What to look for in a boat before buying it? – Checklist for boats for sale!

5 Jul 2022

Before you head out to buy a boat, you must be clear about the specifications that you want in it. Boats for sale are usually second-hand boats, and buying them is not only a significant investment, but to some, it's a lifelong dream.

People spend the savings they did for years to accomplish their dream of spending pleasant, delightful days on the water with their friends and family. With the quick depreciation of new boats, buyers are now more interested in second-hand boats for sale.

A used boat can not only save you hundreds of thousands in comparison to a new boat. Now that you have selected the kind of boat you have been dreaming of owning for years, we bet you can't wait to feel the wind touching your face and rushing through your hair and water spraying your face. Ah! What a feeling!

Things to consider before buying

While deciding to buy a used boat, first of all, know in your head the purpose of buying. Decide whether you want a used boat for sale or a new fishing boat. Several elements will guide your decision about buying used boats for sale. For example, its condition is the most crucial factor to consider for a used fishing boat or a yacht.

The second thing is your budget. New boats are always costlier than used boats. Last but not least, consider the expenses you will make for the maintenance of the boat for sale. Insurance rates are usually higher for new boats. Here's a checklist of 10 things to consider when choosing a boat for sale.

1. Registration and Title

Any secondhand boat for sale at a marina will have a valid registration and title. However, a registration card and title bearing the seller's name and address must be shown when purchasing from an individual. A boat trailer is no different.

Make the registration numbers identical to the make, model, and hull identifying numbers (HIN). If you plan on financing the purchase, you'll also need these. Also, make sure to have a bill of sale signed by the boat's owner and save it for your records. Make sure that any warranty coverage, if any, is correctly stated.

2. Hull

A boat's hull is critical, so inspect it thoroughly. Examine the vehicle to see whether it has apparent fiberglass repairs or other imperfections that would indicate that it was previously used in an accident. When inspecting vessels below the surface, look for damage from rocks, debris, or other boats.

Wood transoms (the back vertical piece of the boat) can rot inside older boats. A transom that moves excessively when the motor is raised or lowered is a sign of a weak or fractured transom. A two-inch-long break or repair could indicate that the boat was involved in a collision. Hull integrity is critical to your survival.

3. Deck

Make sure the deck is in good condition. Don't rush anything. Rot, cracks, dents, holes, and soft spots should be inspected. It should not feel squishy when you press down on the deck with your hands.

Hidden damage may be indicated by rotting or plywood delamination. Make sure the chairs don't have mold or mildew growing on them. If the hull and deck are in good condition, assess the rest of the vessel.

4. Trailer

Boat trailers in many states are required to be inspected annually for safety. Verify that the inspection sticker or placard is up-to-date before using the vehicle or equipment. Check the suspension and brake systems for rot, damage, twisting, or extensive rust on the frame. Keep an eye out for dry rot and other signs of damage.

Remove the grease caps from the wheel bearings if at all possible. Milky-colored grease signifies water infiltration into the bearing hubs, whereas silvery grease suggests damage to the wheel bearings.

5. Engine

Check the engine thoroughly, as it's the most costly section of the boat. To begin, inspect the engine's cover for signs of corrosion. The engine should be fired up for a test drive. For a minimum of 10 seconds, have the owner run the engine at full power. The unstable, smokey, harsh, or noisy engine operation indicates a problem.

Inspect the hoses and belts for wear, fraying, and cracks. Check for grit, dampness, or metal dust with a bit of engine oil between your fingers. You might consider hiring a boat engine mechanic to inspect the engine(s) or do a fluid analysis test if you want to acquire a larger vessel. Future problems that could be difficult to detect during a physical check could be avoided with a fluid analysis.

6. Battery

The average battery's lifespan is five years. Look for rust on the battery terminals and a damaged or leaky case. Make sure the battery(s) are firmly seated in the battery tray before you begin. A fire or explosion might occur if a battery is left unsecured.

7. Motor Starter

Getting the engine to start is impossible if the starter motor is defective. When you first turn the key in the ignition, listen for any clanging, grinding, or loud spinning/whizzing noises. When water gets into the starter and can't get out, it corrodes and damages internal components.

8. Electronics

On a boat, electrical issues are not unusual. Almost anything can be fixed easily. A faulty wiring or electrical system could cause flickering lights, radios, GPS, radar, and electronic shifters and throttles.

Repairs should not be made with melted or broken insulation or corrosion of the connections. These could be signs of something more serious.

9. Bellows

Control cables, mechanical systems, and other boat elements are protected from dirt and water incursion while moving freely thanks to bellows, which are made of rubber and look like the pleats of an accordion. When a boat's CV joint boot is destroyed, expensive pieces soon fail or enable water to enter the vessel. The bellows should be inspected for cracks, splits, loose clamps, or rust towards the end.

10. Hardware and Cables

On a boat, cables can be used for a variety of purposes. Verify that the cables and controllers for the shifting, steering, and throttle systems all operate freely and are not rusted or frayed.

The cost of repairing or replacing deck hardware can be high. To make sure that the chairs are firmly in place, wiggle and tug on the hinges, rigging, and cleats. Stripped or loose screws, which are easy to replace, can be the source of wobbly parts. Corrosion or slack hardware, on the other hand, could indicate rot or other problems.


Ask for a copy of the boat's maintenance and storage history. You'll know just how much maintenance the boat needs and whether it's been left outside all year.

In addition to saving you money, buying a used boat can provide you with many years of pleasure on the water. Hire an accredited maritime surveyor if you aren't confident in your ability to analyze the condition of boats for sale.

It is not uncommon for marine surveyors to carry out complete system inspections and structural integrity, much like home inspectors.

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