If you decide to take a plunge into the boating life, buying a pre-owned vessel can get you onto the water at a substantially lower cost than purchasing new. If you factor in depreciation and both reduced sales taxes and registration fees you can save thousands of dollars. However, to ensure that you trailer home a sleek watercraft instead of a rusting anchor, take these steps before buying.

Interview the Seller

First, contact the seller and ask a few basic questions to determine whether it is worth your time to move forward. Ask the following:

  • Is the seller the original owner?
  • Why is it being sold?
  • Are there maintenance records?
  • Was it in winter dry docks using boat lifts South Florida?
  • Were major repairs ever required?

Your intention is to get a handle on how well the boat was cared for to assess its potential condition.

Perform a Stem-to-Stern Inspection

As an inexperienced boater, you could miss any warning signs indicating that the boat could be a lemon. In that case, use common sense. Look for rivets or seams. If the boat is wooden, check the finish on all surfaces. If the boat is a large cabin cruiser, scope out the interior to see if it is clean and organized.

Take a Test Drive

Ideally, the boat will be in the water so that you can take it out to assess its mechanical condition, checking out the following: The engine starts easily; it does not give off fuel fumes after firing up; and all electrical systems and lights function. Next, you need to take it on a shakedown cruise. Make sure the engine runs smoothly without sputtering or hesitating. If it has an inboard engine placement, you should not smell exhaust coming from the hold. Finally, notice how well it responds to steering inputs.

In the end, your instincts will play a role in your final determination. If you feel uncomfortable, walk away; after all, if you want to enjoy your days on the water. When investigating a used boat you need to employ an all-hands-on-deck approach.