When Buying a Used Boat, Check That Trailer

Beaten-up trailers and cheap trailers are a hidden cost of a used boat, so be sure the one your prospective boat is sitting on won’t become a money pit.

There are lots of good deals on used boats on BoatTrader.com. I have to deny myself many of them. Well, almost all of them, but that’s not the point. The point is that if you find a good deal, make sure to check out the trailer — tires, wheels, bearings, hitch assembly, lights, and overall construction. Is there rust or corrosion? Does it look like it’s been lubricated regularly? Is the wiring harness in good shape? If the trailer is below-grade, it might be the one reason the price of the used boat is so low.

A lot of people look at a trailer when buying a new boat and think, “I’m not going to keep my boat more than three or five years. The trailer is good enough for me.”  That means the trailer might have bunks made with cheap fabric or without pressure-treated lumber. That means it might not have stainless or galvanized fasteners. It might have brakes on only one axle, rather than two. It might have chintzy leaf springs. In other words, it doesn’t have the components that make for trouble-free boating. We’ve all seen those trailers. They’re the ones stranded on the side of the road.

So, the next buyer who finds a bargain on the boat—and the price of the boat may in fact be a steal—could end up having to put a lot of money into the trailer, which might be enough to make the deal a bit sour.

So maybe it’s worth springing for the better trailer. It seems counterintuitive, but it happens all the time. Like so many other things, the key to a better trailer lies in the details.

You can expect to replace a cheap trailer sooner than one that initially costs more. The decision is yours in many cases, but sometimes the choice has already been made for you by the person who sold you a used boat.

- Brett Becker

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