The Beginner’s Guide to Boat Shopping – Part 3

Inspecting a boat

Part 3: Boat Shopping – the first inspection

By now you’ve researched the type of boat you’re after and worked out whether you’re going for a Private Sale or buying from a Boat Broker or Dealership. There’s just one more thing to do before you start shopping.

If you’ve saved up all you need, that’s great! But if you’re thinking of getting boat finance, then this is the time to apply for a pre-approved boat loan. By having a loan pre-approved you have the peace of mind of knowing exactly how much you can spend. It also gives you a bit of bargaining power – if you can pay today, dealers or private sellers will be more likely to negotiate on a lower price rather than see you walk away.

Now it’s time to do your shopping. Keep in mind, it doesn’t hurt to do a lot of shopping around. If you’re checking out the local Boat Dealers you’ll probably find many of them are in the one area. With private boat sales, try to organise your inspections by suburb or region, particularly if you’re shopping in a rather large area.

Even if you see something that’s just right for you, don’t jump up and down or make an offer straight away. You want to check out all your options, as well as play it cool so you have a better hand when haggling. Make sure you go through the following steps before you make a decision.

The first look

First impressions do count and if a boat is dirty, dinged up or in a poor state that is obviously a bad sign. But even clean, flawless looking boats can have hidden problems. There are three important areas you need to check on the first look:

Hull – Take a walk around the outside of the boat checking that it’s straight, looking for cracks and signs of repairs. Also, check the rub rail around the side of the boat as well as down the centre or “keel” of the hull.

Trailer – If you aren’t going to be mooring your boat in a marina you’ll need an appropriate trailer, so check there actually is one. Then check that it’s solid, registered, all the lights and wheel bearings are in working order, and the tyres are roadworthy.

Engine – If the engine is in poor shape you may be having to spend a fair bit of getting her seaworthy so you really want to be thorough here. Check for any damage, cracks, leaking parts or signs of wearing.

These are your big three. If there’s anything too far gone in these areas you can skip right on to the next boat on your list. If these areas are okay you can move on to the rest of the boat.

Inside the boat

You want the inside to be clean and free of any odours. A musty smell is often an indication of “dry rot” in the wood of the seats or the floor. Check all your seats, shade clothes and floors, and operate all the doors, hatches and windows to make sure there’s nothing loose that is likely to rattle.

The rear of the boat, or bilge, should be fairly clean and free of oil leaks from the engine. Look around for hull cracks, poor wiring and inspect the gas tank.

Other checks

If you’re buying from a private seller, talk to them about the boat! They happily used it for at least a short time before trying to sell. Ask how it handles in difficult conditions, how many people you can comfortably have on board, how often they used it and the best places to take it out. Also, ask why they’re selling. They may just want to upgrade, or there could be a problem they weren’t prepared to fix.

Just to be sure you can get a second opinion from a professional. Unless you’re already a bit of an expert, a qualified boat mechanic can pick up on potential problems that may end up costing you a great deal further down the line. If a boat seller isn’t happy for you to have your own mechanic check it out, you have to ask yourself ‘why not?’

By now you would have already done your research on the type of boat you’re looking at and market value based on age and condition. Once you’re looking at a specific boat though it’s important to use the Hull Identification Number (HIN) to do a history check. The HIN can be found on the registration and, much like a car, can be used to look up the history of the boat, including past owners, accident reports, and whether or not there’s money owing on the craft.

If all of these points check out and you’re still interested in the boat then it’s time for a test ride!

Part 4; the Test Ride will cover what you should test and look out for as you try before you buy – coming soon!