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Old 07-12-2013, 10:06 AM   #1
City: Roswell, Georgia
Country: U.S.
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Best Way to Buy Used Boat?

Greetings. I've just joined this forum & am enjoying the repartee & information immensely. My wife finally retired from public teaching last month so we are now trying to fulfill a life-long dream--cruising the ICW.
Here's my question, which I suppose, has been uttered more than once on these electronic pages: What is the best way to buy a used trawler? By best I mean: getting good value for the price, avoiding rip-offs & unpleasant surprises, and feeling good about the transaction 9 months after the purchase.

And while I am imposing on your experience and judgment, are marine surveyors worth the price (by the way, how much do they charge for their services?). What are the advantages of documenting a boat? Lastly, and this is crazy, how does one evaluate a good marina as far as safety, services, etc. is concerned?

Let me thank everyone in advance for your thoughts. I am eager to get started on our new adventure, but want to insure that it is not marred by avoidable mistakes or stupidity. The last one is especially hard to avoid...at least for me.


Bob "Betch" Boettger

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Old 07-12-2013, 10:10 AM   #2
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Find a boat where each of the several owners have pumped a ton of money into it in different areas like mechanical, finish and added features. The boat may be much better than new but because of what it is it's only worth so much.


North Western Washington State USA
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Old 07-12-2013, 10:53 AM   #3
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City: Fort Lauderdale, FL
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You will have to have a survey to get insurance and unless you are extremely knowledgeable about boats you need an expert on your side to let you know about both the good and bad of a particular boat. After a survey and sea trial you can then re-negotiate the agreed price to adjust for needed repairs. (all boats need repairs even new ones) Rates vary from a low of $20 per foot to over $1,000 to $1,500 per day. Engine surveyors are an additional charge well worth the extra expense in most cases.

The main advantage of buying a documented vessel is that you can get an abstract of title to search for liens on the boat, plus if you want to finance part of the purchase price the lender will require documentation.

I normally suggest to buyers that they investigate getting insurance information at the start of the process. Insurance companies want a certain amount of experience to insure a boat. Check with your own insurance agent first.

Have fun in the search, many trawler buyers can search for years before they find the right boat, others can do it in a few months.
Tucker Fallon CPYB
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Old 07-12-2013, 02:20 PM   #4
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Welcome aboard. Mr. Tucker is right on regarding a survey on ANY boat. Your questions raise questions in themselves. Firstly, why a trawler? One can run the ICW on pretty well any boat from a 24' Searay to a 60' Hatteras and anything in between.
What's your budget? What "comfort level" do you desire? What is your boating experience? What amount of disposable income do you have for maintenance, repairs, storage, insurance, fuel, marina fees? Do you have a house to maintain? Kids? Pets (dogs, cats, horses, llamas etc.)? Do you want to trailer the vessel?
The MAIN question is "What do you want the boat to do for you?"
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Old 07-12-2013, 10:15 PM   #5
City: Hotel, CA
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Welcome to the forum. Great stuff above here.

All I can add at this stage is go in with your eyes wide open, boats are not cheap creatures. "Snug" budgets and "fixer upper" boats can work well for experienced salts yet be real burdens for those near the bottom of the learning curve. Don't get me wrong it's a great hobby and wonderful lifestyle, just keep in mind that initial purchase price is only the 'ante' to get a seat in the game.

For example if $1,700 sound too steep for a fuel fill up you may wish to avoid boats large enough to have 500+ gallon fuel tanks. After narrowing down your parameters chartering a boat similar to what you like is a great way to decide if it is really the right boat for you.
Craig - AKA Some Clueless Idiot

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Old 07-13-2013, 06:05 PM   #6
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City: Anchor Pointe, Ohio
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Vessel Model: 1976 34' D/C Taiwanese Trawler
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Posts: 87
More Advice

The previous posters are all spot on. As you asked specifically about how to buy one, here is my advice:

Spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at boats. Narrow it down to ten or twenty you like. Go to Trawler Fest - To see what they look like "in person". For most makes and models the difference between the brand new one, and one ten years old, isn't that great when you're trying to figure out what you want.

Once you've got a short list, find every one that's for sale, and start watching. There will be boats for sale at exorbitant prices, that have been on the market for years, and then there will be boats that show up one week and are gone in two.

All large boats sell for big money new, drop in value the first few years, and slowly work their way down to a bottom. When they reach the bottom there are two price ranges - the fixer up price, and the well maintained price. You need to know what the range is before you make an offer.

For some models certain engine combinations command a premium. Today the market favors the smaller engines, as the price of fuel goes up.

Learning the market will take a minimum of six months. Now you know the market, and it's time to go looking. Take a friend who knows boats if at all possible. Don't worry about buying a boat that's close, boat transport is a small portion of the purchase price.

Finally, buy the smallest boat you can be comfortable on. Many larger boats sit in the slip, because the owners bought the biggest boat they could afford, and are intimidated by docking, close quarters, and so forth and they never take the boat out.

Don't be tempted by the wooden boat, or the ferro-cement one that's priced too good to be true :-)

Good Luck and Welcome to the Boating Community, lots of friendly nice folks here.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:57 PM   #7
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City: Portland OR
Country: USA
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I second SeaMooses excellent advice.

Go out and look at lots of boats. Every boat you look at will be a learning experience. You may want to invest in a moisture meter, not that you will be able to survey a boat yourself, but you may be able to rule out boats that have extensive moisture penetration and aren't worth the cost of a survey (a moisture meter costs much less than one survey).

Unless you can do the work yourself, I would also suggest focusing on condition. Paying someone else to do major work on a boat is usually a very expensive proposition, and a quick way to put a bad taste in your mouth over the whole experience (and empty your bank account). Buy the best condition boat you can afford.

I also second SeaMooses advice to buy the smallest boat that will work for you. I have known so many people that bought the very biggest boat they could afford, and ended up compromising on condition - and then never use their boats, both because they're unreliable and unseaworthy, and they are uncomfortable handling something that big. If you're going to be staying at the dock most of the time then of course buy the biggest flating condo you can find, but if you plan to actually use it, I would suggest getting the smallest, best condition boat that meets your needs.

As far as checking out marinas goes, go and visit all the ones in your area that you are considering. Walk the docks and talk to boat owners, and ask them what they like and don't like about the marina.

Good luck, and have fun!

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