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buying a boat

What to look for when buying a used boat?

on September 12, 2021

What to look for when buying a used boat?

Buying a used boat is not bad, but it can be tricky since you do not know if there are any problems with it. In this blog, we will answer some frequently asked questions and supply you with a list of things you need to look for when buying a used boat; this list will give you a good idea of red flags to look out for.

boats on water by island


Is buying a used boat a good idea?

Used boats can be expensive; however, they are still lower priced than new boats; many first time buyers prefer to buy used boats for many different reasons, and the price is one of them. Buying good quality used boat is not a bad idea; the only disadvantage is; you don't always know what you are buying, how the boat was treated or if it was well maintained, etc. However, this should not stop you from buying a used boat; you only need to do a proper inspection before purchasing and ensuring that this is the right boat for you. You will find all the tips you need in this blog. 

Rule of thumb; buy a used boat from a professional dealership instead of a private buy, this will make the buying process more manageable, and you can be assured that a proper inspection has been done. Private purchases can be lower priced, but there are risks involved.

What is the best time to buy a used boat?

The best time to buy a boat depends on your area and the most popular boating seasons. During busy boating seasons, prices will be higher; just like a vacation, you pay more during popular seasons, but during the quieter months, mostly fall and winter, you might find great deals on boats.

Boat age & Hours

First, you want to check the service history; most boat engines must be serviced every 100 hours or annually. Low boat hours can be a good thing or a bad thing; if a boat is ten years old with 200 hours or ten years old with 700 hours, depending on the service history, you will go for the ten-year-old boat with 700 hours instead. Low hours can often mean that a boat has been standing for quite some time, depending on the boat's age. Engine hours vary from a different type of engines, the life expectancy of the engine is what you need to check, and then compare that with the current engine hours, which will help you make the right decision. Below is the average life expectancy/Hours for different engine types, considering they have been serviced and well maintained. The average hours before needing a major overhaul is:

Gasoline engine with an average of 1,500 hours 

Marine diesel engine average 5,000 hours and can go up to 8000 hours (Diesel engines are strong and durable) 


What to look for when buying a used boat?

If you do not feel comfortable doing the inspection yourself, you can get someone who knows boats well, a boating expert, and let them assist you with the inspection. 

  • Check for Maintenance signs all over the boat; just by checking Maintenance on a boat, you can see if the previous owner showed some "TLC" Tender love and care. Visit our maintenance blog to give you an idea of Boat maintenance daily, weekly, and monthly. Check the fiberglass for cracks above and below the waterline; you will find small cracks (like a spider web) around common areas like screws, handles, gunwales, windshields, etc. this should not be a problem; however, you will need to fix them, to prevent future problems. Big deep cracks are a cause for concern; this might suggest that the boat was in a collision, gel coat patches are a sign that indicates extensive repairs. (If you see this, definitely ask an expert to inspect) 
  • Signs of damages, cracking, and mould build-up, moisture in fiberglass and wooden areas like the deck, transom, and hull, rust is an indicator of the boat not being cared for. 
  • Check the seats; you might find that seats are loose; this could be because of striped bolts; it can also be that the floor is rotten, so be sure to check why the seat is loose. 
  • Check the storage units, lockers, upholstery and covers, and wooden areas for mildew; if you find extensive mold, it is a problem; this will indicate problems beneath the boat. 
  • Check all the electronics on the boat, test them make sure they are in working order, bilge pumps, lights, check all the wires, check for faulty wires, check the battery.
  • Check the belts for cracks, wear and tear; belts must be serviced every 100 hours.
  • Check that the steering is smooth and easy to move.
  • Inspect the rails make sure they are well secured.
  • Inspect sails for wear and tear. Inspect mast, boom, and poles, ensure they are in great shape, examine all moving parts like pulleys and winches, and inspect rigging check for any damages.
  • Check the plumbing, ensure that every component is in perfect working condition.
  • Check safety equipment on the boat; are they in working condition? What safety equipment do you need in case of emergencies?
  • Check lines, fenders, and anchors.
  • If the boat comes with a trailer, do a proper visual check on the trailer, check for damages, test the trailer while launching the boat, check for corrosion, check the lights, tires everything must be inspected. 

 boat inspection and repair

Check the engine; I suggest getting an expert to inspect. Below are some tips.

  • Start with a visual inspection, remove the boat motor Callen, check for cleanliness on the fuel filters, oil filters, and look for regular service signs. Look for rust on fuel filters; sometimes, you will find written dates on the filters to show when it was last changed.
  • Check the propeller and skeg for damages.
  • Check the gear case for water (milky gear loop is an indication of water in gear or just water coming out) and the gear case condition. Check engine compression.
  • Take the boat for a test drive.
  • Check the spark plugs; many times, you will find that the spark plugs need to be replaced. 

speed boat on ocean

While you are busy inspecting the boat, make a list of things you are not happy with, or if you see any repair work that needs to be done, check the cost of repair work before you buy the boat. Key factors to look for, Maintenance, engine service history, engine inspection, complete boat inspection, electronics, wires, boat damages, corrosion.


Budget Boat Things your online marine store supplies you not only with boat products & parts but, we supply you with top marine quality advise! 


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