For Sale!

For Sale!
In today's economic climate, the last thing many people are considering is buying a boat. However, for those who have been looking for a deal on a good used boat, right now is the perfect time to buy. What once might have been only a good deal may very well turn into an unbelievable deal. There are some things, however, that potential buyers should be wary of.

The first thing a person should do upon spotting a boat that could potentially make him part with his hard-earned money is to know what the boat was worth when it was brand spanking new. In this day and age, this has never been easier. Remember, we now live in the information age and any research that is needed can be done in just a few minutes time on the World Wide Web. Start by learning what the current model of the boat and motor is selling for what it sold for in the year model you are considering. This can be done by searching the websites of the various dealers and with a couple of phone calls.

Now, I have to admit, I have no clue where I stumbled on to this formula but, it has served me well to both buy and sell boats. And, let me tell you, I have been through some boats over the years. Basically, it is a very simple depreciation schedule that says a boat's value will depreciate 20% the first year and then 10% per year after that. In short, after five years, a boat will have depreciated by half its original price provided it has been well maintained. After five years or so, the value doe not depreciate much more unless it has been totally neglected. At this point, it becomes a matter of how good or bad it has been treated and how much is it worth to you, the buyer. By any stretch of the imagination, the formula above is not a rule but a guideline and, to tell the truth, the percentages are probably a little high considering the number of boats currently on the market.

Determining whether or not a boat has received proper care is a big part of the buying decision and can sometimes be difficult. The reason is, most people, including myself, will put a lot of effort into cleaning it prior to showing and this can disguise neglect. There are, however telltale signs.

First, ask the seller where the boat was stored. This not only tells you if the boat has been sitting out in the weather but, also, how much pride the owner has in taking care of his property. There are exceptions of course. One of the reasons a buddy is selling his boat is because it is sitting out in the weather. Hurricane Ike ate his boat shed. Nobody that I know in this world takes better care of a boat than my friend but, he just is not able to fish as much anymore so rather than building a new cubby hole for his boat, he is selling it. My point is, use this information to help you make a judgment call, not to make a final decision.

The second way to tell if a boat has been used harshly is to examine the motor's skeg. Sure, just about every motor out there has some paint missing from the skeg, especially here on the Gulf coast but, if the paint is gone all the way up to the hub, chances are the boat has been run very hard. If you notice this, you might want to ask the owner if he has ever changed the water pump impeller and then carefully inspect the transom for cracks, which brings me to another point.

If you look carefully at most boats, especially ones with a molded deck-cap, you will occasionally see some very fine cracks in the gel coat on the transom near the motor mounts. Gel coat, unlike the fiberglass and resin below it, is a very hard substance that has little to no give and, in areas with a great deal of stress, will tend to develop what I like to call "spider" cracks over time. These cracks are usually only cosmetic and in no way determine the integrity of the hull however, if there are a great many of these cracks I will suggest going to the rear of the boat and pushing up and down on the lower unit while watching the cracks. If they seem to "breathe" substantially, chances are the transom is weak or damaged and it is time to move on.

Another import thing to look for is corrosion. It is really easy to tell if the boat was washed after every use by looking at metal components topside. If you find rust in numerous places, it does not necessarily mean the owner did not take care of it but, it might mean that the manufacturer or dealer who rigged the boat probably went on the cheap and did not use the best accessories. By rust, I do not necessarily mean stains on stainless steel but, rusted bolt and screw heads that a wrench or screwdriver can no longer grip. Should you run across this, you need to decide if you are buying a boat to use or one to restore because chances are that these are things need to be addressed before an inconvenient failure occurs.

It is also important to investigate warranties. Not always but, in some instances, manufacturer and extended warranties are transferrable. I would not let it be a deal-breaker, but I would not pass on the opportunity. And, if a warranty or warranties are available, this will certainly be reflected in the price.

Now that you have determined whether or not a boat is worth haggling over; the best way to start is to ask the seller what he expects to get for it. Once that information is on the table, it is time to make an offer. Chances are, if you are not unreasonable, the offer will be accepted or at least countered with a price somewhere in between. However, if you really insult the seller with a ridiculous offer, you might miss out on a great deal.

It is very sad right now that many people are selling their boats. Some are doing it because the economics of owning a boat do not fit their current budget. The point is, if there ever was the time to buy a good used boat it is right now. And, if you do your homework, you might be able to make a great deal on a well-kept boat that will provide years of enjoyment.