Used Boat Buying: Shop the Shows, Then Be Patient

Grady White boat show price

This was the price of a Grady White 230 Fisherman with a Yamaha F250 engine at the 2011 New York Boat Show.

Buying used is a great way to get into boating for far less than buying new, but it requires patience. Lots of it. Here’s why.

The wise used-boat shopper walks into a boat show with a camera and notepad, takes in all the glimmering stainless and shimmering gelcoats, snaps photos, scribbles notes… and then goes home and waits. And waits.

It will be a couple of years before that shopper will start to see those shiny new models, only a bit less shiny, on the used-boat market. But he knows it will be worth it because his patience will be rewarded when someone else absorbs the majority of the depreciation.

The drawback is obvious. The boat he gets isn’t new anymore, and that’s what makes the search for a used boat so much more work than buying new. And that’s where sites like BoatTrader.com come in.

I was at the Miami Boat Show this year, and I can report that there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming years. The Cobalt 336, an exquisite new large runabout, will run you nearly a quarter million right now, but will likely will be around half that price in a few years. Given how meticulous Cobalt owners tend to be, and how well Cobalts are built, the used-boat shopper who looks hard enough, and is willing to travel far enough to get one, will likely find a good boat at a nice price.

I can see the same things happening to Larson’s new All American 23, and Monterey and MasterCraft have some great new products, too. These are premium boats that will age well and become a lot more affordable in a few years. You’re still looking at an expensive product, but it’ll be a whole lot less than it would be had you bought new. Money aside, all it takes to get one is a great deal of patience.

And if you were one of the savvy shoppers who took your camera and notepad to the boat shows two or three years ago, picked some winners, and then managed to distract yourself, maybe your buying time has come. Congratulations on your planning, self-control, and big reward.

- Brett Becker

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