The top places to start your search when buying a used boat
Looking for the best place to buy a used boat? The secret to finding a great deal is often just knowing where to look!
There are many ways to go about finding boats for sale, from skulking around boat yards to compulsively checking Yachtworld 30 times a day. We’ve found employing a blend of strategies has allowed us to quickly isolate a pool of suitable boats, while avoiding buyer burnout (see: frantically driving around attempting to view six boats in a weekend).
In our view, these are the best places to buy a used boat.
1. Yachtworld and Boattrader
Searching used boat websites like YachtWorld or BoatTrader is one of the easiest ways to view many boats, from all over the world, in a short period of time. If you’re looking for a boat in Canada, BoatDealers.ca is another great place to look.
It’s great for getting a sense of the market, understanding boat prices and valuations, and seeing what’s out there.
I have spent many, many hours on Yachtworld, but strangely every boat we have made an offer we found through other means.
One of the drawbacks of YachtWorld is that it is so popular that competition is fiercer and can drive the price up a bit. The same goes for BoatTrader, but often the prices on these used boat websites are more realistic than in smaller market sites like Kijiji or the classifieds.
2. Craigslist, Kijiji and magazine classifieds
Without a doubt, the best place to buy used boats online is in the wilds of Kijiji, Craigslist, and the classifieds. We have found many boats for sale on Craigslist that never appeared anywhere else online.
If you’re looking for used boats for sale near you, these sites will have the best local selection. That being said, there are a few secrets to scoping out the very best deals.
Sometimes the word ‘boat’ won’t even be in the posting and the posting will be miscategorized, so search a variety of terms including misspellings. Make a list of words associated with the type of boat you are looking for and go through them one by one. It can be tedious, but the dividends of finding a post nobody else will are high.
Check out the classifieds on boating magazine sites. Often times these are posted online (not just print), like Good Old Boat Magazine’s classifieds page. Don’t forget your local newspapers as many have online classifieds, which are worth checking and won’t show up in a simple google search.
Hot tip! Craiglist and Kijiji are also a great place to find used boat parts, which will come in handy as just about every old boat needs replacements and repairs.
3. Yacht brokers and boat dealers
It sounds simple, but don’t forget to check the yacht brokerages. Surprisingly, we have found many boats that are only listed on a yacht broker’s website.
We search the nearby yacht brokers and their listings online. We also give them a call and let them know what we are looking for and our price range. Sometimes boats barely make it online because the broker will give their list of interested people a call and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got something you might want to check out.’
We’ve met the odd broker who’s the boating equivalent of a used car salesmen, but for the most part we’ve found them forthcoming and knowledgeable.
If you’re planning on traveling with your boat (like buying a boat in North America and sailing to Australia), brokers are a very important resource as they can help you buy cheap and sell high at the end of your trip (some sailors entirely finance their trips through sailboat flipping!).
4. Marinas and clubs
When we start viewing boats, we make a point of exploring the marinas we visit because there’s always the chance our dream boat is sitting right next door to the boat we originally came to see.
If you’re thinking of buying a boat to live on, a marina may be the best place buy a boat because you can sometime negotiate a liveaboard slip (i.e., a parking spot) into the deal.
We read the marina notice board and tack up our own posting describing what we’re looking for and our price range. We’ve found it always pays dividends to spend some time walking the docks. Not only have we familiarized ourselves with boat models but we’ve also met people who are delighted to give us tips and point us in the right direction.
It’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to the harbour master. Two weeks ago we were visiting a marina in Alaska and Fiona asked offhand, ‘Are there any boats for sale?’ He turned us onto a 44’ Bruce Roberts that had been sitting on the hard for a year and could probably be bought for under 10k.
Everyone is trying to buy a boat ONLINE, meaning there’s lots of competition! Boatyards are the best place to buy used boats OFFLINE (because no one else thinks to look there).
There are a slew of boats in almost every boatyard that have been abandoned by their owners for one reason or another. Or the owner just got tired and gave up. These often need a little work, but can be bought for a song.
From Kijiji to Yachtworld to boatyards, there are so many places to buy used boats. Once you’ve found one, then the real fun begins.
Robin was born and raised in the Canadian North. His first memory of travel on water was by dogsled across a frozen lake. After studying environmental science and engineering he moved to Vancouver aboard a 35’ sailboat with his partner, Fiona, with the idea to fix up the boat and sail around the world. He has written for several sailing publications including SAIL, Cruising World, and was previously a contributing editor at Good Old Boat.