How To Find a Used Boat

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If you are on the hunt for a used boat, there are some important factors to consider to ensure you find the perfect option. A few tips and tricks will help you narrow down your choices and make the shopping process a lot easier. 

We are breaking down everything you need to know about purchasing a used boat so you can get your water adventure started today!

Where to Find a Used Boat

You can find used boats for sale from various types of businesses and sellers. Explore the following places to discover your next vessel:

Marinas and Boatyards

Marinas are a great place to look for high-quality used boats. When boat owners no longer want their vessels, they often sell them to the marina where they store them. 

Calling a local marina and asking if they have any boats for sale is a great way to find inventory that isn't posted anywhere else. They also often have everything you need for your new boat, from repair parts to storage solutions. 

If you're looking to find inexpensive used boats, contacting boatyards can be beneficial. A pro tip is to know exactly what type of boat you are interested in and ask if they know of any that are going on the market soon. 

Sailing and Yacht Clubs

Sailing and yacht clubs are also great resources for finding used boats. You can connect with members that are thinking of selling. Some clubs will allow you to share a bulletin letting other members know what type and model boat you are interested in buying.


A more obvious place to find a used boat is a dealer. You can browse their selections online or in person. It can be beneficial to turn to one of these businesses because they often have experts who can educate you about the available inventory. 

Boat dealers also often have special promotions and deals to save extra money on your used boat purchase. 

Online Marketplaces

The best used boat finder tools are online. Prospective buyers can change search settings to suit their unique budget and model requirements. You can quickly find local inventories and narrow down your list. 

Some of the best sites to find a used boat from a private seller include Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. You can also find vessels available for sale in your local classified ads. 

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8 Things To Look For in a Used Boat

8 Things To Look For in a Used Boat

Exploring the following things is essential when buying a used boat to ensure you get your money's worth and that the vessel is ready to get out on the water:

1. Boat Brand and Model

Whenever you are considering buying a used boat, researching different brands and models is key to finding a suitable option for your wants and needs. Consider what boating activities you're interested in, such as:

  • Overnight cruising
  • Day cruising
  • Watersports
  • Saltwater fishing
  • Freshwater fishing
  • Sailing 

Check out reviews on specific brands and different types of boats. Learn about their reputation, and ask other boaters about their experiences with different vessels you are considering buying. 

Check out reviews on specific brands and different types of boats.

As a general rule, shy away from models that you notice are abundant on the used sales market. This may indicate issues with that particular type of boat. 

2. Boat History and Legal Documents 

Exploring a used boat's history is key to identifying potential problems you may have to deal with as a future owner. Ask the seller if the vessel was in any accident before and if they know of any existing issues. 

Be sure to do some research to see if the model ever had any recalls on any of its parts. Ask if the seller had to do any major repairs or replacements. The more you know about the boat's history, the better.

You'll also want to get your hands on all the legal documents regarding the specific boat. These documents include the following: 

  • Title for the boat, engine, and trailer (where applicable)
  • Bill of sales or other sales documentation
  • Warranty information
  • Insurance papers
  • Engine and motor hours records

3. Exterior Condition

When exploring different used boats, inspecting the exterior condition is key to making the right decision. How the boat looks can give you important insight into how well it's been cared for and if you'll have problems in the future.

Inspect the following on a used boat's exterior:

  • Scratches or marks: Look for any signs of damage to the exterior. Scratches or cracks can get worse over time. 
  • Bearings: Make sure the bearings on the rudder are intact and inspect for tube wear. 
  • Cleats: Check the boat's cleats and ensure they are in good condition and secure. 
  • Deck: Inspect the deck to see if there are any weak spots or rotting.
  • Hull: If the boat is in the water, ask to have the hull lifted out and check its condition under the water line.
  • Hatches: Look at the hatches and the areas around them for any signs of wear or damage. 
  • Helm and steering wheel: Inspect the steering station and make sure there is no damage to the wheel and that it functions properly. 
  • Handrails: Test the handrails to ensure they are secure, and check out their condition. 
  • Fittings: Take a closer look at all the fittings and note any cracking or other damage. 
  • Paint: Check on the paint around the boat. It can chip and bubble over time.
  • Rudder: Ensure the boat's rudder is in good condition and inspect its bearings. 
  • Seating: Touch and inspect the upholstery and seating on the boat. Look for signs of mold, mildew and wear. 
  • Rust: Check for signs of rust anywhere on the boat. 
  • Zinc anodes: Look at the condition of the zinc anodes and how much they've corroded. 

5. Engine 

Inspecting the boat's engine is essential before buying a used vessel. It is among the most expensive parts of the boat, and overlooking its condition can cost you a lot of money. The best way to ensure the engine is in good working order is to test drive the boat and get an idea of how it runs.

If you find a boat you love with a bad engine, the best place to find used boat engines that are well-priced is an online marketplace or by securing a boat engine loan and finding the right one for your vessel. 

