If you have followed the steps in this Boat Buying Guide this far, you now have a pretty good idea of (1) what type of boat you want and how you will use it, (2) what you can and cannot live without in terms of amenities on your boat, (3) how much you need to budget for insurance, slip fees and maintenance, and, most importantly, (4) how much money you have to spend on the purchase of your boat.
Great! Now that you know how much money you can spend to buy your boat, let’s go through some of the ways you can find your boat.
Internet research. Check out our Top Surfing Spots, and then branch out on your own, if necessary. This is a fast way to compare a lot of boats before you get out look at boats in their natural environment, or on the showroom floor.
Look around. Pay attention to the boats in your area. Is every other boat a certain brand? Find out why. Is that particular brand best-suited for sailing in your area? Is there a local dealer who offers a good price? Either way, it is worth investigating.
Talk to other boaters, especially if you are new to the area. The islands are small places; everyone knows someone who is selling a boat. Local knowledge is particularly important if you find a used boat; somebody somewhere knows the history – good or bad – of the boat you are thinking about buying.
Be creative. Contact banks – they repossess boats all the time, but they don’t like to own them. Our broker came to us three days after we put in an offer on our first sailboat. He had bad news and good news. The bad news was that the bank repossessed the boat over the weekend. The good news was that they accepted our offer first thing Monday morning – we had ourselves a boat!
Make the rounds. Visit marinas and boat yards and tell the harbor masters and yard managers that you are looking for a boat. Tell them what you are looking for and ask them to get in touch if they hear anything, and check back with them now and then. Walk the docks, if access is not restricted. You might just spot a For Sale sign on the boat of your dreams. (A word about etiquette: a For Sale sign is not a license to explore. Never, ever touch or board a boat if you have not been invited to do so. Jot down the number on the sign, and then call to make an appointment to see the boat.)
Contact yacht clubs. They might allow you to put a notice on their bulletin board or in their newsletter … or the manager might be able to put you in touch with a member whose boat is for sale. Ask to put up a sign at any waterfront restaurants or bars – many of them have a bulletin board.
Boat shows: attend as many of them as you can. Small, indoor boat shows will feature brand new boats. Larger, in-the-water shows will have new and used boats for you to look at. Don’t be shy – if you find a boat you really like, go below and poke around. If you are going to spend nights on your boat, lay down on the bed in the master cabin … if you are 6’2” and the bed is 5’10”, you could have a problem. If the boat dealers don’t like you looking around, then keep moving – find a dealer who will encourage you to “kick the tires.”
Newspaper and magazine ads. Check daily newspapers and weekly penny-savers for boats that are for sale by owner. Peruse the classified sections in the back of boating magazines, such as All At Sea. Magazines contain hundreds of boats for sale, listed by both brokers and owners.
Yellow Pages. Look through your phone book and find local boat brokers. Meet with them and tell them what you are looking for. A good boat broker is one who will listen to you and help you find the boat you want – they can save you hours of weeding-out time.
Go boating. Hopefully, by now you have managed to meet some boat owners – and you have been out boating with them. You’ve been keeping notes – haven’t you? – regarding what you like and don’t like about each boat you have been on, so you should have a private database of information to help you make an informed boat-buying decision. If you need more info, get out on the water. Rent boats if you have to, taking along an experienced friend if your boating skills aren’t good enough. The only way you’ll know if a boat is a proper fit is to try her on.
Our first boat-buying experience: I grew up sailing, but had not done so for quite some time when my husband and I decided we would look into buying a boat. A great boating playground – Galveston Bay – was in our “backyard.” At one of the Houston boat shows we really liked, and nearly made an offer on, a Compaq 16 – a trailerable sailboat that appeared to be just what we wanted. As we were discussing price with the salesman, it dawned on me that my husband did not really know how to sail; his sailing experience was limited to the occasional vacation sailboat rental. Neither of us knew if he would like sailing on a regular basis, as well as dealing with the maintenance chores that go along with owning a boat.
We thanked the salesman for his time and got out of there before we could change our minds. We found a place on Clear Lake to rent boats and spent the rest of the summer weekends sailing a Holder 14 – a forgiving, sloop-rigged daysailer. My husband discovered that he enjoyed sailing and we both realized that we would not be happy with a small boat. For us, buying that Compaq 16, sweet as she was, would have been a mistake.
Next month: The Art of Negotiating
Top Surfing Spots
All At Sea online has a classified section that lists sail and power boats for sale.
Consumer reviews with a section for Powerboats and a section for Sailboats. Read what others have to say about the boat you are interested in. You could be clued into some problems that require further research before you buy.
Boat U.S. offers a Buyer’s Guide, a Seller’s Guide, and Consumer Information on boat registration, titling and documentation, and boating safety.
A worldwide boat show calendar – who knew they had a boat show in Beirut? The calendar is searchable by show name, city, state/province, and date range.
