A broker can be a real asset to the buying process, but you have to select a good one.
Boats can be a lot like real estate--- the brokers often become aware of what's coming onto the market before the boat is formally listed. So they can often get a buyer in ahead of the pack.
This happened with our boat. Had we not used a buyers broker we never would have gotten the boat we did at the price we got it for. And this was all because our broker in Bellingham, WA got a call from another broker in Alameda, CA with whom he had a long working relationship. The Alameda broker was calling to say he had just been told to sell an older GB36 because the owner had just bought a new GB46 and didn't want to own two boats.
The Alameda broker was calling to ask if the broker in Bellingham knew anyone who might be interested in an older GB36? He faxxed up the boat's data sheet and about ten minutes later my wife and I showed up for a meeting with the Bellngham broker. The rest, as they say, is history. The boat never hit the listing sheets.
So that's one advantage.
Another is that if one is new to this type of boat and boating, a GOOD
broker will know a hell of a lot more than you do about the pros and cons of the sorts of boats you might be interested in. So they can provide a lot of guidance with regards to what makes or models to steer clear of and what boats to focus on. Our broker did this too, steering us clear of the so-called Taiwan Trawler makes which while there are plenty of good ones to be found, there are a lot of bad ones and it takes time to sort them out. We didn't have or wanted to spend this kind of time.
Yet another advantage will be that a broker will have contacts--- as our broker did--- with other brokerages and individual brokers both in your area as well as other regions of the country.
In our case, we were able to buy a boat in California for thousands of dollars less than the exact same kind, age, and condition boat would have cost here in Washington (at the time). This is because GBs are always in very high demand in this area because of our cruising waters. At the time this was not the case in California, so the same boat could be had for a lot less money down there. We had the boat trucked to Washington and still came out several thousand dollars ahead. This was in 1998, I don't know what it's like today.
Were we to buy another boat--- and we might--- we will definitely use a broker, most likely the same one we used for our GB.
So based on our experience, my suggestion to a boat buyer, particularly one new to this type of boat or boating, is before you start shopping for a boat, start shopping for a broker. And put as much effort into it as you would shopping for a boat. Ask questions, get opinions from boat buyers who've used such-and-such a brokerage or so-and-so a broker. Interview the brokers and determine if they're honest and are truly interested in supporting your interests and needs or are just trying to make a buck. It requires being a good judge of character.
Now other people will probably answer here and tell you that brokers are worthless bastards who bring no value at all to the boat-buying process, and I don't dispute that some-- maybe many--- are like this. But I strongly believe that a broker can make all the difference in the success of your boat-buying experience BUT
--- and I cannot stress this enough--- you HAVE
to find that really good broker.
And no matter if you elect to use a broker or think you can select a boat on your own, make sure
you have the boat and its engine(s) surveyed by surveyors who are really familiar with the make and model of boat you want to buy. As far as I'm concerned, shopping for good hull and engine surveyors is just as important as shopping for a broker and a boat.
I can tell you from our direct experience that having the right people on your side through the boat selection and buying decision makes what could be a scary, uncertain and perhaps frustrating process a hell of a lot of fun
It's still a big decision given the cost of a boat and, worse, the never-ending cost of ownership (which I hope you are taking into account), but having the right people working with you can remove a lot of the apprehension and help you maintain that "I'm doing the right thing" feeling.