The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Used Boat

We’ve gathered the most up to date and relevant information for Australians when it comes to buying a used boat. We’ve got the top tips for buyers.

Introduction

used boat

When undertaken carefully, buying a used boat is a great way to realise your nautical dreams while still meeting your budget – not to mention giving an old boat new life while keeping it out of a landfill. A used boat has already been tested and tried by the folks who bought it new, and this experience can help buyers determine which models are reliable.

When buying a used boat on Gumtree, it’s important to make sure that the boat is compatible with your experience level and that its previous owner or owners have properly maintained it.

Types of Boats to Choose From

If you are buying your first boat, the process of choosing the right boat for you can be overwhelming due to the seemingly endless number of types, models, and features. Start by determining which type of boat will give you the most enjoyment or fulfil your needs the best. Research each type to help you make a decision.

Types of Boats

Bass boats
Cabin cruisers
Centre consoles
Dinghies
Houseboats
Motoryachts
Runabouts
Ski and wakeboard boats
Walkarounds
Bowriders
Catamarans
Cuddy cabins
Gameboats
Inflatables
PWCs
Sailboats
Trawlers

Which Boat is Right for You?

There is a perfect boat to match every person, activity, and budget. Starting by determining how you want to use the boat will help you narrow down your search significantly. Decide if you want to use your boat for fishing, water sports, racing, or just enjoying the local waterways. Don’t have a specific use but want one for a little of everything, perhaps? Have no fear, there’s a perfect boat for you.

Factors in Choosing the Right Boat

Many factors play into the choice of which is the right boat for you, including:

  • What do you know about the brand you are considering? What is its reputation like?
  • How is the boat engine viewed in terms of quality and performance, and how does this relate to the boat’s price? Naturally, a less desirable engine should translate into a less expensive boat, but you may not need the power of a stronger engine. It’s up to you to decide which is more important, price or performance.
  • What is your budget – not just for buying the boat, but also for maintaining and operating it? The larger or more complex the boat, the more it will cost to operate.
  • Does the boat come with any transferrable warranty, or is one offered for sale?
  • What is the boat’s maintenance and repair history? Has it been bought as salvage, been through a hurricane, or anything else you might want to know about?
  • Why is the boat being sold?

Types of Hulls to Choose From

Just for clarification if this is your first boat purchase, the hull is the part of the boat that actually rests in the water – the boat’s structural body. Most boat hulls can be classified into one of four types:  flat bottom hull, vee hull, multihull, or round hull. Each type of hull has its pros and cons; the trick is to find one with the right balance of performance, usable space, and cost for you.

Types of Boat Hulls

Flat bottom boats

 

  • Plane on the surface of the water (thus can go very fast)
  • May be difficult to control
  • Do not generally perform well in choppy conditions
flat bottom boats

Vee hulls

 

  • “V” shape in front with flatter bottom towards the back
  • The way they cut through the water allows the boat to plane
  • The deeper the vee, the easier it cuts through choppy waters, but the trade-off is less stability
vee hulls

Multihull boats

 

  • Have two or three deep vee hulls
  • Exceptionally good at cutting through chop while maintaining stability
  • May have less interior space, but this is less of a problem in newer models
multihull boats

Round hulls

 

  • Rounded on bottom
  • Also called ‘displacement hulls’ (as opposed to ‘planing hulls’)
  • Won’t go very fast, but are fuel efficient and very enjoyable for leisure
  • Sailboats and trawlers are examples
round hulls

Boat Engines to Consider

Lack of horsepower in the boat engine is often cited as the reason a boat owner becomes dissatisfied with his or her new boat. People often oversimplify the choice of which engine to get by asking how fast the boat will go, but it’s important to understand that more horsepower may be far more useful than speed. More horsepower means better handling at midrange speeds, better capabilities in rough water, and better water sports functionality.

Keep in mind that even if you love the test run of a boat with just you, the seller, and 10 gallons of fuel on board, the same boat may not perform as well with a full tank of gas, a cooler full of drinks, a maximum passenger load, or anything in tow. In general, you’ll want to choose an engine with horsepower that is as close to the maximum horsepower the boat is rated for.

Inspecting and Assessing a Used Boat in Person

If you are able to see the boat before buying (which is certainly preferred), it helps to know exactly what to check while you have the chance. The boat may not be in the water when you see it. When you find a boat you think may be the right one, you should ask for a test cruise if possible. Operating the boat in water will ensure a more accurate and useful assessment.

When you do see your potential boat, pay heed to your first impression. If it looks like it’s in poor shape, that’s probably a good indicator that it has not been properly maintained. Remember, salt damages boats, and boats must be cleaned properly to keep them in good shape.

External Visual Inspections

To make sure you are buying a well-maintained boat, you should perform a number of other visual inspections, such as:

  • Look underneath any objects sitting inside or on the boat. Pick up ropes, flooring materials, and anything on deck. Look for any moss or discolouration. Some light discolouration is normal, but deeper discolouration, as well as moss, is a possible sign of neglect.
  • Inspect wood and metal surfaces; look for corrosion, pitting, or cracks.
  • Look over rigging materials, depending on the boat. Check for nylon that appears frayed or dirty.
  • Check the hull for any problem areas. Discolouration in the gelcoat is a red flag. If the hull appears to have undergone repairs, ask about what caused the damage and what was done to repair it. It is very important that the repairs were done properly.
  • The gelcoat itself should be in good shape. If it’s dull or chalky, it probably has not been waxed often enough, and you either will be stuck with the dull appearance or need to paint it. Some people try to restore boat finishes rather than paint, but this is not often successful – especially in the long term.
  • Check that the bulkheads are secure. If they are loose, the laminate used to secure them has separated from the hull. It’s better to pass on this boat.

These areas can reveal neglect to the boat, though they mostly do not affect performance. Once the boat passes the above checks, turn your attention to the engine.

Engine and Mechanical Inspections

Since the engine is one of the most important parts of the boat and your decision making, a test run and an inspection by a marine mechanic is advised. By checking the vital engine and mechanical parts and systems, you’ll feel confident that you are buying a used boat that is in great condition.

  • Check that the engine is clean, as a dirty engine is a reliable sign of neglect.
  • Check that there are no heavy grime deposits near seals or gaskets, as this could indicate both neglect and possible leaks.
  • Check that the engine has no rust. Rust is a serious sign the boat may not have been maintained well.
  • Check that the freeze plugs are made of brass, not steel.
  • Check that the oil, if applicable, is black with no foamy film.
  • Be sure the steering cables are not loose; if they are, they’ll need attention.
  • Test the bilge pump to see if it works – since this part removes water from the hull, it’s quite important.
  • Check all the boat accessories to make sure they work properly.

Buying a Used Boat on Gumtree

For the widest overview of all the boats for sale on Gumtree, type “boats” or “used boats” into the search box (found at the top of every page on the site). If are looking for a particular boat type or manufacturer, simply type in something more specific, such as “sailboats” (or you can click on this sailboat link http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-sailboats/k0).

If you need a used boat engine, you can type a specific size or type into the search box, or type in “used boat engines” to see a full list of all the available options (or click http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-used+boat+engines/k0). To find a bilge pump or any other boat accessories (http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-boat+accessories/k0), simply type in what you need – the more specific your search is, the more tailored your results will be.