Boat show listings for the US and some Canadian Provinces, broken down into regions, and further searchable by state and province.
Thousands of sail and power boat listings. Best feature is the customized search function – by year, new or pre-owned, price, manufacturer, model and – most importantly – location.
Discussion about working with a broker, finding the right broker for you, and what the broker does for the buyer and seller.
ASK AN EXPERT
I would tell prospective boat owners to try out as many different types, shapes and sizes of boats as they can get on before they commit… and to take some sailing lessons!
Charter yacht ownership is one way to buy a boat, and there are at least four types: Bareboat (new and used), and Crewed (new and used). Addressing the issue of buying a crewed charter yacht … If someone walked into my office and said, “I have ‘X’ amount to spend on a crewed charter boat, what do you suggest?” I would suggest a catamaran. Even if the buyer did not like cats, I would direct him toward a catamaran in order to be profitable. Why? Most of the crewed charter guests are non-sailors, or limited-skill sailors, and the brokers find it easier to sell catamaran charters to non-sailors. It’s not that experienced sailors will be disappointed with the performance of a catamaran – cats sail very well – but the inexperienced sailor is more comfortable in a boat that does not “tip” (heel). Having said that, I should point out that some of our most successful yachts are the Irwin 65/68’ monohulls – the single most popular large monohull charter yachts ever.
Until about 15 years ago (before Internet shopping) people were limited to shopping for boats either in their local area or choosing from ones available from a local broker’s network of connections. The information and advice on any particular boat available was limited.
Today, everybody with access to a computer can review the vast inventory of boats on the market. Potential buyers can get photos, specs and inventory at the click of a button. The only difference to other forms of Internet shopping is that as unpleasant as it may be, you will have to deal with a human being or beings. The boat won’t show up at your door step or dock. The process will probably be complex. It does not have to be … you might get lucky and get your dream boat after overhearing a conversation at a bar, but this is unlikely.
The phrase BUYER BEWARE or, if you prefer the Latin, Caveat Emptor, must always be remembered. The other equally important consideration is to know what you want. The boat you buy should have the best combination of things you like as opposed to dislike, as well as have one or two very good things (kind of like a wife or a husband).
I recommend that a buyer do the proper amount of due diligence on a selection of boats that meet his or her criteria. During that process, buyers can check current asking prices, and compare boats through a broker’s recent comparables. Another good thing to do is research owners associations of the boat you like and see what their comments are. You will find out any issues that model has had and learn the right questions to ask when shopping.
Availability can be a limiting factor in choosing your boat. If the boat you like is not close this will paint a different picture. The buyer will need to learn about the area from where they will be buying the boat, i.e. services, surveyors, customs, and travel expenses. Having a boat delivered is a bit easier now with the available yacht transportation services.
Somewhere in this process it may be revealed that there is a big price difference in the available boats you like. Some will be less expensive then others because of condition or some other reason. One thing that I have seen is that with a boat, the money is spent at one time or another. By this I mean that a discount because of some work that needs to be done is probably no discount at all. I have seen boats or wrecks that in order for the deal to be a practice consideration, the seller would have to give the boat away plus $20,000 dollars.
The message here is to buy smart. Better to find a good valued boat from conscientious seller who took painstaking good care of his boat and is just getting out of boating. These are some tips or suggestions; of course there will always be the “live and learn” factor.
NOTE FROM JSW: If you are a boat owner, former owner, boat broker, boatyard owner, marine store owner/worker or have experience with any other aspect of boating – insurance, haul-outs, financing, marinas … you name it – and would like to share some of your experience, I would like to hear from you. Please send your comments, and a picture of you, your boat or your business logo, to me via e-mail at SummerVI@earthlink.net. Please include your business name, website and other pertinent information. I reserve the right to edit remarks and will submit as many as I can to the publisher, who reserves the right to do even more editing
Boat Buying Tutorial
Guide Tips for Buying a Boat
J. Summer Westman took an in-depth study into How To Buy a Boat. I think it is a tour that each of us in the Marine Industry needs a refresher every now and then – especially before you buy or sell your next boat. These same lessons are valuable for sail boats or power boats.
- Part 1 – How will I use my boat?
- Part 2 – What do I really want
- Top Five Buying Tips for Boat Insurance
- Tips on What to Consider When Buying Boat Insurance
- Why does Boat Insurance Cost So Much?
- Steps to Follow When Buying Boat Insurance
- Part 6 – The Budget: Slip Fees and Hurricane Storage
- Part 7 – The Budget: Maintenance Fees and Other Costs
- Part 8 – How to Find Your Boat
- Part 9 – The Art of Negotiation
- Part 10 – Brokers, Lawyers and Contracts! Oh My!
- Part 11 – Survey and Sea Trial
- Part 12 – Transporting your Boat
Here is a handy list of Boat Brokers in the Caribbean