Statistically speaking, more than 75% of first-time boat buyers will start with a pre-owned craft. The reasons may be obvious. With depreciation substantially lowering a boat’s value during its early years of use, pre-owned models can be had for a bargain price compared to their showroom-fresh counterparts. The savings may allow you to get into a bigger boat, have more money to spend on fuel and consequently increase usage, or if financed, dramatically lower your monthly payment.
The path to ownership for a used model starts essentially the same as a new model. First consider just how you — and your family — plan to use your boat. The answers may include touring, fishing, skiing, wakeboarding and other watersports, entertaining, or even overnighting or long-distance travel. Next, take a realistic look at your budget, and establish a price range. Don’t be tempted to extend yourself, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, buy below your needs. Aim for the middle ground, a boat that does what you want it to do, at a price that you can afford, and will do so for years to come. Don’t forget to budget for where you plan to keep it. Trailering is typically the least expensive option. In-water storage may be ideal, but more costly.
With your list of candidates short and focused, consider the pluses and minuses of buying through a dealer versus private seller. In either situation, you can compare prices at nadaguides.com/boats
A dealer may charge more, but will typically offer a warranty of some kind, at least for the first few months of ownership. Dealers also typically have a variety of inventory on hand, the benefits of an on-site service department, and the possibility of financing. Most used boats sold through dealers have also gone through an extensive service review by trained technicians prior to the sale.
A private seller is apt to negotiate a better price, but you’re on your own. Any problems that arise after the sale is complete will be you, the new owner’s responsibility. That’s why it’s essential to thoroughly inspect any model you’re interested in, and consider hiring a mechanic or marine surveyor to give a more thorough inspection. Before closing the deal, ensure you have a bill of sale, title, proof that any loan was paid in full, and if available, any maintenance and warranty records
New or pre-owned, you will soon be stepping onto the perfect boat for you!