How to Buy a Used Pontoon or Triple Pontoon For Sale WITHOUT Buying Someone Else’s Headache…

Where to search for used boats for sale on the internet and in your local area

Are you researching a used pontoon for sale from a pontoon dealer or pontoons for sale by owner?

If so, this article is for you!

Used Pontoon and Triple Pontoons For Sale by Dealer and by Owner

You’ll see lots of pontoons and triple pontoons for sale these days.  It’s one of the fast growing boating segments going right now.  Part of the reason is the improvements in triple pontoons for sale, their performance, speed and optional pontoon layouts.

We’ll get to all of those shortly but first, let’s talking about why a pontoon or triple pontoon… and which is right for you.

Pontoons for sale these days will typically be a great option for those looking for lots of roominess, a stable platform for boating and a comfortable day on the water without a need for high speeds (under 30 MPH) in most cases.

We’ll talk more about speeds and horsepower options for pontoons in a moment.

However, if you are looking for all of those characteristics in your pontoon AND you want some speed and/or carry larger numbers of guests, a triple pontoon is the answer.  (AKA, tri-toon, triple tube pontoon)

Let me explain why a triple pontoon for sale fits the bill in these situations:

More Buoyancy for Your Pontoon

Let’s tackle what the 3rd pontoons does for the boat itself.  The extra pontoon has just increased the buoyance of your boat by 1/3 raising it further out of the water.  This allows the boat to skip across the water instead of plowing thru the water.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

More Structural Support for Your Pontoon

That extra pontoon also adds additional structural support with another support beam going right down the middle of the pontoon boat.  This extra buoyancy and support allows the pontoon boat manufacturers to mount heavier and heavier engines (some even doing twin engine triple pontoon set ups that can reach over 100 MPH)

Now, with the extra Horsepower (HP) comes more speed.  With a 24’ triple pontoon with a 225HP engine reaching speeds of close to 50MPH.  That’s plenty for doing any water sports or to outrun a storm or make some bowrider feel silly as a pontoon passes them on the water!

Making the choice between a pontoon for sale or a triple pontoon for sale is the first step.  Now, let’s move to your 2nd choice.

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Picking the Right Horsepower (HP) for Your Pontoon

Now that you’ve selected the right platform, you’ll want to choose the right power source for your used pontoon for sale.  Now, there are some basic guidelines I’ll give you for horsepower on pontoons and what make sense and what may be a waste of your money.

Most pontoons you find for sale on Boat Trader or Craigslist Boats for Sale will typically have engines under 115HP.  But, what can you expect from each outboard.

Pontoon Speeds:

  • 50HP = Best for slow cruising and exploring with top speeds of 15 to 18 MPH
  • 90HP = Great for cruising and can pull a small kid on wake board or tube with top speeds of low 20MPH
  • 115HP = Best option for water sports for kids with top speeds of 25 to 30MPH
  • 150HP = This option and a pontoon will keep your investment down but you won’t get the full benefit of the engine without the extra buoyancy of the 3rd pontoon.

PRO PONTOON BUYER TIP:  The more people and weight on the pontoon the large impact on performance.  Adding 4 adults, a cooler, full fuel and gear on a pontoon will cause it to sink lower in the water and slow it down considerably.  Drop 5, maybe even 10 MPH off top speed if you will be loading your pontoon down.

Captain Matt
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  Some options will increase performance and reduce impact of the weight.  The major one is the pontoon’s diameter.  The most common size on newer pontoons for sale is 25”.  Dropping to a 23” pontoon will drastically reduce buoyancy.  Having 27” pontoons will increase the buoyancy.  Another option to look for if getting the most performance out of whatever HP you select is having ‘lifting strakes’ on the pontoons.  These work like strakes on a fiberglass boat and help the boat get the pontoons a little further out of the water reducing drag and increasing performance.

Captain Matt

Triple Pontoon Speeds:

150HP = This is the most economical option for a boat that will run similar to a bowrider or deck boat.  With top speeds around 40MPH depending on conditions and load on the boat.  That’s plenty for anyone to do any watersports.  I’m over 200 pounds and have slalom skied on a 22’ tri-toon with a 150HP Mercury and 5 people aboard.

225HP =  If you want to be as fast as most bowriders or deck boats on the water, getting into the 200’s is where you want to be.

300HP+ = These engines are incredible and can make your triple pontoon one of the fastest boats on the water.  It is strictly and want but will make your boat move down the water and turn a bunch of heads while doing it.

Twin Engine Triple Pontoons = These boats can run 60 to 90 MPH and even faster.  If you want to look like  a pontoon rock-star and are willing to invest over $100K for the speed, this option is perfect for you.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:    These twin engine tri-toons are newer to the market and will likely be hard to find at used pontoons for sale.  You may want to research new pontoon boat dealers near you to find an option that works for your pontoon boating lifestyle.

