Steal of a Deal
While the online route didn’t pan out for Anderson, others found that the ailing economy — and a private owner’s desire to get out of a boat yesterday — could literally produce a deal they could not refuse.
Martin Kullman of St. Petersburg, Florida, knew what he wanted — a 33-foot Sea Ray Amberjack. Kullman was in no rush to buy. Still, he kept a watchful eye on eBay and Boat Trader online, just in case the right deal came along. One day it did — a 1997 model that was $20,000 less than what he’d come to expect. “You’re just kind of looking with something in mind, and thinking you can’t really afford it,” he recalls. “Then all of a sudden you get to a number you can.”
Kullman knew that if the deal was legit, he had to act quickly. He jumped in the car (along with a friend who owns a similar model) and drove four hours to the owner’s residence. The first impression was promising. There were no signs of excess wear in the gelcoat, bottom paint, vinyl or cabinetry. The boat’s hearty diesels also started and idled without a hitch. Kullman next verified engine and serial numbers, registration and ownership. A conversation with the mechanics that recently rebuilt the Amberjack’s motors and Kullman’s own reputable surveyor sealed the deal.
“When you see a price difference of that much, you think there’s got to be something wrong with it,” says Kullman, who ultimately bought the boat for $60,000. “Turns out there wasn’t. The seller just had to get out of it.
“I think the key to online stuff is you’ve got to know what you’re buying. The sale was contingent upon a positive survey, so that left it for me to make a final determination.”
Remember our friend Jim Anderson? He never found that deal he couldn’t refuse privately, but he did find a 2003 23-foot Pro-Line walkaround at a local dealership. unlike what discouraged him in the private market, this boat’s condition was excellent. The 225 hp Mercury OptiMax had nine months remaining on its warranty, and the dealer offered to cover the boat with a 60-day warranty against mechanical failure as well (not much good if the boat’s laid up for two more months of winter). Already listed at a decent price of $24,500, Anderson offered $21,000 based on risk and his used-market research. The dealer countered, and the parties settled at $21,750.
“I had some leverage,” Anderson says. “You could see over time the boat was coming down by $500, then $1,000. The market had its own price elasticity to it. Perhaps I should have been more aggressive, but I really felt I got a fair deal.