HOW TO BUY A USED BOAT | Tampa Yacht Sales


May 12, 2021


Here is our 6 Point Guide to Buying a Used Boat

Used boats offer a terrific value if you know how to evaluate the boat and are armed with the understanding of the process and potential pitfalls. There are several questions you need to have answers in order to make this a productive and successful ventureEndFragment    

1.   How do you plan to use boat?

The first step to finding the right boat and having a successful ownership experience is to determine the type of boating you imagine yourself doing. This helps to define a budget that will get the boat that best serves your needs over time.  To assist in selection of the right type or model boat, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will you be doing mostly day boating, or do you plan to do more long-range cruising?
  • What is your ideal day on the water?
  • Do you plan to spend overnight time on the boat? Weekends?
  • How experienced are you in boating?
  • How many guests do you require space for? There’s a big difference if it’s just you and your family versus a group of ten friends.
  • What kind of activities do you plan to do? Water activities, fishing or cruising?
  • Additionally, are there considerations such as bridge height, depth and draft or slip length and width where you plan to keep the boat?
  • Is speed a priority?
  • Where do you plan to store the boat?

Consider creating an actual checklist where you record your answers to these questions and prioritize what’s most important to you. 

2.    Enlist professional help from a broker.

A knowledgeable, experienced and service-minded broker can help you sort through the noise and source more boats for you to consider. A broker can align your priorities and budget to boats that match your criteria. A quality broker can even include options that aren’t on the market yet through the broker’s own network of dealers, wholesalers and previous clients. They know what information is important to know and how to ask for it. They can quickly help you compare the differences between many boat models and arrange for sea trials on the boat you’re interested in. Once you’ve decided on a boat, a broker can help you prepare the offer by reviewing competitive market data and providing you a list of marine surveyors they trust.Then when you’re ready to finalize the deal an experienced broker can connect you with a marine lender and insurance providers. 

3.  Make an offer on the boat you want.

Making an offer on a boat can vary, but there are some important practices to ensure a smooth process and protect you to ensure you’re getting the boat you expect with no surprises after you set sail. Coming to the negotiation table with your financing pre-approved and a confirmed deposit plus the remainder of the balance ready for transfer will communicate to the seller that you are a serious buyer and give you a competitive advantage over other potential offers.

The offer itself is typically made up of three main components:

  • The Offer Amount - This is the price that you will offer for the boat. If you don’t have much experience buying or selling boats, determining the right offer amount can be difficult. This is where having a broker on your side can be really beneficial.
  • Contingencies - Having the sale be subject to sea trial and survey is standard, but we suggest requesting that all equipment and accessories currently on the vessel be included in the sale.
  • Timeline - The timeline has three components. First, the time in which you give the seller to respond to your offer (often 24 - 48 hours). Second, the window you wish to give yourself for a sea trial and survey and to formally accept the vessel (often two weeks from seller acceptance of an offer). Lastly, the time to close the transaction and transfer ownership of the boat (often one week from formal acceptance of the boat). 

4.  Survey and inspect the boat

Once you have a deal with the seller, it’s time to begin the survey process. If you’re working with a broker, they can provide a list of approved surveyors. Not all surveyors are equal and just because one has the appropriate certification does not necessarily mean they’re right for the job.

Here are a few things to consider when planning the survey:

  • A good surveyor can be in high demand and often times the really good surveyors can be quite busy. A broker’s relationship can be crucial in getting you to the font of the line.
  • The length of time to conduct the survey will vary depending on size and age of the boat.
  • It can be a good idea to notify the surveyor that you intend to be present during at least part of the survey to allow the surveyor to show you any findings in person.
  • While the surveyor is typically hired by the buyer, it’s not the surveyor’s role to recommend for or against the purchase of a boat. The surveyor will provide an objective survey report that details the boat’s overall condition.

After receiving the results from the survey, review the results with your broker. Realize that the surveyor likely will always find some issues with a boat no matter how new or well maintained it is. As a result, expect some findings and be sure to ask any clarifying questions. 

5. Acceptance of the boat

Following the completion of the survey, receiving satisfactory answers to any remaining questions and being comfortable with the overall understanding of the boat you are considering, there is one question that still remains: Are you ready to own this boat?

Typically there are three answers to this question, each with a different path to take in the purchase process. They are: acceptance, conditional acceptance and rejection.

Acceptance of the boat happens when no major surprises occurred during the survey process. Perhaps there are a few minor issues, but nothing major. If acceptance is desired, the buyer can submit a clean acceptance of the boat, which means that you are ready to accept the boat as-is, close the deal and take possession of the boat.

A conditional acceptance of the boat happens when the survey went generally well, but a few major issues revealed themselves that the buyer was not expecting. This usually refers to issues and repairs that are impeding the boat’s operation. If this has occurred, the buyer can request an adjustment to the purchase price factoring in the cost of the needed repairs.

A rejection of the vessel occurs when the boat surveys poorly. If the number of issues and the required repairs compromise the integrity of the boat or there’s no amount of price adjustment that would occur to make the buyer want to move forward with purchasing the boat. 

6.    Closing and delivery of the boat. 

After the buyer accepts the boat, it’s time to complete the paperwork and take possession of the boat. Prior to finishing the deal, it’s important to complete a few key things:

First, ensure that you have boat storage determined. Whether you’re keeping the boat at your home, a marina or at a high and dry, make sure that you have storage set up before taking possession of the boat.

Next, having insurance coverage before taking possession is a must. If financing is involved, this will be required.

Closing on your used boat purchase can be very straightforward or a headache depending on a few variables, none bigger than having an experienced broker guiding you through the process. Your broker can ensure all paperwork is prepared and make sure that you have everything taken care of prior to taking possession of the boat. 

Congratulations!  You are now the owner of your new (used) boat!


For more information about how Tampa Yacht Sales can help you find the boat of your dreams contact Shane Faunce at (813) 906-0888 for more information or view our current listings.


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