Tips for Buying a Used Boat: Three Ls.

By Andy Whitcomb

Nov 21, 2022

Buying a used boat can be a complicated decision. Here are a few things for look for and what questions to ask when buying a used boat.

Buying a used boat can be intimidating. Knowing what to look for when buying a used boat or what questions to ask when buying a used boat, will help ensure quality time on the water, rather than quality time in the driveway. Here are a few tips for buying a used boat.


1. Locate

Of course, the first component of any checklist for buying a used boat is finding an available one for sale. Newspaper classifieds, online, or social media postings should be helpful resources for anyone looking into buying a used boat. Fall might be the best time to buy a used boat because it is near the end of boating season for much of the country and storage now becomes an issue…for both parties. But a good boat deal can become available at any time, so be prepared.


2. Leak

Once you find a possible boat, consider what to ask when buying a used boat and how to inspect a used boat before buying. Your first of many questions might be, of course, “Does the boat leak?” A downside regarding how to buy a used boat from a private seller is that there isn’t going to be a warranty, so “buyer beware.” Despite the owner’s assurances, this is a big question. So, investigate for stains, warping, rot, and electrical problems as indications of water entering the boat where it shouldn’t.


3. Learn

This boat may look like a sweet ride… but among the things to look for when buying a boat should be considering if this is the best match for your boating needs. Does it fit your budget? Sleep on it. Or in it, if the boat is big enough and the owner is agreeable. Do you have the means to tow it? How about storage? Will the boat motor start? Bring your outboard motor hose flush attachment. Connecting with a water hose should quickly help determine how well it runs. Much like buying a car, and especially with large boats, consider hiring a professional to investigate the boat. A mechanic will know how to inspect a used boat before buying. In addition, do not forget to ask, “Why are you selling it?”


Tips for buying a used boat vary greatly. For instance, recall the boat’s general cleanliness. How did the tires look on the trailer if it had one? Even this consideration can be a part of what to check when buying a used boat, because it is an indication of how well the boat has been used or kept. Is all the paperwork available (service records, registration, owner’s manual, etc.)? And visit with other boat owners. They too may have experience and advice on purchasing a used boat.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.