The Beginner’s Guide to Boat Shopping – Part 4

Speed boat

Part 4: Taking the boat for a test run (try before you buy)

If the boat you’re looking at has passed your visual inspection (Part-3) you should organise to take it for a test ride.

It might look and sound great on dry land, but you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a drive first. After you’ve paid for your new boat isn’t the ideal time to realise she doesn’t actually float.

You’re entitled to test a boat out on the water before you buy it, whether it’s from a boatyard or a private sale. You need to know how fast or slow it is, how it turns and how it handles in the waters you’ll be using it.

Bring your friends

Don’t just go buy yourself. Bring your family, friends or whoever you’re likely to be going boating with. You’ll find nobody really minds being dragged out for a boat ride on a sunny day.

For one thing, it can’t hurt to have a second opinion or another set of eyes going over the boat in case you missed something. Also, the boat will handle very differently with a full load. Make sure you only take a normal crew size though – you can’t expect it to perform if you go over the recommended passenger limit.

Setting out

If the boat comes with a trailer ask to be shown how to launch the boat and put it back on the trailer. While doing this you can also see how easy or difficult it is to do so. Does the trailer need any work done on it?

With the boat in the water, make any adjustments you need before setting out. Things like checking you have everything on board like an anchor, life vests and anything pertaining to the particular vessel, as well as moving the seat to be able to comfortably navigate. If it has an engine does it start easily? Can you still hold a conversation when it’s at idle speed?

How the boat handles

Now you get to start manoeuvring. Make sure you try out turning at all speeds, fast and slow. For a motorised boat, you should be able to have control on hard turns even at high speeds, without any hopping or sliding. When you accelerate does the boat respond quickly, getting to a level plane in less than 5 seconds? If it doesn’t level out quickly it probably won’t ski well.

How she handlesTake note of how it feels, sounds and responds to everything you do. Lift your hands off the controls to see if the boat continues straight or veers noticeably.

Even drive over your own waves to see if the boat pounds through them or cuts through smoothly. Have everyone listen out for any vibrations or rattles and take not of any tilting. When you slow down suddenly does it continue to glide or just slump in its own wake? This might indicate a sluggish or insufficient hull.

If everyone has had a good time without any complaints by the time you return then it has passed the first test drive.

Back at the pier

Once you’ve either docked at the pier or loaded back on the trailer you need to see how the boat’s engine has handled the test ride. Take a look at the lower unit lubricant in the gear case by the propeller. It should be clean and golden or maybe a dark brown. A chocolate milkshake colour usually means there’s water in the oil which is a problem that needs fixing.

If something has gone wrong with any of the above you will need to seriously reconsider this boat and whether you’re willing to fix what’s wrong. But if you’ve all had a great ride and everything on the boat seems problem free you might be ready for the next part – haggling a price!

Too soon?

If you have only just started your search for a dreamboat, there are many things that you need to look at before you even start considering a test ride, such as research, planning and finance. Read our Beginner’s Guide to Boat Shopping – Part 1 for our tips on how to start your shopping.