So, now that you’ve selected the platform and approximate horsepower for your used pontoon, now comes the fun and harder part.  Choosing the layout.

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Picking the Right Pontoon Layout

As you look at the used pontoons on the market, they break down into 4 main categories.  This is the most important choice you’ll make when shopping for used pontoons.

The best question to ask yourself is what will we be doing a majority of the time.  I have a 80% rule when it comes to shopping for used boats.

Find the pontoon boat for sale that will meet the needs of how you’ll be using it 80% of the time and then ask, can you make it work for the other 20% of the times.

So, if you’ll be fishing 80% of the time and taking cruises with guests 20% of the time, find the layout that will do fishing very well.  And will work for the cruising portion of you boating lifestyle.

If you will be sitting at anchor and getting sun 80% of the time and entertaining the other 20%, the a pontoon with nice sun loungers is way to go even if you have to make do on the entertaining portion.

So, let me define the various layouts on the used pontoons for sale that you’ll see on the market today.

Used Fishing Pontoons

A fishing pontoon will have 2 or 4 fishing chairs in the bow and/or rear of the pontoon boat.  It will likely have live wells, tackle stations and even a spot to mount a trolling motor and half door in the bow  so it can lay down out of the way.

You’ll find lots of used fishing pontoons on craigslist boats for sale section, BoatTrader and even in the Facebook marketplace.

Used Traditional Pontoon Layouts

The traditional pontoons you’ll find for sale which are a majority because its been the most popular for decades.  This layout consists of 2 couches in the front of the boat an L-shaped couch in the rear and the helm station on the starboard (right) side about mid-ship (middle of the pontoon boat).

In the past decade or so, you’re seeing many more entertaining and lounger options yet this traditional option is the most common in used pontoons for sale today.

Used Pontoons with Sun Loungers

As you shop for used pontoons, you may come across the center walk-thru or sun lounger options.  These boats have super comfortable single and double lounge area to layout for some sun and relax as you sit at anchor or cruise down the waterway. 

Used Bar Pontoons

An even more recent layout are designed for entertaining on the boat with a bar type setup.  You may not find many used bar pontoon boats for sale on the market yet but they are becoming more and more popular.

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Inspecting the Used Pontoons for Sale

So, now you’ve picked out the style, layout and horsepower for the used pontoon you are shopping and have found one that looks to be a great fit.  It Is time to inspect it completely to ensure  you don’t buy someone else’s headache.

My rule of thumb on a used pontoon for sale is that I want to know every single flaw in the pontoon so I can determine if I still want it and at what price I’m willing to pay to buy it.

PRO PONTOON TIP:  All used pontoons for sale will have some flaws.  If you don’t want a single flaw, you’ll need to buy a new pontoon that fits your need.  If you want a perfect boat, research new pontoon boat dealers near you to find the best option.  You can also watch this video, New Boats vs Used Boats.

Captain Matt

Pontoons and Under the Pontoon

The first place to start your inspection on a used pontoon is the actual pontoons.  They can get water in them and even have small holes in them that need to be welded tight.

The best way to inspect for this is to pound on the tunes at the lowest point and on the top of that same area to listen for a difference in sound that may indicate water has gotten in the tubes.

INSIDER PONTOON TIP:  Water getting into the toons is most common on pontoons that have drain plugs under the waterline.

Captain Matt

You’ll also want to inspect the bottom of the boat (or what you can see at least) to ensure there are no missing bolts, loose pieces of aluminum or other damage to the structure of the pontoon for sale.

Pontoon Seating and Upholstery

Looking at the upholstery is pretty simple.  You are searching for not only rips and tears but also mold and mildew.  They typically start in the cracks and seams of the upholstery and if its really bad can be near impossible to get rid of forever.

If you do find mold or mildew, try to clean a small area to see what you’ll be dealing with in the long term.

You’ll also want to check all the pontoon seat bases and the seats themselves.  They can crack or even rot if made of wood.  Loose hinges and latches may also be caused by rot or a broken seat so investigate further to determine if a major or minor repair can be made.

Gauges, Stereo and Electronics

Test all gauges, stereo and electronics on the pontoon to see what is and is not working.  Some pontoon options may require the boat be in the water to work properly.  Be sure to test all of these during your sea trial.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  Grab a copy of the Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit to get the How to Test Drive a Pontoon the Right Way Checklist by clicking here.

Flooring and Storage Areas

We talked about mold, mildew and rot in the seating section, you’ll want to inspect for the same on the flooring and inside all storage lockers, compartments and under the seats themselves.

