The used boat market is a wild place. If you know what you’re looking for, you can make out like a bandit and get a great boat at a great price. If you don’t, you can get into some trouble. That’s why we’re here, though, to make sure you can safely navigate the market and end up with a good boat at a great price. Below is a guide on how to win in the used boat market, written from personal experience. 

Go for sale by owner

There are positives and negatives that come with buying a for sale by owner boat and buying a dealer boat. You get more assurances when working with a dealer, but you’ll always find better prices in the FSBO market. If you do your due diligence on a boat though, you can mitigate the risks of buying from a stranger and end up with a great boat at a great price. 

Get an understanding of the market value of boats

It’s hard to take advantage of a great deal if you don’t know what a great deal looks like. Know what you want and poke around your FSBO listings to get an understanding of the market value of the boat you want. That way you’ll know when you run into something that truly is a good price.

Scour your online listings

Check your online listings daily. Facebook marketplace is a surprisingly reliable place to find used boats. Most things listed there are legitimate, you’ll find boats priced to sell, and it’s very easy to communicate with sellers. Craigslist is a little more of a dumpster fire, but like actual dumpster fires, you shouldn’t totally ignore it. You’ll find fewer attractive listings and a lot more garbage there, but good boats do get sold there and it’s worth your time to check up on. 

Be patient but be ready

When you’re searching for the best deals available, you’re going to find a lot of what you’re not looking for. Be patient. Check your online listings every single day. Boats are listed all the time and if you don’t see any good deals, you will soon. It’s important that you’re the first person, or close to the first person, to contact the seller of a boat with a generous price tag. For obvious reasons, these boats get sold fast. If the listing has been up for a week by the time you see it, and it’s truly a good price, it’s probably already gone or getting close to that point. Be patient but check frequently and be ready to move when you find what you’re looking for. 

Have your wits about you

Most of the people you run into while searching for boats will be honest individuals just trying to do business, but an unfortunate truth is that there are scammers out there, and if you’re searching for great deals, you’re more likely to come across them. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, that’s probably because it is too good to be true. If you find a boat that is $3,000 under market value, you may have a good deal on your hands. If you find a boat that is $13,000 below market value, you’ve probably found a scam. 

Signs of a scam

  • Boat is remarkably cheap
    • Nobody is selling a $50,000 boat for $15,000. C’mon people. 
  • Description does not match picture
    • If the description says the boat includes a 112 Ultrex trolling motor and power poles and it very obviously has neither, it is not real
  • Description is weird
    • Less of a sure thing, but if the description features a strange collection of features that a legitimate boat owner would not advertise, something is fishy
  • The boat belongs to a “widow selling it because her husband passed”
    • If you encounter this, it is a scam. This is a Craigslist classic.
  • Owner will not let you drive the boat
    • Not necessarily a scam, but if you can’t drive it, walk away. It’s simply too big of an investment to take that risk. 

Nothing is ever certain, but if you follow these steps, you’ll put yourself in position to get the used boat you’re looking for while keeping more cash in your pocket. 

About the author 

Alec Lower

I like bass fishing and I like writing, so this was the natural meeting point of those two pursuits. My name is Alec Lower. I'm from Raleigh, North Carolina, and I fish a lot. Hopefully, you enjoy the things I have to say. If not, that's fine too I suppose.

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