That whale of a used boat deal can be a goat

(Farm and Dairy file photo)

Online used boat shopping has reduced the distance between buyer and seller to a mere keystroke on a computer.

Online classified ads for used boats are easily found by simply typing a couple of keywords and letting nearly any search engine go to work. Websites like Walleye Central and countless others feature extensive lists of available boats.

But there’s always a catch. Like the miles of highway between the boat and its anxious buyer. And what about the method of payment, a water test, and the small damages that weren’t mentioned during final negotiations.

Paperwork, too, can cause problems. A good example is the possible lack of a title for an outboard motor. Who cares, you ask? Consider this: No legitimate dealer will take a trade that lacks the correct titles.

And from Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS) come the following concerns and tips about buying used trailers that typically come with a used boat:

  1. Bring a measuring tape when you travel to preview your possible purchase. After years of use, many older boat trailers are missing tags and stickers that provide load limits, serial numbers, etc. To find an approximate capacity on a spring-axle, simply measure the outside diameter of the axle tube. If the axle measures 1.75 inches the trailer is typically rated at about one ton. Axles measuring 2.375 inches are usually rated for about 3,500 pounds. Remember that capacity ratings are for gross weight so the weight of the trailer is part of the equation.
  2. Before buying, check the rules in your state for trailer brakes. Retrofitting brakes can be costly. Some states require brakes on nearly all trailers; others don’t require them until the load exceeds 3,000 pounds. Other states, Florida is one, require brakes on each axle, meaning that tandem trailers will need brakes all around.
  3. BoatUS also encourages buyers of used trailers to consider the wheel diameter. After one hour of highway driving, a 13-inch tire will have rotated 10,000 more revolutions than a 15-inch tire. That means the smaller tire will generate more heat, suffer more tread wear and additional bearing wear, all of which can mean more chance of problems.
    If the trailer in question has a spare, be sure it is serviceable and have the tools along to change tires. If the trailer doesn’t have a spare, be sure to add one.
  4. Lastly, BoatUS suggests a careful and complete examination of titles and any other paperwork before sealing a deal. Lack of proper ownership papers can cause a real problem featuring countless hoops to jump through.

An example is an older trailer that is missing an ID tag, a visible VIN number, old title or official certificate of ownership may not be accepted by a state BMV office. Best bet is to have the seller handle this issue before completing the sale. While you are at it, be sure the seller has his end of the transfer signed and notarized.

Although Boat US did not mention it, if the purchase is out of state, it is smart to have the seller furnish a notarized letter stating that he or she was the owner and the seller of listed equipment. Include the serial numbers and buyer’s name.

For more information go to “Buying a Used Trailer” at


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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.



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