PRO PONTOONTIP:  Mold and mildew thrive in a dark, damp and warm areas.  All they need is  a little dirt to get started, so check in those places that fit the bill to find any mold that may be lurking now and get it cleaned ASAP if you decided to buy the pontoon.

Wiring and Corrosion

Especially in a salt-water pontoon, the wiring and corrosion can be a major headache.  It’s important to check all wiring connections, the battery, fuel water separator and other exposed areas that may begin to corrode.

Having an electrical issue on a used pontoon boat can not only expensive, it can take a long time to diagnosis and will ruin a day on the water.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Test Driving the Used Pontoons for Sale

There is a great video on this and checklist in the Boat Buyer’s Toolkit which you can get for free.

When test driving a used pontoon, you’ll want to go thru a checklist of maneuvers and procedures to ensure the boat is solid mechanically.

Ranking of Pontoon Manufacturers (alphabetical order)

Use this list only as a guide to determine the type of pontoons you are researching. 

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:   Most manufacturers have developed a value line in addition to their premium level pontoons for sale.  Some even have different levels of construction quality to reduce the price of the boats.  Some are noted below however be sure to research because it can change depending on the model year of the pontoon you are researching.

Captain Matt

High-End Pontoon Boat and Triple Pontoon Boat Brands

  • AquaPatio Pontoons
  • Avalon Luxury Pontoon
  • Barletta Pontoons
  • Bennington Pontoons
  • Crest Pontoons
  • Harris Pontoon
  • Manitou Pontoons
  • Play Craft Boats
  • Premier Pontoons
  • Sanpan
  • Trifecta Pontoons

Mid-Level Pontoon and Triple Pontoon Brands

Value Pontoon Boat and Triple Pontoon Boat Brands

  • Bentley Pontoons
  • Pond King
  • Qwest Pontoons
  • SunChaser Pontoons
  • SunTracker Pontoons
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
*The list above is our opinion of these brands based on years of exposure, inspection and market research.  Each brand is right for someone and this is not intended to keep people away from any pontoon boats for sale.

High End Pontoons for Sale

When searching for high-end luxury pontoons for sale, stick with the major brands like Bennington, Harris, Premier, Manitou, Barletta and others.  As with most pontoon purchases, when buying a new pontoon for sale, make sure you buy from a top-notch dealer as well.  They will have as much or more impact on your boating enjoyment as the pontoon itself.

Mid-Range Pontoons for Sale:

If your budget or personal style doesn’t want the cheapest or the most expensive pontoons for sale, the mid-range is a great place to focus.  These pontoons tend to be equipped with what need but avoid all the extras that are unnecessary for many pontoon boaters.

Again, the pontoon boat dealer you buy from will be a major player in this segment.  Make sure they have a good relationship with the pontoon manufacturer to smooth out the pontoon warranty process if something arises.

Value Pontoons for Sale

Looking to get the most pontoon for your money?  The value segments or entry level pontoons will do just that.  Understand that the only way to get the price down on a pontoon is to decrease the quality of the construction material and/or leaving off options more expensive pontoons are equipped with.

For many pontoon shoppers, this segment will allow you to buy the pontoon for sale now instead of continuing with pontoon rentals or missing the boat altogether.

And, as I aways say, life truly is better on a pontoon boat!

Salt-Water Pontoons for Sale

More often, we are seeing pontoon builders equip their pontoons for salt-water environments.  If you will be running your boat in salt water or brackish water, insist on getting these salt-water options.

The harsh environment will wreak havoc on certain material used on traditional fresh-water pontoons.  However, a few select changes in the pontoons construction will make all the difference in the performance and your happiness of your used pontoon years down the line.

Bottom Painted Pontoons for Sale

When boating in a salt-water environment where barnacle growth is a major factor, consider getting your pontoons bottom painted.  This pontoon bottom painting will need to be done between every year and every three years depending on where you keep your boat (when kept in the water).

Skipping this investment will likely cause major headaches and additional pontoon repair expense.  Because the need for bottom paint on your pontoon varies from region to region, ask a few local pontoon boat owners and pontoon boat dealers for their opinion on the matter.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Pontoons for Sale By Owner

In 2018, there were 54,295 new pontoons sold in the US and about another 100,000 used pontoons sold by used pontoon boat dealers and for sale by owner.  Most were list for sale by owners on Boat Trader, Facebook, Craigslist boats for sale and even with a sign on the side of the road.

When buying a pontoon for sale by owner, be sure to use the Boat Buyer’s Toolkit to ensure you don’t buy someone elses headache.  Most buyer’s are honest however they may also not be knowledgeable enough to know there is a minor or major issue with their pontoon.

Always insist on a test drive before buying your pontoon or tri-toon and follow the How to Test Drive a Pontoon the Right Way to avoid making a huge mistake.

