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The Basics considerations when purchasing a partially used boat:
I have been repairing boats for years & I know what to look for. From simple compression/spark test to more complex gear/electrical problems I can provide an estimate on how much it will cost to repair any damage, to ensure you are not buying a lemon.

It's a good idea to have a qualified marine mechanic thoroughly inspect the boat before purchasing it. I check the Compression, spark arrestors and plugs, alternator, belts, hoses, strainer, blower, shift cables, engine alignment, etc. Analyze the oil and make sure it is not cloudy or gritty Cloudy oil can mean the engine block is cracked.

Vibration - If it vibrates it could mean a variety of things like a bent propeller. A vibrating boat makes a noisy boat.

Functioning Trim - If you're looking at an inboard/outboard boat check to make sure the trim works, which allows the motor to move from the down position to the angled position.

Response - Rapidly, but carefully, test the steering from one direction to another to see how long it takes the boat to respond.

Planing - Check to see how long it takes the boat to plane after takeoff.  
Shifting - Does the boat slip smoothly into gear, or does it jump?

Reverse - Make sure the boat works in reverse. You never know how important this is until you have to dock.

Gauges and Instruments - Check the temperature, RPM, and speedometer for proper function.

Bilge - Make sure it is doing it's job. If your test ride is not long enough to tell, when you get back to the dock run some water in the engine hole with a water hose until the bilge kicks in.

It's always a good idea to take along several people on the test drive. Added weight in a boat can affect it's performance and quickness.

Hours - Check to see how many hours are on a boat. You measure a car's use by miles and a boat's use by hours. If a boat has more than 500 hours you can expect to pay some money in upgrades and maintenance.

Check for floor rot - Wood and water don't mix, especially in the floor of a boat. Carefully inspect the floor for soft spots, which indicate rot. Don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees and smell for floor for mildew.

Whether you employ an inspector or not, you should know some of the things to look for if you have decided to buy a used boat. A keen eye, a good ear and a checklist will lead you to avoid potential problems. Some of the things to look for are:

  • Mismatched paint. This could indicate that the boat has been in an accident and had repairs made. Although this in and of itself may not disqualify the boat, if you were not told of the repairs what else might you not have been told about?
  • Does the keel run true in a straight line fore and aft? does it straight horizontally?
  • Do you see any apparent water lines inside the boat or on the engine. Look for a line that separates a rust free area on the engine and an lower area with a lot of rust. This could indicate that the boat took on water.
  • On an inboard, does the shaft turn true or does it wobble? What about the prop - any nicks or cracks?
  • Take hold of the prop and try to move it up and down and sideways. You should not be able to move it much. If you can, you have a worn cutlass bearing.
  • Take a small rubber or phenol hammer and lightly tap the hull moving around the boat. If you hear voids in the fiberglass, that could be a problem of repairs, blisters, or delamination.
  • Walk around the decks and on the bow - you shouldn't find soft spots.
  • How are the floors inside? Any soft spots?
  • Is the steering free and easy to move?
  • Is the upholstery in good shape?
  • Check around hatches and windows - do you see water stains inside? If so, these will have to be rebedded to keep the rain and spray out.
  • Is there any musty/moldy smell inside? This could indicate leakage, prior water damage or simply neglect.
  • Make sure it is legal with all required equipment.
  • Are the handrails bolted through and not just screwed to the surface? Are they secure?
  • Look at the transom and check the hull identification number. Does it look like it has been modified? Does it match the number on the registration and or title.
  • When you start the engine do you have good water flow?
  • Check belts and hoses for cracks or wear. Even with low hours on an engine(s), rubber deteriorates just sitting.
  • Check the oil and instead of wiping the stick with a cloth use your fingers, do you feel any grit? What is the color? How does it smell? Does it smell burned. You might want to send a sample of it and the transmission fluid to a lab for testing.
  • Check the transmission fluid with the same process as the oil.
  • Check the impeller and while you are looking at it throw it away and replace it with a new one.
  • Check the strainer(s) for debris and clean if necessary.
  • Test the seacocks to make sure they open and close.
  • Does the transmission shift easily or does it "clunk?"
  • See if you can get the maintenance records and review how the boat has been maintained in the past. Also look for reoccurring problems.
  • See if you can find the previous owner(s) and ask about the boat.
  • Check both the BUC and NADA books to determine value range for this model and year. You can get these books at any boat dealer or a bank that does boat loans.
  • If you are looking at an inboard/outboard make sure the tilt motor works properly.
  • If you are looking at an outboard look under the cover for excessive corrosion.

This should keep you busy for a while and frustrate the seller, but I've seen too many people burned by what appears to be a good deal. Like anything else, if it appears to be too good to be true it probably is.
This is just a quick list of things to consider when contemplating the purchase of a boat. It's not meant to take the place of employing the services of a qualified marine surveyor. A professional surveyor will check far more areas than we have the space to discuss here.  Call us to schedule an appointment at (407) 359-4900.  Or we can come to see you.



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Please call (407) 359-4900 to schedule your next service or to ask a question.

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