Buying a used boat can feel like a roller-coaster, with all the thrills and a smidge of terror, particularly in a red-hot market. If you’ve tried to buy a used boat in the past three years, you’re probably nodding along (and maybe feeling a bit queasy)!
Chris has seen it all in the boat market and so I wanted to get his top tips for buying a used boat in 2023. To hear our full conversation, check out the video below.
So, let’s dive in!
1. Know what you want
Okay, this may seem obvious, but if you can get really specific about what you’re looking for, you’ll save yourself a lot of time searching.
The first step is to narrow down what type of boat is right for you. “First of all, think about what type of boating you want to do,” said Chris. “So, are you going to be trailering your boat? What type of waterways are you going to go to? What type of activities do you want to do?”
He suggests creating a wish list based on how you plan to use the boat and then researching boats that fit those needs. “Take a look at the available listings. See what the costs are. Does it meet your budget?”
2. Get specific with your searches
“When you search, the more information you can put in, the less results you’re going to have to sift through,” said Chris.
How specific should you be?
“If you’re very specific in terms of the size of the boat, the type of boat, even the make, the model, those are definitely going to help you be efficient in terms of finding that boat for you.”
To get really smart with your searches check out our post on how to find free and cheap boats for sale on Craigslist and other marketplaces.
3. Use search alerts
Most pre-owned boat marketplaces have search alert features that can cut down on the amount of time you spend searching.
“So, any search you conduct on [boatdealers.ca], you can subscribe to an alert. And if new listings come in that match that you will get an email to let you know that they’re available”.
4. Reach out quickly (with the right questions)
To find a good deal, especially during springtime, Chris suggests being quick to contact a boat dealer or private seller when you see a listing you like. “The key to this is really to keep an eye on the market…and reach out as fast as you can,” said Chris.
When reaching out to sellers, it’s crucial to show genuine knowledge and interest in the boat. “Don’t just contact them and say, ‘Is it still available?’ You want to ask more specific questions,” said Chris. Asking about the boat’s options, maintenance history, and ownership can engage the seller more effectively.
5. Video is great, but in-person is better
It’s a good idea to ask for photos and videos because they can give you an idea about whether or not the boat is in good condition. However, you should always see a vessel in person and ideally take it for a sea trial before closing the deal.
“Pictures are great, but they’re sort of a starting point, right? …With pictures you can kind of cover things up. Whereas a live video, you’re getting it almost like you’re there.”
But ultimately, nothing beats the real thing. “I recommend at some point, before you complete the purchase, that you go out and see the vessel yourself firsthand.”
6. Do a little price comparison
Pricing a used boat isn’t like pricing a used car. Because boats are a much smaller market, the pricing data isn’t as good.
So, how can you tell if the current owner has a reasonable asking price? Chris suggests comparing your boat to similar boats listed for sale.
If you want to do a bit of pricing analysis, check out our detailed guide to used boat pricing.
7. Hire a professional marine surveyor
“Now, if you really want a firm value on a boat, there’s really only one way to get that, and that is to hire a surveyor,” said Chris.
“A surveyor has immense experience in terms of checking the hull and checking the condition of the engines. They’ll take it for a run. They’ll be very in-depth in terms of evaluating that boat and telling you exactly what’s going on with it and the value of it.”
Hiring a professional surveyor is a great way to buy yourself some peace of mind (especially for first-time buyers).
8. Financing for used boats – it’s a thing!
Before chatting with Chris, I wasn’t sure how easy it was to get financing for a used boat.
According to Chris, some banks and marine financing brokerages offer financing on used boats depending on the boat’s age.
I asked Chris to name a few places that finance used vessels and he mentioned PosPro and Walker Financial Services. “Then there are also many dealerships that work with like dealer-specific brokerages.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed these expert tips on buying a used boat. For more tips on navigating the used boat market, check out our 8-part series on how to buy a boat.
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.