Pontoons for Sale Craigslist

Craigslist boats for sale is an incredible resource for finding nice pontoons for sale however, it is also a breeding ground for potential fraud.  A few tips to avoid being a victim.

1.  Always completely inspect the pontoon or tri-toon for sale in person using the Pontoon Boat Buyer’s Checklist.

2.  Insist on a test drive a use the Test Drive Checklist to avoid buying someone else’s headache.

3.  Match the Hull Id # on the pontoon to the HIN on the title of the boat.  The Engine serial number and trailer serial number as well if pontoon boat trailers are titled in your state.

Following these three steps will go a long way to avoid someone looking to pull a fast one on you and being a victim of fraud.

Used Pontoons for Sale Under $10000

The most popular segment of pontoon boats for sale are those under $10K.  These are the most plentiful so you should have a nice selection of boats to choose from.  Use the information in the How to Buy a Used Pontoon WITHOUT Getting Ripped Off so you make a wise investment in your pontoon boating lifestyle.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used Pontoons for Sale Under $50000

Remember, there were only around 50K pontoon boats sold per year in recent years so the new the pontoon or tri-toon you are considering the fewer that may be available that are in the $30K – $50K range.  They are available, just keep searching to find them.

As we wrap up here, be sure to check out our other videos and information for those researching used pontoon boats for sale.

Best Places to Find Nice Used Pontoon Boats for Sale

If you are looking for cheaper used pontoon boats, you can go to Craigslist boats for sale.  They typically have a nice selection of boats listed from project boats to cheaper boats and boats for sale from used boat dealers, private sellers and sometimes used boat brokers.

Go to Google or your favorite search engine and Search “Used boats for sale near me”.  Or, if you are searching for a specific brand of boat, searching “Used Sea Ray Boats for Sale” could yield a few hidden gems that others in your local area won’t find.

For some, they prefer to buy from a private seller instead of a used boat dealer.  In that case, searching “Used boats for sale by owner” will sort out the boats you are looking for.

Regardless of how you find the pre-owned boats that are most likely to be a fit, what you do from this point on is most important.

Of course you have Boat Trader, Boats.com and Yacht World for a variety of boat types.  OnlyInboards.com, CenterConsolesOnly.com and other niche listing sites.

Other options to consider are going to a used boat dealer near you.  They may have some boats available (or know of some nice clean used boats coming soon) that would be a perfect fit for you. 

If you’ll be attending a boat show, I encourage you to read this article first. How to Win at this Year’s Boat Show.

PRO PONTOON BUYERS TIP:  I always suggest shopping a new pontoon boat dealer as well to get local insights to your boating area, see what similar new boats cost and start building your knowledge base as you begin your boat buying journey.

Captain Matt

Just keep your eyes open and follow the steps below to avoid the 7 biggest mistakes used boat buyer’s make that can cost them a fortune, huge headaches and even worse.

About the Author:

Captain Matt is an industry veteran that has been involved in hundreds of boat sales on both sides of the table, buying and selling.  His relationships with boat dealers, boat brokers, manufacturers and boating industry power players gives him the insider information that every boat buyer would find helpful when buying a new boat or used boat.

That’s why he’s created the website and offering the free Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit to help ensure you make a great decision when buying your first or next boat.  Grab your free toolkit by clicking right here.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit


The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When You Buy a Used Boat for Sale by Boat Dealer, Yacht Broker or Private Seller

If you’re searching for a used boat for sale… maybe a used pontoon, used center console, used bowrider or used deck boat, you came to the right place.

You’ve likely already been to Boat Trader, Yacht World, maybe a used boat dealer near you and start searching for the perfect used boat for you and your family.  Maybe you even looked at some new boats for sale at the new boat dealers in your area.

You’re getting excited… maybe a little nervous….and likely a somewhat overwhelmed with all the options, the terminology and the range of prices from cheap used boats to newer used boats that are almost the same price as a brand new boat. 

Well, then you should be glad you found this article as you’re searching for used boats for sale.

I’m going to go into detail to help you avoid the 7 biggest mistakes smart people make when buying a used boat for sale.  

Now, these tips will apply for used bow riders, used deck boats, used center consoles, used fishing boats and used pontoons…however, you’ll want to check out the specific insider information for each of these boat types as the end of this article.

7 Biggest Mistakes Smart Boaters Make When Buying a Used Boat

Used Boat Buying Mistake #1:  Buying the wrong type of used boat

One of the biggest mistakes boat buyers make is making a quick decision on the first boat that catches their eye or the one that seems like a ‘GREAT DEAL”… this has led others to costly mistakes.

Often times, buying the wrong type of boat or even a cheap boat that seems like the boat deal of a century, can turn into a huge money pit.  Whether it’s costly boat repairs that are unexpected or in some cases the boat does not suit the way you want to use it and money is lost when selling it quickly or keeping a boat that never gets used as storage fees, boat insurance costs continue to rack up.

