bad investment, tell them you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

And if they use the phrase “a boat is a hole in the water you throw money into,” you have our full permission to walk away from them without another word.

Here’s a secret about those type of people: they secretly want a boat and are jealous/feel like they can’t have one.

You, on the other hand, know that as long as you shop for a boat the right way, including looking at used boats, that getting a boat is a great investment.

Not only will buying a boat be a financial asset down the line, but it’s an emotional asset for you and your family. In this divisive time where everyone is going in a thousand different directions, a family day on the boat is just what the doctor ordered.

But you can’t have that nice day out unless you buy a boat – and we’re here to help. Learn the steps to becoming a boat owner, below.

Buying a Boat: Do Your Research First

Before you so much as budget for a boat or talk to your significant other about one, you need to know the right type of boat for you.

If you’re getting a boat for the whole family, for example, you’re not going to get a Jon boat. They’re too small, have low capacity, and have low sides that put children at risk of falling out.

But if you’re getting a boat for fishing by yourself or with one buddy and want to save money, then a Jon boat could be for you.

To begin your search, consider the power-type of boat you need. There are sub-categories in each power-type that you’ll then need to choose from.

Power-Types of Boats

There are three main power-types of boats. These types determine what propels the boat forward (and backward if need be).

The simplest kind of boat is the unpowered or man-powered boat. These are things like canoes, kayaks, or floating rafts. If you’re looking into buying a boat on our site, this isn’t what you’re looking for. You can buy these at your local sports or fishing store.

Then there are sailboats, which are sail or wind-powered. Learning how to sail is much harder than learning how to use the most common type of boat, which we’ll talk about next.

Motorboats, the kind with engines (either outboard or inboard), are what most people think of when they want to buy a boat.

There are many sub-types of motorboats, but those sub-types fall into two main categories: inboards and outboards.

Inboard motors are made to live under the boat so that you can’t see the motor while driving. They are gas/electric start and don’t involve hands-on involvement from the driver.

Outboard motors are visible on the back of the boat and are usually used on smaller boats.

You may hear or see boats listed as having multiple outboards (or inboards), which means they have more than one motor for increased power and speed capabilities.

Boat Type By Use

Most people buy a boat with a particular use or set of uses in mind. Learn about the different boat-usage types, below.

Fishing Boats

To be simplistic, you can use any boat for fishing, even a kayak or a canoe. But boats that are made with fishermen in mind have certain features and accessories that other boats do not.

Fishing boats are usually split up into the type of water you’re going to fish. There are freshwater fishing boats that are meant for rivers and lakes, as well as deepwater or sea fishing boats.

Sea or deepwater boats have a taller hull, usually with v-shape in the front, to cut through waves and increase stability when out on the water.

More casual or freshwater fishing boats are shallower and have a shorter hull. They’re generally made of a lighter material and aren’t made to stand up to harsh conditions or intense waves.

Fishing Boat Features

A boat meant for fishing will have accessories made to make the fisherman’s life easier. Those include rod racks, fish boxes (storage for dead fish), as well as live wells.

Live wells are like fish boxes, but they hold water from whatever source you’re on, to keep your bait or your catch fresh and alive for as long as possible.

Buying a Used Fishing Boat

If you’re looking for a used boat to use for fishing, make sure you know the following things.

  1. Where you’ll fish most of the time, including depth and water type
  2. How many people you want onboard
  3. And what accessories you want/vs. ones you’re willing to go without

Deck Boats: Family Fun Boats

If you’re looking for a boat to take your family out for a relaxing day on the water, you’re most likely looking for a deck boat.

Deck boats are things like pontoons and any other model that prioritizes deck space over-speed or fishing features. They’re made to fit the largest amount of people possible, and usually have more entertainment options than other boat types.

Some deck boats have a v-shaped hull, while others, like pontoons, are more like floating platforms.

You can find deck boats in a range of sizes, depending on how many people you want to take out at a time.

Buying a Used Deck Boat

If you live in a family family-oriented town, deck boats are pretty easy to find. Most people who buy deck boats aren’t professional boaters and are willing to compromise on price.

Speed Boats

Finally, the third most common type of motorboat is the speed boat. These boats are what most people use for water-sport purposes, like tubing, water skiing, and wakeboarding.

They have a thinner profile and a more pointed hull than a deck boat, to optimize speed and the ability to cut through the water. These boats have powerful engines, and it’s not uncommon to see two or three outboards on a speed boat.

They, too, should have some entertainment options, like music, storage capacity, and an on-board cooler to keep food and drinks for your guests cold.

Buying a Used Speed Boat

The number one thing to worry about when you’re buying a used speed boat is the quality and condition of the engines. Since people who buy speed boats want to go fast, that should be the first thing you check.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the outboard. Replacing one can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000, so a boat with a damaged or old outboard is not something to take lightly.

General Tips for Buying a Used Boat

Once you know what type of boat is right for you, you need to figure out your budget. Overspending on a boat isn’t worth the hassle, even if it means your children can invite one more friend out on the lake, each.

Collision and Repair History

Just like when you’re buying a car, you want to make sure a used boat hasn’t been in any accidents or had significant problems.

The owner should have maintenance records on hand and be able to provide you a full history of any repairs.

Storage Options

Unless you’re storing your boat in the water full-time where it is when you buy it, you’re going to need a trailer.

The best-used boat deals include a trailer for hauling the boat back and forth from storage to the water.

But that’s just the transportation aspect of storage. You’ll also need a place to put the boat when it’s not in use.

If you have a large yard, you may be able to store it at your house. But many people have to rent a storage space in a facility near their home or local water source.

Ask the person you’re buying the boat from where they store it, and how much they pay per month. Make sure to include storage in your buying a boat budget!

Check the Title

Finally, before you buy the boat, you want to make sure it has a clean title and history. Buying a stolen boat is a crime, even if you don’t know it’s stolen.

Our company does its best to vet the boats we list on our site, but it’s best to double check. Don’t forget to include title-transfer and renewal fees in your budget, either.

When to Buy a Used Boat

Unlike buying a car, there’s no “right” or “cheapest” time of year to buy a used boat.

The best way to get the best price is to know what you’re looking for, don’t get too much boat, and follow our buying a boat tips above.

Visit our site to find a large list of boats for sale near you, and get started shopping today!

Chris Blackwell Boating
About Chris Blackwell

Chris is an avid angler and boating enthusiast. Raised on a small lake he spent most of his youth fishing in Jon Boats and water skiing behind Fiberglass boats. Chris enjoys taking his family out on the water so they can relive the fun he has always had.

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