Now is the time of year when you’re going to get the best deal on a used boat. Folks are packing up their boats for the season, and many are trying to sell off their old boats in hopes of buying a new one at a winter boat show. Before you write that check or call your boat insurance agent, however, you need to make sure you thoroughly inspect the boat.
Inspecting a used boat isn’t like inspecting a used car. There are not tires to kick, and many of the problems may not be apparent. You might even consider hiring an inspector to take a look at the boat before you sign.
Still, if you think you’re up to the task of doing it yourself, here are the things you need to take a look at:
- Start with the hull. You’re looking for any obvious damage or leaking. Make sure to check the underneath of the boat, of course. You’re not going to be able to tell whether a boat has a leak with the naked eye, so you’re looking more for things like blatant holes or any sign of rot at this point.
- Check the steering and cables. You want to make sure that there isn’t any binding when the wheel is turned.
- Test the electrical controls and pumps. You’ll want to make sure that the controls and lights are all working, as well as your bilge pump, baitwell and fish pumps.
- Carefully inspect the floor. Look under any carpet. In particular, you’re watching for soft spots. Floors are an extremely expensive replacement. If there’s a problem here, it’s a good sign that the former owner didn’t keep up on his care and maintenance.
- Look at the engine. If you’re not an expert at how the engine is built or should sound, you really might think about getting a mechanic to look at it. You’ll want to make sure that you start the engine from cold. If the engine is warm before you start it, it could be that the owner is trying to make it seem to be an easier starter than what it is.
- Take it for a drive. Get it out on the water, and see how it fares. Don’t buy a boat without being able to take it for a spin. This gives you a chance to see how it performs, as well as identify any major leaks.