Buyer Beware: 5 Things to Look for When Buying a Used Yacht, Boat, or Other Water Vessel

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, an estimated 60% of first-time boat buyers opt to purchase a used vessel. Part of the appeal is price: when you’re new to the joys of yachting, you might not be ready for a bigger financial investment. Another reason is that the boat has been tried and tested and is, presumably, reliable.

Or is it? The fact that the boat was pre-owned does not mean that no unpleasant surprises await. Even if the seller swears up and down that they’ve never had a moment’s trouble with the vessel, there are still 5 things to look for if you hope to have an equally smooth ownership experience.

Check the Engine

The heart of any boat is the engine. It revs the vessel up and keeps it running. If the engine has serious problems, you’re better off looking at another boat, as the effort and expense involved in replacing it is usually not worth it.

Some tips for inspecting the engine:

  • Check its water jacket for cracks, which are a sign that it has not been properly winterized.
  • Make sure the mounts are in good condition. Otherwise they might snap under the constant vibration and cause the engine to become misaligned.
  • Check the cylinder compression.
  • Once under way, test the components of the exhaust system for proper temperature.

If you don’t feel comfortable carrying out this inspection yourself, hire a qualified mechanic, ideally one who is experienced with that particular engine model.

Inspect the Hull and Deck

Older boats can have wet core in certain parts. While this can result in a sale price that’s appealingly low, you’re better off looking further, as moisture issues are an expensive repair job. If a boat has a cored hull and dampness makes its way inside, you will have an expensive problem to deal with later on, so get the hull surveyed professionally before making an offer.

Review the Electrical Work

Yacht wiring schematics can be complicated, but if you find a veritable rat’s nest of wires behind the electrical panel, something’s not right. It’s also a suggestion that if the seller did not take the time to neatly organize the wires, they may have neglected or overlooked other wiring safety aspects as well. Either move on to another vessel or, if you have your heart set on this one, hire a professional to inspect the electrical work in its entirety and correct any flaws.

Do a Title Search

If the boat is literally ship-shape, you still want to confirm that the title is unencumbered by liens and other potential complications. If a title search yields any of the red flags below, walk away or, at the very least, dig deeper.

  • Title or registration certificates that appear to describe an entirely different vessel
  • Missing title or registration certificates
  • Unsatisfied liens against the boat, which could obstruct your ownership
  • And more

Every seller is going to insist that their vessel has been well taken care of and is essentially as good as new, but this is not always the case. If you don’t know what to look for and are worried about purchasing a defective boat, have a marine surveyor look it over. Professional surveys are required if you need to secure financing or insurance for the purchase, and an expert can provide you with an estimate of the vessel’s true market value as well as a reality check if it has more problems than you might want to address after the sale.

Hopefully, you will find a used boat that meets your budget and exceeds your expectations. If you require assistance with lien searches, title searches, and closing procedures, contact Howard S. Reeder today. Our marine documentation division will ensure that all paperwork connected to the sale is both complete and legally compliant, so you can enjoy your new vessel with peace of mind.

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Written by Howard S Reeder Inc

Howard S. Reeder, Inc is a family-owned business which has been in operation since 1940 when Howard S. Reeder Sr. founded our customs brokerage company and began helping importers bring products into the United States. Now on our third generation of ownership, both our company and our areas of expertise have greatly expanded over the more than 75 years since our inception.