5 tips to consider before buying a used boat


He said — she said is no way to resolve an issue between boat buyer and boat seller, but all too often, that’s the way it goes. And to be sure, it usually doesn’t go well.

BoatUS, a national organization representing boat owners at all levels has assembled a top five list of the most often faced issues by boat buyers.

Read and re-read before buying — not after.

Purchasing contract

Not using a purchase contract. A buyer found out that a battery and other equipment had been removed from the boat he had purchased.

Unfortunately, he did not have a purchase contract that spelled out the price as well as the equipment signed by both parties. Too bad because the battery and other equipment accounted for about half of the purchase price of the boat.

Test drive

Not trying the boat after repairs are made. A buyer purchased a used powerboat that was found to have a cracked engine head.

The sales contract said the engine had to be working, so repairs were made and the mechanic verified with a compression test to ensure everything was fine. It wasn’t.

After paying for the boat, the engine promptly blew a hole in the side of the block. Be sure to spell out contingencies in the contract. On the other hand, if you are purchasing a “consignment” craft from a dealer you are probably getting it “as is” so beware.

Honoring warranty

Not allowing a shop to attempt to honor its warranty. After an engine failed on a Memorial Day trip, the owner decided to seek out a repair shop on social media in order to get back on the water as quickly as possible.

After he got the boat back from a shop he’d found, the engine was still not working, so the member lost confidence and took it to another shop to fix it, which it did satisfactorily.

He returned to the first shop to seek warranty reimbursement but was refused.

Lesson: Warranty law allows a shop to be given the opportunity to correct the problem.


Not verifying the paperwork was sent. A person bought a ski boat with several years remaining on a five-year manufacturer warranty that the seller said transferred with the boat.

Shortly thereafter, the boat had a major engine failure due to a failed pump. Unfortunately, the seller neglected to transfer the warranty to the member, and the expensive engine replacement was not covered.

Lesson: Add a sales contingency to the sales contract that addresses the successful transfer of the original warranty.

Professional diagnosis

Not letting the shop be involved in the diagnosis. When a boat’s inboard engine was having starting issues, a repair shop told the owner that water was found in the cylinders.

Instead of allowing the shop to investigate further and fix the engine, the member bought a new engine to have the shop install. However, the new engine was just a short block, so the shop had to install the old starter, alternator and manifolds to complete the job.

After installation, water was soon found in the new engine’s cylinders. The new warranty was only on the base engine, and not the old manifolds that leaked in the engine.

Lesson: For major work especially, let the shop do their job and recommend the repair.

BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. For more information visit www.BoatUS.com.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.


  1. I love how you state the importance of the shop’s knowledge of the boats they sell. My partner’s dad sells his boats and buys a new one every summer. Letting the shop do its work and repair its boats is great advice!


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