Buying a boat is a big time and financial commitment. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or are considering purchasing a new or used boat, here are nine questions to ask the seller and several tips for the buyer to use during the process.
You might be eager to buy a new boat and get out on the water as fast as you can, but before jumping into such a large purchase, there’s more to consider than the fact that it’s still floating. Don’t make a purchase just because it seems like a deal— you might be buying a lemon. So if you’re considering buying a boat, think about asking these questions before swiping your card to ensure you get the best deal possible.
- How many hours has the engine logged?
If you’re buying a second-hand boat, it’s important to know and consider how many hours the engine has logged. If you’re buying a boat that was made after 1990, it will have an hour meter. Much like the miles on a car, the hours on an engine are the best way to know how hard that boat has worked in its time. For a boat that has been well maintained, it also tells you the next time the boat needs to be brought in for maintenance. Both inboard and outboard marine motors are dependable for an average of 1500 hours. After that point, they become undependable, and you don’t want to be five miles out when they decide to break down. Recreational boats use between 75 and 150 hours per year. So, using 100 hours as an average, a ten-year-old boat with 1000 hours on the engine should have plenty of life left.
- Do you have the boat’s service logs?
This is another strong question to ask before buying a pre-owned boat. You should ask the owners if they kept a record of all the services performed on the boat to know how the boat was taken care of. It might not be a deal breaker if the owner didn’t keep track of the services, but it may be indicative that the owner didn’t keep up with the maintenance, and the boat may be in poor condition. Regular servicing for any vessel is essential because it keeps up with minor issues that could turn into significant, costly repairs. Therefore, when the owner gets the boat serviced regularly, they extend the boat’s lifetime.
- Is there a warranty and is it transferable?
This question applies to whether you’re buying a new or used boat. New boats usually have a warranty that protects against manufacturer issues and minor repairs. When buying a used boat, you want to ensure that the warranty is transferrable, most of which are. Regardless, boats are a lot of work, so having the cushion of a warranty is a sigh of relief when something breaks, and the manufacturer deems it not to be a defect. In addition, an extended warranty can cover the cost of that repair. If there is a warranty, ask what it covers. Typically, a manufacturer will give a new boat owner a warranty covering things like steering systems, electrical and plumbing systems, and other buildings they’re responsible for. These warranties usually last for a year or two. Confirm that you understand the warranty when buying a new or used boat. This will help save you money in repairs and give you an idea of what issues to watch for.
- Why are you selling the boat?
When you ask a boat owner why they’re selling their boat, be wary of generic answers like, “Oh, I just don’t have time for to anymore.” It’s a good idea to inspect the vessel thoroughly to ensure they’re not selling it for more reasons than lack of free time. Check the hull for any signs of damage, like cracks in the fiberglass. Any crack larger than two inches means problems and lots of money in repairs. Also, inspect the belts for wear and any sign of mold or mildew. While you might save money going to a private seller for a pre-owned boat, as a first-time buyer, it is wise to go to a trusted dealership with a proven track record of reliable vessels to buy a boat.
- What is this boat made of?
It’s important to know what materials the boat you are potentially purchasing is made of, so you can be prepared for what kind of wear and tear and maintenance to expect. Boat hulls are typically constructed of five types of materials, each with pros and cons.
Ferro-cement is the cheapest option for hull construction, but it has its fair share of problems.
Ferro-cement is a highly versatile type of reinforced concrete. Mortar fills out the spaces between a thin, reinforced concrete mesh structure. It’s generally less expensive because it’s easy to build, doesn’t weigh much, and the cost of materials is low. When it comes to hull construction, you should avoid Ferro-cement hulls. Unless the manufacturer lays the cement in one attempt, you’ll have weak spots that can let in water, causing the reinforcement to rust. In addition, boats made of Ferro-cement can be challenging to insure.
The oldest material used in boat construction is wood. Wood is still a popular material for those who build their own boats. But there’s a risk of inviting wood-boring marine life directly into your hull when you use it. There are still tons of wooden boats sailing the seas today, and they’re worth checking out if you’re interested in a low-cost boat. But beware, they can be expensive to keep in seaworthy condition. Fiberglass may be the most popular material used to build boats and yachts today. Fiberglass boats are thin but heavy. As a result, they provide a lot of resilience out on the water. In addition, the wind doesn’t usually cause a fiberglass boat to buffet as quickly, so they drift with less speed and more accuracy.
Steel is another popular material used in hull construction. Steel is solid and only needs a new coat of paint every year to prevent rust. But it is also very heavy and will require a lot of towing power to get it to the water.
Hulls made from aluminum are less expensive than fiberglass and much lighter. As a result, they’re easier to launch at the ramp and easier to tow with a small vehicle. In addition, you don’t have to wax the gel coat, so aluminum hulls require less maintenance. And instead of cracking on impact, they dent.
- Can I take it for a sea trial?
A sea trial is a test drive. You use this time to see how seaworthy the boat is or if it’s a comfortable fit for you. If you’re buying a used boat, it may be a good idea to enroll in the guidance of a marine surveyor. A marine surveyor is a professional who can give you information about the boat on the water that you might typically miss or not consider. If the boat is on a trailer, inspect it and give it a few thumps with the bottom of your fist to check if the hull is in firm condition. Pay attention to the sound and feel of the boat in every type of movement, such as reversing, speeding up, doing slalom maneuvers and full circle turns, and docking. Not every scratch and crack needs to be a deal breaker. You can use those blemishes to negotiate the price.
- What does owning a boat cost?
This question is for you. As a first-time boat owner, the seller can help you understand the annual cost of owning that boat, or you can research your own. What are you going to do with your boat? Will you need to travel with it? Consider the cost of boat insurance, storage, slip fees, gas, maintenance, etc.
- How has the boat been stored?
Storage plays a very important role in boat maintenance. Wet boat storage means the boat has been stored outside and is helpful for an owner who likes to hop in a get going. However, storing in the water has its issues. If the water gets too cold and freezes, it can severely damage the hull and external features. It allows for rust, marine life, and general wear and tear to attack the boat constantly. In addition, the owner doesn’t get a chance to clean, paint, or maintain the boat when it spends all its time in the water. Dry storage is the better option for storage, especially during the off-season. Dry storage allows the owner to inspect the areas of the boat that are typically submerged, making maintenance so much easier. Generally, boats stored in dry storage have less wear and tear.
- Are there financing options available?
Lastly, know your financing options. Lots of dealerships have on-site financing that can help you get a good deal on a loan for a new or used boat. Also, if you have a trade-in, you can factor in how much you need for a down payment. Finally, if you fall in love with a boat that’s out of your budget, financing options are a great way to work around that.