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Buying a Used Boat

Close-up detail view of Christianshavn registration mooring port name on boat board in Copenhagen canal marina embankment on sunny day. Christianshavn harbor neighborhood district lifestyle
Written by
John Lakkis
Published on
April 15, 2024

Buying a Used Boat

If you’re in the market for a new boat but don’t want the expense of a brand-new model straight off the showroom floor, a used boat is probably the answer. But what do you need to know when buying a used boat? How is it different than buying a new boat?


Used Boat Buying Checklist

Buying a used boat requires a little more diligence and work on your part than walking into your nearest boat dealer and ordering exactly what you want. When buying a used boat, you’ll want to consider everything from the title to the hull before pulling the trigger on a deal.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of what to look for when buying a used boat.


1. Check the Title

If you’re purchasing your used boat from a marina or boat dealer, you probably won’t have any issues with the title, but if you’re looking to purchase from a private owner, ask to see the title and registration. Make sure the name on the title matches the name of the seller and that the hull identification number is the same on the boat and the registration. Also ask the seller about any outstanding liens.

2. Look at the Service Records

Ask to see the service records to get an idea of how well the boat has been maintained. Service records will also let you know if any major repairs have been carried out.

3. Obtain a Boat History Report

Just like a car history report, a boat history report will identify any accidents the boat has been involved in as well as any damages or title issues attached to the boat.

4. Inspect the Boat Closely

Check the boat over for indications of any damage beyond regular wear and tear. While you’ll want to give the boat a good once over, including seating and electronics, pay special attention to the hull, deck and engine.

Hull: Be on the lookout for any signs of damage, blisters or cracks. Don’t forget to check below the waterline where boats can bang against the dock. If the boat has a wood transom, inspect it closely for wood rot.

Deck: Check the deck for any signs of rot, dents or holes. Soft spots can be an indication of a bigger problem.

Engine: Inspect the engine for any leaks or damage. Look closely at hoses and belts and check for corrosion under the engine cover. Start the engine and look for signs of smoke. The engine should sound smooth, not noisy. Consider having a mechanic give the engine a once-over to look for less obvious issues.

5. Look Beyond the Cosmetic

You’re buying a used boat, so some wear and tear is normal. Some dings and scratches are expected. As long as the problems aren’t structural, you can get a used boat looking like new with a little elbow grease and products like HulaBoat’s Mega Kit.

Hula Boat Mega Kit
6. Check the Seaworthiness with a Test Drive

Take the boat out on the water to get a better feel for its performance and handling on the water. If possible, take the boat out in a variety of weather conditions to better assess its capabilities. Check the boat over again when you return to the dock to make sure no issues have shown up after the test drive.

7. Don’t Forget the Trailer

If the trailer is included in the boat purchase, give it a thorough inspection, as well. Check the tires, brakes, lights, and overall integrity. Ask for documentation on the trailer, including the registration.

8. Check the Warranty

If the seller is selling the boat with a warranty, ask to see the warranty documents and compare it to the service records to make sure the terms of the warranty have been met during the life of the boat. Also check to see if the warranty is transferrable with the boat or only applies to the original owner.

9. Consider How Much Work You Want to Put In

If you’ve found a boat that’s a great deal but needs a bit of restoration, consider how much work you want to do before you can take it out on the water – and how much money you want to spend. Restoring a boat, including the gel coat and interior, can be a fun project, but it is time consuming and can be costly. Know what you’re getting into if you decide to purchase a boat in need of a little love.


Other Considerations

If you’re thinking about purchasing a used boat, it’s also important to consider when the best time is to purchase a used boat. While boats can be purchased at any time of the year, you’re most likely to find the best selection and motivated sellers at the end of the boating season, usually in September or October in areas where winter puts a damper on boating activity. People who want to sell their boats generally want to do so before they have to store it again for the winter.

If you’re not sure where to start looking for a used boat, check boat websites and other places where people list things for sale like Facebook Marketplace. If you have a boat storage facility or marina nearby, you can stop in and ask if any of the boats are for sale. Also check with local boat dealers who may also sell used boats.

When you finally find and purchase your new boat, you’ll want to keep it looking like new. Proper cleaning and maintenance is key to giving your new-to-you boat a long life on the water. Keep your used boat shining like new with Hula Boat’s Mega Kit and enjoy your time on the water!

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John Lakkis

After using the three part system (compound, hang ten wax, and sealant) I believe the name should be changed to time machine in a bottle! Thanks for creating such a wonderful product.
1985 Bayliner Owner
Happy Customer

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