So, what do you do about it?

Well, the best way to avoid making this mistake is to determine exactly what you will be doing on your boat and who you’ll be doing it with.  You can check out this video “Advice for First Time Boat Buyers” that goes into more depth on the topic.  It’s a great resource for the novice considering their first boat.

Determine how you’ll be using your boat most of the time.  Will you be doing mostly fishing or will fishing be something that you do only now and again.  That will help you decide if a used fishing boat is right for you.

Will you be doing wake boarding and wake surfing a majority of the time or will that only be a small portion of your boating lifestyle.  That will help you decide if a used wake boat is right for you.

Insider Tip: Use the 80% Rule discussed in this video for First Time Boat Buyers.  Get the boat that will do the 80% of your boating lifestyle very well and can do the other 20% when needed.

Captain Matt
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Then, consider where you will be doing most of your boating.  What’s the water like?

Is it a busy inland lake that will get very rough?  Will you be on rivers, gong off-shore or will you just be taking your boat out on quiet water where the only thing that matters is the peace and quiet.

Understanding those questions will help you zero in on the size and style of boat that is best for you.  Also, be aware of any horsepower (HP) restrictions which can be placed on smaller lakes.

Lastly determine the right size for your new boat.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How many people will be going out with us on most of our boating trips?
  • Where will we be storing our new boat?

If you’ll be trailer boating, what type of vehicle will you be towing your boat with?  (make sure the total weight of your boat fully loaded is appropriate for the vehicle you have or will be buying)

Each of these questions should be answered before buying your boat because not considering one or all of these questions could lead to a boat being a poor fit or much more expensive than you expected.

And of course, never buy a used boat before completing a full used boat inspection and on-water test drive.  We’ll get to these in a few.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used Boat Buying Mistake #2:   Too many hours or too few hours on the boat’s engine

One of the oddities of the boating world is that boats tend to last longer and work better when they are used on a regular basis.

So, when I see a used boat that is 5 or 10 years old that only has 27 hours on it, my red flags go up.

On the other hand, if I see a 5 or 10 year old boat with 1,200 hours on it that also raises a red flag.

So, what are the right number of engine hours for a used boat that you may be considering.

Insider Tip: The average inland boater will put 50 to 100 hours on their boat engines in a year.

Captain Matt

This may seem very low to some people but consider the average pleasure boater on a lake.  They will cruise out to their favorite spot and sit at anchor or beached for most of the afternoon. 

Maybe pull a tuber or do some watersports, then head back in for the day.  So, a 5 hour day on the water only turns into 1 ½ hours of actual engine running time for the hour meter.

These numbers need a little more context because certain types of boaters will exceed these general numbers.

Here are a few Used boat types that I’d expect to have higher engine hours.

Center Console boats that are fishing off-shore will tend to have higher hours.

Wake board and wake surfing boats tend to go most of the time they are on the water and may put 100 to 200 hours on a year.

Pontoons or boats that have been rentals or in boat clubs will typically have higher hours for their age.  Depending on the business that maintains them, they could be a reasonable option to consider… but be sure to follow all the advice in this article because they will likely have more issues to consider.

The key is to ask more questions if the hours seem to be high or low.

So, how long should an outboard engine, diesel or gas engine last?

Outboards like Yamaha, Mercury, Suzuki, Honda, Evinrude and others have a good long life span when taken care of properly.  With regular fluid changes and impeller changes, they can run  1,000 to 1,500 hours with no problem.  Some are even running into 2,000 hours when taken very good care of and not over worked, like running at high/max RPM for extended periods of time

You can expect similar types of life-spans from your typical gas stern drive or inboard/outboard and inboard boat engines.  Engines like MerCruiser, Volvo, PCM and Indmar.   These engines tend to need a little more maintenance so the lifespan can be shortened by lack of proper care over the years.  But, 1,000 to 1,500 hours is a fairly good useful life.

Now, when talking diesel boat engines, the hours go up dramatically (as does the cost).  With proper care, a diesel engine like a Caterpillar or YanMar can have a lifespan closer to 10,000 to 20,000 hours.  And, it is more common to re-build these diesel engines for another 10,000 – 20,000 hours of use.

So, at this point, you know what you’ll be doing on your boat most of the time.  You know your budget, have found a handful of boats that fit your needs and are ready to take the most important step to avoid a costly mistake… that’s the boat inspection phase.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Used Boat Buying Mistake #3:  Didn’t inspect properly and bought someone else’s problem

So, you’ve found a boat that may be the one!

You may be getting excited which is great… just don’t get in too big of a hurry and skip this step of making sure there are no hidden bug-a-boos that will turn an exciting day into a dreadful day.

