That Ole Boat
By: Mark Romanack
A lightly used fishing boat can provide anglers a “water ready” boat that still offers part of the factory warranty along with considerable savings compared to buying new.
An older fishing boat in good condition can be the bargain of the century. Older boats can also be a nightmare waiting to happen. Speaking as someone who has owned over 40 new boats and more than a few used boats in my lifetime, I can speak to the highs and lows associated with buying a used fishing boat.
PUT ASIDE THE EMOTION
The biggest hurdle associated with buying a used boat often boils down to emotion. Making an emotional and or spontaneous decision on a used boat can be very costly. The idea behind buying a used boat should be to get a solid boat at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, not all boat owners are forthright or honest when it comes to discussing the pros and cons associated with the boat.
Trust me, no boat is perfect and there are going to be pros and cons to consider. Carefully considering a boat’s strengths and weaknesses makes it much easier to make an informed decision as to purchasing a boat or passing and continuing the search.
HAVE A PRO LOOK IT OVER
Unless you are a mechanic or professional boat rigger, it’s a wise idea to take any used fishing boat for an inspection before purchasing. Any respectable boat dealership should be able to provide this service for a nominal fee.
The inspection should include determining the hours on the engine(s) and an RPM history report on the engines. This will provide invaluable data as to how hard the engines were worked, were the engines broken in correctly and have the engines been operated above the recommended RPM levels.
Secondly, if the boat comes with a service record that is a bonus. Knowing that the engine oil, lower unit lube, spark plugs and associated oil and fuel filters were regularly maintained is a strong indication the engine is sound and strong. If a used boat has no service record, it’s a shot in the dark as to how the boat was treated and how often if ever the boat experienced important service.
Thirdly, I’d have a technician inspect the hull for signs of wear, leaking, damage or places where the hull may have been repaired.
Lastly, everything electrical in the boat must be inspected. Mixing electricity and water is a poor combination and most used boats are going to suffer from electrical issues. Some of these issues are minor and easily repaired and others can be costly to overcome. Again, a trained marine technician is going to have the answers here.
In short, if the owner of the used boat won’t agree to having the boat inspected by a trained technician, chances are the boat has serious issues.
The author has owned more than 40 new boats and more than a few used boats in his career. A used boat can be the bargain of a lifetime or a nightmare waiting to happen.
ITEMIZE THE COST OF REPAIRS OR UPGRADES
A used boat is going to have any number of issues that need to be repaired. Before buying that boat, it’s wise to find out how much those repairs are going to cost.
Secondly, used boats are going to be rigged with potentially outdated accessories such as sonar, electric motors, anchoring systems etc. If those items need to be upgraded, do your homework to find out what those items cost. These days an electric motor can be less than $1,000.00 or upwards of $5,000.00 so it pays to be knowledgeable about what accessories are going to cost.
HOW WAS THE BOAT STORED
When I look over a used boat, I’m very interested in knowing how the boat was stored. Did the boat live in a garage or shed out of the weather or was it subjected to the elements. Any boat that was left outside is far more likely to have serious and expensive issue compared to a boat that lived in a dry garage during the off season.
When it comes to boat storage, cold storage is good, but warm storage is better. A boat stored in a heated building was probably maintained better than one that spent the winter in an unheated shed. Also, when a boat is subjected to wide ranges in temperature, it will ultimately suffer more from corrosion especially on electrical connections. Also, canvas does not store well in varying environmental conditions compared to temperature controlled surroundings.
CASH IS KING
A lot of anglers are forced to finance their boat purchases, even used boats. Financing the boat of course will add finance charges, but it can also add other costs some anglers may not be aware of. If you take out a loan for a boat, that lending institution is going to also demand that the boat be fully insured, which will build in more cost to boat ownership.
Insurance costs are skyrocketing, but there are ways to save a buck and still be safely insured. Most insurance carriers have lower insurance rates for boats during the annual storage period and higher premiums during the warm weather months when the boat is more likely to be in use. Be sure to inquire about storage insurance rates before deciding on an insurance carrier.
Buying a used boat with cash has the advantage of negotiation power. Most people are going to be motivated to sell their used boat and cash is a significant motivator when it comes to negotiating a good deal.
Some boat manufacturers have refurbishing departments that specialize in taking old and tired boats and giving them new life. The services offered can include new furniture, carpets or vinyl, new electrical systems, fresh paint, trailer refurbishing and much more. The cost of these services can add up quickly, but in general the costs are far less than purchasing a new fishing boat.
Some private companies also do boat refurbishing, but typically these are not going to feature OEM standard parts.
These days fishing boats are expensive and even used fishing boats have considerable value. For the guy who is lucky enough to find a good quality used fishing boat, the savings compared to buying new can be substantial. The key words here are “good quality” because not every used boat is a bargain. Used boats that are not maintained properly can in fact be a hole in the water you throw money into.