Please select your home edition
Edition
Marina Exchange 728x90 1

Here's what they don't have to tell you when buying a boat

by Scott Croft 24 Jun 09:25 PDT
BoatUS offers wise boat buying tips. © Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore/BoatUS

Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has helped hundreds of thousands of boat owners make good boat-buying decisions.

But things sometimes don't go so well, such as when a buyer fails to do his or her research, doesn't understand the role of a boat dealer or what it offers, or perhaps trusts the seller just a little too much. Here's a short list of things to know before shopping for a boat.

What to know about the boat you are buying:

  • If you're shopping for a new outboard-powered boat, the engine may not be the same model year as the boat. Most engine manufacturers have stopped designating model years for outboard engines and have replaced the model-year designator on the engine's serial number with a code that signifies an "era" in which all engines are supposed to be the same, with similar upgrades and technology.
  • The hull identification number (HIN) on the transom doesn't lie. Check the HIN on any boat you consider buying (new or used) to make sure that the age of the boat is correct. The last two digits indicate the boat's model year.
  • The marine survey on the boat you are looking at isn't a diamond and doesn't last forever. Even a survey that's a couple months old may not be up to date enough, and never rely on a seller's old survey he got when he bought the boat. Hire a surveyor familiar with the type of boat you're interested in and affiliated with either the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) or the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS). It's not wise to hire a surveyor recommended by the seller or broker.
  • The "lightly used" theory debunked: If a preowned boat has been sitting for two or three years, it almost always will need more work than you think. Boats and engines last longer when they're regularly used, and problems compound when they're idle for long stretches.
What you should know about a boat dealer or broker:
  • Some extended warranties (often misleadingly referred to service contracts) are profit centers for dealers - so know which ones are best for you. Factory-backed plans (e.g., from Mercury or Yamaha) typically offer more coverage and oversight. Other contract plans administered by independent companies allow retailers to mark up contracts more than 100% over the actual cost they pay to the service-contract company - but their cost is negotiable.
  • Some warranties can be transferred, but know there may be a cost or some hoops to jump through. If you buy a boat with a transferable warranty, call the company to find out how to transfer the warranty and call back a few weeks later to confirm the transfer is complete.
  • Manufacturers can't force you to use their dealers for routine service on your new boat. They also can't force you to use their brands of lubricants or parts. But if you use an independent shop or do your own work, keep careful notes about what you did and keep all receipts. And don't scrimp on the quality of the lube or parts. For warranty repair work, you do have to visit an authorized dealer.
  • Boat brokers are not regulated like real estate agents. Only Florida and California brokers have to be licensed, and only California requires an exam. Elsewhere, anyone can call themselves a broker. One way of finding a good broker is to look for a Certified Professional Yacht Broker (CPYB) who is a member of the Yacht Brokers Association of America (YBAA), has taken a comprehensive exam and pledged to abide by a code of ethics.
What you should know about a boat seller:
  • When buying a boat from a private party, sellers don't always have to disclose problems. Other than a known defect or condition that might render the boat or engine unsafe, there is no obligation for the seller to volunteer information the buyer does not ask for. Ask the seller if there has been any major damage repaired from collisions or sinking. Use a BoatUS purchase agreement or U.S. Coast Guard bill of sale documents, and note what the seller says before you and the seller sign it.
  • It's almost always more expensive to have repairs done after the sale, long after the seller is out of the picture. So when buying a boat, rather than have a seller discount the boat's price upfront because of needed repairs, have them fix it using a reputable repair service.
BoatUS offers a Boat Buyers Guide with tips on where to find a boat, how to avoid buying and selling scams, determining condition and value, understanding sales contracts and what to do after the sale. Download it here.

Related Articles

Fourth of July holiday to be a busy one on water
TowBoatUS nationwide towing fleet expected to respond to 3500 requests for assistance At the nation's largest 24/7 on-water towing and assistance service for recreational boaters, TowBoatUS, it's all hands on deck. Posted on 2 Jul
Do you make these 3 boating safety mistakes?
A look at the data shows where you can improve safety aboard With the recent release of the U.S. Coast Guard's 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water recommends avoiding these three common boating mistakes to increase safety for all aboard. Posted on 2 Jul
BoatUS says FCC's message to boaters: 'Tough Luck'
Controversial order threatens reliability of hundreds of millions of GPS units BoatUS, says an April 22 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to give mobile satellite services operator Ligado Networks, a private equity company, the green light to build and operate a land-based industrial 5G wireless network Posted on 26 Jun
A new boating safety concern this July 4
With COVID-19 it certainly won't be the same Celebrating America's birthday, thousands of boaters are expected to hit the water this Fourth of July holiday weekend, recreational boating's traditional busiest time of the year. Posted on 23 Jun
Barely a week into hurricane season with 3 storms
Is your boat ready for the 4th? Tropical Storm Cristobal swept over the Louisiana Coast on Sunday bringing the tally of named storms in the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season so far to three – with two of them occurring before the official June 1 start of the season. Posted on 9 Jun
How to protect your boat for 183 days
BoatUS offers help for hurricane season The 2020 hurricane season starts Monday, June 1, and runs through November 30. That is 183 days your boat could find itself in the crosshairs of one of the 16 predicted named storms. Posted on 27 May
Memorial day weekend boating expected to be big
Recreating outdoors has become an important survival tool The nationwide on-water towing fleet with more than 600 red response vessels, TowBoatUS, expects this Memorial Day holiday weekend to be a busy one, responding to an increased number of requests for assistance by recreational boaters. Posted on 20 May
8 ways to love boating while waiting out COVID-19
Become a smarter sailor while saving big bucks Offshore Sailing School's learn to sail, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary's Modern Marine Navigation courses free through May 15 Posted on 25 Apr
BoatUS Spring Commissioning Checklist
Helping recreational boaters prep for the summer boating season Getting the boat ready for the summer boating season is an exciting time for America's nearly 12 million recreational boaters. Posted on 4 Mar
Get a taste of the boating life
BoatUS Foundation offers 3-hour courses for beginners and experienced boaters Want to get a taste of the boating life or improve your on-water boat handling skills? The nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water offers a choice of four fun and affordable at-the-helm on-water training courses for beginner Posted on 29 Feb
Highfield Boats - Power - FOOTERMaritimo 2019 FooterMarina Exchange FOOTER 1