To help with this phase, we’ve created a Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Used Boat Buyer Toolkit that is your for free.

Inspect the boat inside and out, underneath and in every nook and cranny you can inspect.  Then ask the seller even more questions.  You may want to check out this video, How to Inspect a Used Boat for Sale.

If the boat is in the water, DO NOT BUY IT until you have pulled the boat and inspected the bottom and the drives of the boat.   As the investment amount gets higher and higher, you should also consider a good quality surveyor.

Insider Tip: You can find a quality surveyor at https://www.marinesurvey.org/.

Captain Matt

But, before hiring the surveyor, do a complete inspection yourself.  Even if you’re not a boating expert.  Even if you’re buying from a boat dealer.

Bring a good flashlight, a clean rag and your  Used Boat Buyer’s Inspection Checklist

The goal of the inspection is to find any and all defects in the boat.  Not that they will exclude you from  buying it but it will give you leverage when negotiating the price and help you decide if you even want to buy the boat.

A rule to live by is, there is always another used boat for sale somewhere that will suit your needs. 

There will be less regret if you pass up a boat that seemed like a good deal but had some issues… than getting a great deal on a used boat that turns into a money pit, nightmare and spoils you on boat ownership for the rest of your life.

Insider Tip: There will always be another boat that will suit your needs and wants.

Captain Matt

One of the ways to avoid a bad decision is to get the equivalent of a Car Fax report on a used boat for sale.  It’s a boat history report and may want to get a copy at www.BoatHistoryReport.com available here.  Just enter the boat Hull Id Number (HIN) and get instant access to the history of any used boat for sale.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used Boat Buying Mistake #4:   Didn’t do a complete test drive

Ok, so the boat passed the inspection process. Now it’s time to run this boat to avoid any costly issues that may come up after we write that check.  Remember, our goal is to know any and all issues with the boat before we buy so we can make an educated decision on if we want this pre-owned boat, how much we should pay or if we should keep searching.

The Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit has a Demo Checklist that you’ll want to use.  Get your free copy now.

The key to demoing a boat is to make sure the engine(s) and all systems are functional.  And, if not, you can determine how much it will be to fix it or if you can live without it.

If possible, start the boat cold.  Preferably the first start of that boat that day.

Then, run it through a series of maneuvers.  If you are not competent to run these maneuvers safely, you may want to have someone assist in the step.  This is one area that buying from a used boat dealer can be an advantage.  Or hiring a surveyor.

The other goal of the sea-trial, demo or test drive is to see how your potential new boat will handle the water conditions you are likely to encounter. 

  • How does it handle rough water? 
  • How does it accelerate from a stand still? 
  • How does it turn under power? 

If you’ll be fishing, doing water sports or other specific activities, see if you can do that activity to see how it performs and feels.

For more details, watch this How to Demo a Boat the Right Way Before Buying video and grab a copy of the Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit for free.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used Boat Buying Mistake #5:  Didn’t have the engine inspected completely

Now that you’ve inspected everything, completed a through test drive of the boat, I recommend you take one more step.

That is to have the engine and drive inspected.  This is especially important for boats 5-10 years old or older.

The first inspection is to do a compression check.  This will confirm how strong or weak each cylinder of the engine is firing compared to what the specs say it was brand new.  In some cases, a boat will run fine with a light load during the test drive but will have a weak cylinder which is very costly to fix.

This may cost around $100 for a mechanic to test.  By the way, a surveyor typically does not inspect for mechanical soundness of an engine.  They check the systems, and structure of the boat but it is not a mechanical inspection.

Next, you’ll want to check the engine oil, gear lube and impeller condition.  If they have not been changed within the last year, I suggest getting this general maintenance completed to avoid any issues on the water.  The price for this will depend on where you’re located and they type of engines your boat has.

A ball park to have these service completed is between $300 and $500 per engine.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Used Boat Buying Mistake #6:  Didn’t inspect the boat trailer properly

Ok, we’ve talked a lot about the boat itself, but if you are buying a trailer boat, you’ll want to check that out as well.

Did you know a boat trailer can run $2,700 for a dual axel trailer for a 20’ boat to $7K and $15K for heavier boats that require larger trailers.  And, buying a used boat trailer to fit your boat is much harder than you’d expect because the trailer has to not only be the right size and weight, it must also ‘fit’ the bottom of the boat.

Insider Tip:  If you are searching for a used trailer to fit a boat, start by contacting the closest boat dealer in your area that offers that boat manufacturer.  They may have some insights for you and there is a long shot chance that they’ll have a trailer  that will fit.

Captain Matt

So, how do you inspect a trailer?

You can watch the video; How to Inspect a Boat Trailer here and download the Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Toolkit that has a trailer inspection checklist.

