11 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Boat

February 25th, 2021 by


If you’re itching to get out on the water in a new boat, it might be tempting to jump at the first boat you find. If it floats, it’s good enough for a new boat owner, right?

Well, no, it’s not. What might seem like an inexpensive boat might turn out to be a lemon, and it could cost you more in repairs than what you would have paid for an entirely new vessel!

If you’re looking to buy a boat, keep reading. We’ve figured out the 11 best boat buying tips for first-time boat buyers!


1. How Many Hours Does the Engine Have Logged?

If you’re buying a boat second-hand, you need to ask how many engine hours the boat has. If you’re buying a boat made after 1990, it’ll have an hour meter.

This is the best way for you to understand how hard the boat has had to work in the time it’s been on the water. For a boat that has been well maintained, it also tells you the next time that more maintenance is due.


2. Do You Have the Boat’s Service Logs?

This is another question for anyone looking for a pre-owned boat. You should ask the boat’s owner if they’ve got a record of all the times the boat has been serviced.

While it might not be a total deal-breaker, if the owner doesn’t have a record of the boat’s servicing, it could be a sign that the boat hasn’t been serviced at all.

Regular servicing for any vessel is important because it keeps up with the small issues that could turn into big (and costly!) repairs. When the owner gets the boat serviced regularly, they’re extending the boat’s lifetime as well.

It’s also a good idea to ask how much the boat usually costs to service, just so you have a good idea of what other expenses you can expect.


3. Is There a Warranty, and if So, is it Transferrable?

Whether you’re buying a new boat or a used one, it’s a good idea to ask for any warranty information. New boats usually come with a warranty that protects against any manufacturer issues and some minor repairs.

You might think that buying a boat second-hand means you don’t have any hope for a warranty. But many boat warranties are actually transferrable if you go through the proper channels.


4. What Does the Warranty Cover?

Typically, a manufacturer will give a new boat owner a warranty that covers things like steering systems, electrical and plumbing systems, and other builds that they’re responsible for. These warranties usually last for a year or two.

When you’re buying a new or used boat, make sure you understand exactly what the warranty covers. This will help save you money in repairs and will give you an idea of what sort of issues to keep an eye out for.


5. What is the Boat Made Of?

It’s a good idea to have a solid knowledge of what materials your boat is made out of, so you can be prepared for what kind of wear and tear to expect. There are five kinds of materials that boat hulls are usually made out of, and each comes with its own pros and cons.


Ferro-cement is the cheapest option for hull construction, but it comes with its fair share of problems.

Ferro-cement is a highly versatile type of reinforced concrete. Mortar is used to fill out the spaces between a thin, reinforced concrete mesh structure. It’s usually less expensive because it’s easy to build, doesn’t weigh a lot, and the cost of materials is low.

When it comes to hull construction, you need to watch out for Ferro-cement hulls. Unless the manufacturer lays the cement in one go, you’ll have weak spots that can let water in, causing the reinforcement to rust.

Boats made of Ferro-cement can be difficult to insure, as well.


The oldest material used in boat construction is wood. For folks who build their own boats, wood is still a popular material. But there’s a risk of inviting wood-boring marine life directly into your hull when you use it.

There are still tons of wooden boats sailing the seas today, and they’re clearly worth checking out if you’re interested in a low-cost boat. But just beware: they can be costly to keep in a seaworthy condition!

Fibreglass may be the most popular material used to build boats and yachts today. Fibreglass boats are thin but heavy. They provide a lot of stability out on the water.

The wind doesn’t usually cause a boat made of fibreglass to buffet quite as easily, so they drift with less speed and more precision.


Steel is another popular material used in hull construction. Steel is solid and usually only needs a new coat of paint every year to prevent rust. But it is also very heavy and will require a lot of towing power to get it to the water.


Hulls made with aluminum tend to be less expensive than fibreglass, and they’re much lighter. They’re easier to launch at the ramp and easier to tow with a small vehicle.

You don’t have to wax the gel coat, so aluminum hulls also require less maintenance. And instead of cracking on impact, they dent.


6. Why Are You Selling?

When you ask a boat owner why they’re selling, you’ll probably get an answer like “Oh, I don’t have time for it anymore!” or something of the like. So it’s a good idea to do your own thorough inspection of the boat to make sure that they’re not selling for a more sinister reason.

