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Used Boats - a Great Buy or Someone Else's Headache?

You've decided it's time to buy the boat you always wanted, and sail into the sunset. But now you've done the math, and yikes!  That's expensive!  Not only is the new boat costly, but you're going to need a vehicle that can reliably pull it, and you're going to need maintenance, fees, financing....and you wonder about this dream for your retirement, or your family leisure.

Buying a used boat shaves a lot of the cost off a high end purchase.  Yes, we know, there's the adage about buying someone else's problems. But seriously, new boats have problems too.  One advantage of buying a used boat is that it's been tested, and there is a track record. The key is to have accurate disclosure of all maintenance and problems.

Each year, over 90 percent of all boats over 30 feet that are sold are used.  This makes it possible for boat owners to purchase a high-end model, not just a runabout.  

But wait a minute.  Used boats don't have a warranty.  That's right.  But how long is the warranty on a new boat?  You'd likely be purchasing an extended warranty, and you can do that with a used boat as well. 

Do brands matter?  To some extent, yes. But understand that boat ownership is a very personal matter for some people, just like car ownership.  Some boat owners may not want to acknowledge that the brand is not all they expected.  Visit the showroom, ask questions, call up people who are advertising boats for sale, and ask questions. Lots of questions.  See if they are up for a test drive, or at least can take you out and show you how the boat handles.

A visit to the  local marina where you ask boat owners for their recommendations may turn up a boat owner who is not happy with his purchase.  If he offers to tell you why, or show you, take him up on it.  At the very least, it is an education.

Is it worth it for you to hire an expert to evaluate your boat? Maybe, maybe not.  Many experts don’t want to be bothered with smaller boats.  However, if you have a friend or colleague whose opinion you respect, by all means, bring them along.

You have to know what it is you are getting into, and all boat ownership, whether new or used, entails some risk.  Plan your budget, find out what to expect, make sure you have the right financing and the right equipment. 

By Alan Hammond

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