Here are the areas that must be inspected:

  • Trailer winch stand
  • Trailer Axle(s)
  • Trailer tires
  • Trailer brakes (if equipped)
  • Trail lights
  • Trailer bunks or rollers

And, the fit of the boat on the trailer safely and securely

Do you have tie down straps or do you need to buy them.

It is best to inspect the trailer while the boat is off of it, so a great time to do this is during the test drive.  Tie the boat up at the dock and head over with your Trailer Inspect Checklist and start inspecting.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used Boat Buying Mistake #7:  Paid too much for your boat or boat loan

Ok, you are now certain that this is the right boat.  You are aware of any issues and ok with them… as long as the price is right.

So, its time to negotiate with the used boat dealer, private seller or boat broker.

First step is to confirm the value of the boat.  The Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit has a few resources that will be very helpful.  You can download it here.

Research NADA and other valuation websites and resources.  Some are free and others require a $20-50 fee.

You can also check on Boat Trader and YachtWorld to determine what other boats are listed around the country.  Remember, these are asking prices and not what the boats will sell for.

If you are using a boat loan, the lender may be able to provide a general idea of the value they are attributing to the boat.

You can apply for a Boat Loan Quote here for free.

Now, its time to make the offer.  Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon offers a special negotiations technique that will save you hundreds, likely thousands and maybe even ten’s of thousands of dollarsIf you want to save on your used boat, click here now for special discount.

Don’t be emotional at this point.  If you know this the right boat and it fits your budget, do what you can to get a great deal and staying even keel and unemotional will ensure you don’t over pay.

If you will be getting a boat loan to buy your used boat, you’ll want to watch this Insider Secrets to Boat Loans video by clicking here.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Other resources for used boat buyers to consider:

Advice when shopping used bow riders for sale

Everything above applies to bow riders for sale and a few extra items to consider.

If the boat is older, you’ll want to ensure you inspect the flooring is solid.  Jump up and down on the floor to ensure its solid in the bow area, around the seats and  near any lockers or compartments on the floor.

In the 1990’s to early 2000’s, some manufactures used plywood in the construction of the floors that was not protected with fiberglass.  And, I can assure you having a hole in the floor of your new boat is an expensive fix you’ll want to avoid (unless you are planning a project boat and know exactly what you are getting into)

Advice when shopping used deck boats for sale

Everything above applies to used deck boats for sale and a few extra items to consider.

If the boat is older, you’ll want to ensure you inspect the flooring is solid.  Jump up and down on the floor to ensure its solid in the bow area, around the seats and near any lockers or compartments on the floor.

In the 1990’s to early 2000’s, some deck boat manufactures used plywood in the construction of the floors that was not protected with fiberglass.  And, I can assure you having a hole in the floor of your new boat is an expensive fix you’ll want to avoid (unless you are planning a project boat and know exactly what you are getting into)

Insider Tip:  Be cautious of the Bayliner Rendezvous if it does not have a quality trailer.  This boat is requires a custom trailer that will be more than the boat itself.

Captain Matt

Advice when shopping used center consoles for sale

Everything above applies to used center consoles for sale and a few extra items to consider.

Most center consoles have been run in salt-water, so you’ll want to be extra cautious and inspect for excessive corrosion on the wiring, batteries and fittings of the boat.

Ask a few additional questions of the center console boat dealer or private seller about the history of the boat and maintenance history as well.

In addition to the other inspection points listed above, you’ll want to run all bait and live wells to ensure proper operation.  Also look for valve shut-offs to ensure they are working properly.

Advice when shopping used aluminum fishing boats for sale

Everything above applies to used fishing boats for sale and a few extra items to consider.

You’ll want to run all the live well and bait pumps to ensure proper working condition.  It also helps you to know how the boat operates when you do buy it.

Advice when shopping used pontoons or tri-toons for sale

Everything above applies to used pontoon triple tube pontoon boats for sale and a few extra items to consider.

Because these boats are so different, I’ve created a separate article for used pontoon and used tri-toon boat buyers.  Click here to check it out.

Advice when shopping used jet skis for sale

Almost everything above applies to used jet ski boats for sale and a few extra items to consider.  Because jet skis are just different enough, and I’m not the expert, here is a website you’ll want to research before buying a used jet ski for sale.

Advice when shopping used wake board and wake surf boats for sale

Everything above applies to used wake board of wake surf boats for sale and a few extra items to consider.

I highly encourage you to bring your board and ride the wave, jump the wake to make sure this boat will do what you need it to do.  Learning the surf systems, ballast systems and electronics will be a huge advantage when you are out on your new boat the first few times.