Check the hull for any signs of damage, like cracks in the fibreglass. Any crack larger than two inches means trouble and lots of money in repairs.

You’ll also want to inspect the belts for wear and any sign of mould or mildew.

While you might save money going to a private seller for a second-hand boat, it may be wise for a first-time buyer to just go to a trusted dealership with a proven track record of reliable vessels to buy a boat.


7. Can I Take it for a Sea Trial?

A sea trial is just another name for a test drive. You use this time on the water to check how seaworthy your potential new boat is.

If you’re buying a used boat, it may be a good idea to enlist the guidance of a marine surveyor. This is a professional who can give you information about the boat on the water that you might normally miss.

When the boat is on the trailer, walk around and give it a few thumps with the bottom of your fist. The hull should feel firm and make a solid sound. Be thorough around the area where water intrusion and delamination start to show up first.

Make sure that the boat is cold when you start it up. Any odd noises in the rotating assembly are going to happen when it’s cold. Open the hatch up so you can hear everything running better.

Pay attention to the sound and feel of the boat in every state of movement: when reversing, when speeding up, when doing slalom maneuvers and full-circle turns, and also when docking.

Keep in mind that not every sign of trouble should be a deal-breaker. Some smaller issues could be used to negotiate the price.

One thing to note: don’t use this as a way to get a joy ride out of boat sellers. Make sure you only use a sea trial as an end-of-the-line check to make sure that the boat is seaworthy. You should already have a good idea that this is the boat you’re going to buy.


8. What Kind of Fabric is On the Boat?

In general, you’ll want to have a thorough understanding of what material is on the inside of the boat as well. Take a look at all the interior fabric and make sure you know what it’s made out of. Many fabrics out there will resist mould and mildew.

If you’re buying a new boat, you can probably rest easy knowing that the interior is upholstered with a sturdy material that will last you for a while. If you’re buying second-hand, check the interiors and make sure there isn’t any mould smell.


9. Where Has the Boat Been Stored?

This is one of the most important things to remember when considering boat maintenance: storage matters!

Wet Boat Storage

A boat that has been stored outside might be nice for an owner who wants to be able to jump in and sail at any time of the year, but when left in the water, many different issues can arise.

If the water gets too cold and freezes, it can seriously damage the hull and external features. It’s open to rust, marine life, and general wear and tear all the time. The owner hasn’t had a chance to clean, paint, or maintain the boat when it spends all of its time in the water.

Dry Storage

It’s definitely better for a boat to be stored in dry conditions during the off-season. You can be sure that the owner has at least had the chance to look at the hull and other, usually submerged, areas of the boat. This is the best time to perform maintenance, as well.

In general, a boat that has been stored dry is exposed to less wear and tear.


10. What Costs Go Into Owning a Boat?

This is a question more for you than for the boat seller. You must understand the financial obligation that goes along with owning a boat before you buy one.

Obviously, there are upfront costs to consider as well as the annual maintenance. But you’ll also have to consider the cost of the trailer to haul your boat to the water and back, boat insurance, and storage costs.

Where do you want to keep your boat during sailing seasons? If you choose to keep your boat at a marina, you’ll have a monthly docking fee.

You’ll also need to take a boater’s safety course and get an operator’s license if you’re new to the world of boat ownership.

Don’t forget to factor in safety gear like new life jackets, paddles, horns, signal flares, and other things that will come in handy in the event of an emergency.


11. What Financing Options are Available to Me?

Lastly, you need to know what options you have for financing. Many dealerships have on-site financing that can help get you a good deal on a loan for a new or used boat. If you’ve got a trade-in, that can factor into how much you need to put down.

If you fall in love with a boat that’s outside of your initial price range, financing options are a great way to get what you want without having to pay a fortune right away!


In the Market to Buy a Boat?

When it’s time to buy a boat, you need to make sure you know everything about the investment you’re making before you make it. Any deal that seems too good to be true probably is. And if you choose to pay pennies for a boat that isn’t in great condition, you’re probably going to pay double what it’s worth in repairs later on down the line.

Instead, ask these questions when you go to a dealership to buy a boat. You’ll have a better understanding of how the boat will function when it’s on the water and you’ll feel better about making a big financial decision!

If you’re in the market to buy a boat, contact us today!

Posted in Buying a Boat