You’ve found a boat and it’s within your price range – now it’s time for the most important part, meeting with the seller to inspect and test drive it. Here are some tips on where to meet and what to look for so you’re comfortable that you are getting a good deal.
When you are organising the meet up, ensure its outdoors and during the day. Natural light will help you identify any dents, scratches or tears. Do not view or test drive a boat at night. This part is equally important when it comes to negotiating a price; see our tips for negotiating for more information.
Be sure not to rush
Take your time when you are walking around the boat, the longer you take to inspect it in detail the more you will notice. You should be looking for dents, tears, scuffs, scratches, et cetera, which can all be missed if you rush and only scan the boat. The last thing you want is to notice it on the way home after purchasing the boat! Body damage is often a good indicator of how the owner has looked after the parts you can’t see.
Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions
Ask questions as you begin your inspections; this is likely to be a large investment and the seller will understand. Here are some of the questions we’d ask to gain useful information about the boat's condition:
- Remember specific features in the ad. Ask about them. Ask the seller to confirm the details listed about the boat. Does it match up with the ad? It’s usually a good sign to see if the seller is genuine, and if they are you might find out additional information on the boat!
- Question any scratches/dents you are noticing. As you are examining the vehicle, ask questions about any scratches, dents or tears you are noticing that were not outlined in the ad or conversation up until now; again, take your time.
- Why are they selling the boat? When did they purchase it? The seller is unlikely to tell you if they are selling it because it’s a lemon. Understanding why they are selling also comes in handy when negotiating; if they’re in a hurry it gives you bargaining power.
- Where do they have their boat serviced? Always ask where the seller has the vehicle serviced and if there is a logbook with service history. This can also be a good indicator of the boat's condition.
- How would you describe the boat condition? The answer you should be expecting will depend on what type of boat you are after, however, this question is usually a good indicator of whether or not the seller is telling the truth.
What to look out for during the inspection
Ending up with a troubled used boat has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with applying good research and investigative skills. Prior to a test drive of the boat you should complete a thorough inspection of the exterior, interior and motor. Check the paint, motor, ensure all the lights and audio work – leave no stone unturned.
Check out our inspection and test driving checklist for more information. You can print this off and refer to it when you are meeting sellers.
What to look out for when test driving
Take the test drive seriously... It’s important. You need to make sure the boat meets your needs in terms of size, space, practicality and how it drives, as well as checking it is in decent condition. Here are some things to consider when test driving:
- Start the engine from cold. Feel the bonnet to make sure the engine hasn’t been warmed up already. This will help you spot any starting problems.
- Ask about insurance. Ensure the boat is adequately insured before you drive it.
- Map out the test drive. Work out before you set off where you are going to test drive the boat and consider how you will use the boat .
- Listen for unwanted noises and complete all checks. You can get easily distracted when test driving and forget to listen for any harsh clunks or rattling, watch for any engine lights. Our inspection and test driving checklist is a handy resource for things to check.
- Test drive more than one boat. It can be a good idea to test drive another boat, even the same make and model if you can to get a feel of how the boat drives. It may be immediately obvious from testing the same make and model that one boat is superior to the other in terms of its condition.
Additional peace of mind
While these steps will help you make an informed decision it may be worth considering a pre-purchase inspection for additional peace of mind. An inspection is carried out by a qualified mechanic, who will complete a comprehensive boat inspection and provide a detailed digital report so you can make a smart decision about your purchase.
It is extremely important to take your time and uncover everything there is to know about the boat before you purchase, the extra time and small investments for additional checks may end up saving you thousands in the long run.