During the test drive, pay attention to vibration when accelerating.  The drive systems of these boats can have damage that is difficult to see with the naked eye but even a slight bend in the shaft will result in a noticeable vibration and expensive repair.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit

Used boats for sale in Florida

When buying a used boat in Florida, be especially aware of hurricane damaged boats.  With the recent hurricanes that have come through, you never know if someone is being less than honest with you.  

You may even want to invest in a Boat History Report to verify any insurance claims on a specific boat.

Used boats for sale in North Carolina

When buying a used boat in North Carolina, be especially aware of hurricane damaged boats.  In the mid-Atlantic, we’ve experienced some hurricanes over the past few years and you want to avoid certain boats that may have been damaged during the storms. 

You may even want to invest in a Boat History Report to verify any insurance claims on a specific boat.

Used boats for sale in Texas

When buying a used boat in Texas, be especially aware of hurricane damaged boats.  Flooding and hurricane damage to a boat could turn into a total disaster for you down the line.  Avoiding these boats is the best way to avoid huge and expensive potential repairs. 

You may even want to invest in a Boat History Report to verify any insurance claims on a specific boat.

Used boats for sale in Washington

When buying a used boat in Washington, be especially aware of damaged boats that have been repaired and being sold as a good solid used boat.  You may even want to invest in a Boat History Report to verify any insurance claims on a specific boat.

Used boats for sale in New York

When buying a used boat in New York, be especially aware of hurricane damaged boats.  Some major storms and hurricanes have hit in the New York, New Jersey and Atlantic Coast in the past years.  Some damaged boats have made it to the used boat market place and some unsuspecting boat buyers could be caught off-guard.

 You may even want to invest in a Boat History Report to verify any insurance claims on a specific boat.

The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Used Craigslist Boats for Sale

When buying a used boat on Craigslist be aware of potential scams and salvaged boats.  Don’t mistake me, boats for sale on Craigslist can be perfect and even great deals however there is a large percentage of scammers on this platform.

If you follow the advice in this article and on other articles and videos on Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon, you’ll avoid a majority of the most common ones.

The final piece of advice we haven’t touched on is to confirm the identification of the boat owner and boat seller to ensure proper transfer of title of your boat, motor and trailer.

Where to search for used boats for sale on the internet and in your local area

If you are looking for cheaper used boats, you can go to Craigslist boats for sale.  They typically have a nice selection of boats listed from project boats to cheaper boats and boats for sale from used boat dealers, private sellers and sometimes used boat brokers.

Go to Google or your favorite search engine and Search “Used boats for sale near me”.  Or, if you are searching for a specific brand of boat, searching “Used Sea Ray Boats for Sale” could yield a few hidden gems that others in your local area won’t find.

For some, they prefer to buy from a private seller instead of a used boat dealer.  In that case, searching “Used boats for sale by owner” will sort out the boats you are looking for.

Regardless of how you find the pre-owned boats that are most likely to be a fit, what you do from this point on is most important.

Of course you have Boat Trader, Boats.com and Yacht World for a variety of boat types.  OnlyInboards.com, CenterConsolesOnly.com and other niche listing sites.

Other options to consider are going to a used boat dealer near you.  They may have some boats available (or know of some nice clean used boats coming soon) that would be a perfect fit for you. 

If you’ll be attending a boat show, I encourage you to read this article first. How to Win at this Year’s Boat Show.

Insider Insights:  I always suggest shopping a new boat dealer as well to get local insights to your boating area, see what similar new boats cost and start building your knowledge base as you begin your boat buying journey.

Captain Matt

Just keep your eyes open and follow the steps below to avoid the 7 biggest mistakes used boat buyer’s make that can cost them a fortune, huge headaches and even worse.

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit
About the Author:

Captain Matt is an industry veteran that has been involved in hundreds of boat sales on both sides of the table, buying and selling.  His relationships with boat dealers, boat brokers, manufacturers and boating industry power players gives him the insider information that every boat buyer would find helpful when buying a new boat or used boat.

That’s why he’s created the website and offering the free Boat Buyer’s Secret Weapon Buyer’s Toolkit to help ensure you make a great decision when buying your first or next boat.  Grab your free toolkit by clicking right here.

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Additional Resources for Used Boat or Pontoon Shoppers & Buyers

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit


The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

How to Buy a Used Boat from a Used Boat Dealer or Private Seller

Additional Resources for Used Boat or Pontoon Shoppers & Buyers

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit


The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Boat Buying Basics for First Time Boat and Pontoon Buyers (Part 1)

Additional Resources for New or Used Boat or Pontoon Shoppers & Buyers

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit


The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.

Boat Buying Basics for First Time Boat and Pontoon Buyers (Part 2)

Additional Resources for New or Used Boat or Pontoon Shoppers & Buyers

Free Boat Buyers Toolkit


The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.
The best way to save big money when shopping boats for sale.