Fifteen Boat Buying Tips

Fifteen boat buying tips from three wise men.
Fifteen Boat Buying Tips
Fifteen Boat Buying Tips Tim Bower

Don’t put anything in your ears, don’t pet the neighbor’s pit bull, and don’t down that fifth shot of Jagermeister.

All your life you’ve continually ignored good advice. First from your mother and then, when it comes to boats, from me. You’ve insisted on doing it your way, and look where it’s gotten you. Still, we can’t give up. If you won’t pay attention to Mom and me, here are ten boat-buying “don’ts” from guys you shouldn’t ignore and five more from me, which you probably will.

John has been selling boats for 12 years and tells me that when talking to a salesman, don’t ask …


1. “How fast does it go?” A study to find out how boats are really used discovered that we run at wide open only 6 percent of the time. Unless you’re a racer, top speed is meaningless.

2. “How many does it sleep?” This is only relevant if you are going into the cruise-ship business. Trying to sleep more than four passengers in a boat under 40 feet is socially destructive; the maximum is two people per enclosed cabin.

3. “Is the boat-show sale still on?” Of course it is.


4. “What’s my old boat worth?” At least, don’t ask this before you settle on a price for the new boat. Otherwise, the salesman just bumps up the price on the new boat to make up for the “good deal” he’s giving on the old one.

5. “Is that your best offer?” John selflessly told me to put this in because salesmen hate it. This implies that you’re going to take what they say as the final price, with the chance of you walking it to another dealer. By all means, use it.

Michael is a surveyor who does a lot of new-boat inspections. You’d think that new boats would be all sorted out; many aren’t. He says, “Don’t buy a boat with …


6. … a dirty bilge.” If a builder is careless about what you can see, what about what’s hidden? Plus, dirt can clog holes, jam float switches and foul pumps.

7. … no anti-siphoning hose loop for bilge and shower pumps.” If the discharge outlets are less than 1 inch above the waterline, the hose must be that height or higher (ideally 1 foot 6 inches) to keep water out.

8. … inaccessible seacocks.” They’re often installed before the liner, making them hard to reach. Have the dealer fit an extension.


9. … a combined genset/engine exhaust.” When one is running, its exhaust can foul the other. Get separate exhausts for each.

10. … unsupported hull sides.” All boats have framing below the chines, but some have little or none on the sides. This can lead to a popped hull-deck joint.

Last, here are five things that you shouldn’t spend your money on.

11. Don’t pay extra for cockpit carpeting. It stays wet, holds sand and dirt, is hard to clean, and the bottom liner often rots out. If the boat comes standard with carpeting, unsnap it and leave it on the dock for people to wipe their feet on.

12. You don’t need a bow-cockpit filler cushion. It doesn’t provide that much more lounging room, and it’s too large to stow conveniently.

13. Don’t be talked into buying a Bimini top for a center console. It rattles when lowered, and it flops around and gets in the way when up.

14. Don’t even think about ordering the galley package in a cuddy. No one really uses a single-burner stove or a sink that only holds one plate.

15. Don’t buy a remote spotlight. It rarely lasts more than two seasons, is hard to turn and aim quickly, and blocks your vision forward. Buy a handheld instead.

Two more “don’ts” and I’m through: Don’t ignore John and Michael’s advice and, before I see you outside the inlet in your new boat, don’t down that sixth shot of Jager.