So you’ve decided to make the most of your family leisure time and you think a used boat is the way to go. Congratulations. Boating is a great way for the whole family to enjoy spending quality time together, something only a few leisure activities can really provide. Now the hard part begins: finding a good used boat for your budget and needs.
Your kids are going to want a tow boat. It’s that simple, so just give up the fight now. Otherwise, you’ll end up buying a runabout, selling it, then buying a tow boat. So, for the sake of the example, let’s say you’ve settled on a tow boat.
Before you start shopping for a used model, visit each boatbuilder’s website to get a feel for the way each one does things. Once you’ve done that, you can narrow your search a bit more, and then you can hit the pages of BoatTrader.com. (See the Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Used-Boat Classifieds for ideas on how to coordinate your plan of attack.)
I like to start out with a broad search area for a specific boat. For example, I’ll do a nationwide search for the one model I’m focused on. Of course, I’m not going to drive across the country to get a model that I can find a few hours from home, but the nationwide search does give me a broad sample of pricing on that particular model. Knowing what models are commonly sold for is powerful knowledge, and can often be a good negotiating tool.
Once you’ve got a good grasp on prevalent pricing, narrow your search to what you’re realistically willing to go and get. If nothing shows up, you can either wait for one to become available or broaden your search radius. BoatTrader.com’s “located” button lets you choose the size of your radius from nationwide and 1,000 miles away down to 10 and 25 miles away.
So, it’s a choice between patience in waiting for one to come along and “are we there yet?” You’ll need patience regardless, because shopping used is more difficult than buying new. The comfort comes in knowing you aren’t taking the big hit in depreciation. The first owner shouldered that load for you.
The time of year also is a factor in your success. Typically, boats go up for sale after the boating season is over, so fall and spring are your best bets. There are still plenty of boats for sale all year long, but those two seasons coincide with the majority of the country’s boat shows. Many people who are buying new are also selling their old boats, and that’s when the market is the most ripe.
Boat Trader has plenty of Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.