6. Interior Condition

The interior condition of a boat is also highly important to consider when exploring different used vessels on the market. You want it to be comfortable and visually pleasing without any major issues. Explore the following features before buying:

  • Stairs: Make sure the stairs are sturdy and that there is no rotting present if they are made of wood or have carpeting. 
  • Flooring: Test the flooring and feel around for any weak areas. Ask the seller about the flooring below any carpeted spaces. 
  • Doors: Check the doors and make sure they are in good working condition without damage. 
  • Portholes: Inspect the portholes and ensure they effectively seal out moisture. 
  • Bathroom: Test the shower, sink and toilet for any potential plumbing needs. 
  • Galley: Take a look at the galley's appliances and ensure everything functions properly. 
  • Appliance mounts: Check that all appliances are mounted and bolted for optimal safety and security. 
  • Upholstery: Look for signs of wear and mildew on the interior upholstery. 
  • Lockers: Inspect the condition of the lockers and ensure they are properly mounted.

7. Safety Equipment 

Another important thing to consider when choosing a used boat is its safety equipment. Not all sellers will provide the essential items, but some will include a few with your purchase. Remember, recreational boaters must have equipment that meets the United States Coast Guard safety requirements

Inquire about the following safety equipment:

  • Life jackets: Closely inspect the life jackets on board and their expiration dates. 
  • Fire extinguishers: Ensure fire extinguishers are up-to-date and full. 
  • First aid kit: Ask if there is a first-aid kit on board and how old it is. 
  • Marine radio: Test the radio and ensure it functions properly. 
  • Lifebuoys and heaving line: Inspect both and ensure they are in good condition. 
  • Flares: Examine and test the flares. 
  • Manual propulsion tools: Check the condition of the oars and any other propulsion tools in case the motor fails. 
  • Anchor and chains: Ensure the anchor and chains are in working order. 
  • Bilge pump: Test the bilge pump and confirm it effectively removes the water. 

8. Electrical Systems

When investing in a used boat, thoroughly inspecting the electrical systems is highly advantageous. If there are any issues with the electronics on board, such as light switches or navigational equipment, you could find yourself in trouble. 

Consider having a professional look at the following electrical systems and elements before making your buying decision:

  • Electrical box
  • Electrical wiring
  • Interior and exterior lighting
  • HVAC systems
  • Generator condition

It can also be helpful to ask about the technology on board. Test the used boat's fish finder and GPS before buying.

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How To Test a Used Boat Before Buying It

When shopping for a used boat, it can be tempting to rush through the process so you can get out on the water as soon as possible. However, testing some of the boat's features first will help ensure you get the most bang for your buck and your vessel is ready to use immediately.

Explore this checklist of everything to test before buying a used boat:


One of the first things to test is the boat's floors. The wooden beams can rot over time, especially if the boat is improperly maintained. Be sure to walk all around the boat and feel for any weak areas. 

 Take a closer look at where people get on and off the boat, as this tends to be the region that gets dampest and can rot the fastest.

Ask the previous owner about the condition of the floor, and don't be afraid to press down in different spots with your foot to see how solid the wood is. 

High-traffic areas are some of the most important sites to check. Take a closer look at where people get on and off the boat, as this tends to be the region that gets dampest and can rot the fastest. 


Testing the used boat's motor is highly important. Most dealerships and sellers will let you run the motor before committing to the purchase. In some cases, it is beneficial to test drive the boat on the water to get a better feel for its condition. 

Listen for loud rattling noises and look for any signs of smoke. The motor should run smoothly, and its outboard should effectively pump the water. If the seller is apprehensive about running the motor, it is usually best to pass on that specific offer. 

Lights, Appliances and Systems

Other important features to test on a used boat include the lights, appliances and systems. Testing every mechanism on a used boat will help you get a greater idea of any investment you'll need to put into the vessel in the near future. 

Test the running and courtesy lights. Check every gauge on the boat's panel. While these features may not be expensive, replacement and repair costs add up quickly. 

Be sure to test any appliances on the boat that are included in the purchase, such as the:

  • Refrigerator
  • Stove
  • Heater
  • Air conditioner
  • Microwave

What Is the Best Time of Year To Buy a Used Boat?

While you may find a good deal on a used boat anytime throughout the year, fall tends to be the best season for boat shopping. There are a few reasons why this is true. 

The first is that summertime, the peak boating season in most parts of the United States, has come to a close. Boat owners evaluate their vessels and decide whether to keep or sell them. 

Sellers typically want to sell boats before it is time to put them in dry storage. Putting their boat up for sale at the end of the summer and beginning of fall lets them defer dry storage and maintenance costs. 

Another reason autumn is a good time to buy a used boat is that many people in the market for a new vessel browse in the springtime before the boating season starts. The used selection tends to be more fruitful in fall, and there is less buyer competition. 

The worst time of year to buy a boat is during the summer months. More people want to venture out on the water when it's warm and sunny outside, so sellers can often sell at higher prices. 

Finance Your Used Boat With My Financing USA

Finance Your Used Boat With My Financing USA

If you are looking to buy a used boat, turn to My Financing USA to get your adventure started. We are the best way to find a used boat. We have over 15 years in the business and understand how to find the most competitive rates and terms available. You can rely on us to connect you with the right boat loan. 

We make applying for a used boat or repower loan simple, and you can fill out our online form in only five minutes. Are you interested in getting started? Contact My Financing USA with any questions, or fill out a boat loan application online today!

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