2006 Fountain Lightning
I must have the speed gene this month — well, always — because go-fast boats are catching my eye. This Fountain 38 Lightning doesn’t fall under the category of a “screaming deal” but it still speaks loudly. I like it because it still looks as current as any Fountain built in later years, and it has just 180 hours on the meters — but it’s about half the price of a new one.
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This one has the semi-staggered HP525EFI engines from Mercury Racing, which is a good setup for a couple of reasons. One, it lowers the boat’s center of gravity for improved handling — always a good thing on stepped-bottom boats. That setup also places the drives closer together, which improves top-end performance. Also, because it’s not a full stagger, it doesn’t take away as much interior space.
Fountains always have decent rigging and attention to detail, making them good prospects for the long haul. You do have to be careful that they haven’t been hot-rodded too hard. This one looks as though it has been treated pretty well during its lifetime.
2005 Sea Ray 260 Sundancer
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the market for small cruisers was strong. Boaters loved them because they open up the world of overnighting and weekending. Boatbuilders loved them because there was a lot of profit in them. So when I find a 2005 model like this with lots of options for an asking price of $44k, it strikes me as inviting.
This one has a small-block engine with the Bravo III dual-propeller drive, a good setup for a boat this size. These models were pretty nifty because they had a convertible V-berth up front and a small berth tucked beneath the deck. They’re both big enough for two, making a couple’s weekend very doable.
This one also has some nice optional features such as snap-in carpeting, a removable dinette table, and a power windlass. I also like the spotlight on the bow and the shore power. The interior looks pretty clean and the décor is still current. Boats don’t always age well. This one appears to be hanging in there.
2007 Regal 2200
Regal Boats are one of the upper-tier builders on the market. If you want a new one, you’re going to pay something of a premium for it. Here’s a way to get into a boat like that for $27,150.
I like this one for several reasons. First, the price is palatable for the year and model, which by all rights should have way more than the advertised 143 hours on it. That could be characterized as light use, but not too light. Boats that sit are often just as prone to breakage as boats that are used in excess.
I also like that this one has all the watersports goodies on it — a wakeboarding tower, board racks, and an arsenal of stereo speakers. A DuoProp drive would be better for wakeboarding, but a single prop gets the job done.
Finally, this boat is laden with optional equipment. For example, it’s got a full canvas cover, a removable dinette table, and snap-in carpeting. Those things usually add a couple thousand dollars to a price tag when new, so they’re nice to find on a used model. Other not-so-glamorous but important features include a dual-axle trailer with torsion beam suspension and oil-bath bearings.
1999 Formula 353 FasTECH
Here’s another performance boat. This one can be had for the price of a new runabout, and on big lakes like Lake of the Ozarks, bigger is better.
This Formula 353 FasTECH is a good buy for a couple of reasons. First is price — the owner is asking $40,000. Could you get it for less? Maybe, maybe not. But that price is really attractive for a boat this size.
Second, because Formula’s designs are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, there isn’t much difference between this 1999 353 and, say, a 2009 353. This model also has some nice features, such as electric McLeod bolsters, electric foot rests, shore power, and a triple-axle aluminum trailer.
The boat also has the 502 Mag MPI engines, which have been refreshed, but if you were looking to add power, these are great engines to build on. The 353 isn’t as good in terms of rough water or handling as its larger stable mate, the 382 FasTECH, but you likely won’t find one of those listed for $40k, either.