Tips for Buying a Boat

by Captain Bill Rountree

There has been a lot of good advice written about buying and selling boats but after personally buying over 20 boats and being involved in the purchase of many more, there are some pointers that I would like to share that I haven't seen in other articles that I have read.

  1. Buy it at a good price. This may sound obvious but with many people the purchase of a boat is a very personal thing, often the fulfillment of a dream. For this reason they become too attached to a boat and often pay too much. Boats are rarely a 'good investment' and for this reason you have to get a good price on your purchase or you will lose too much money when you inevitably sell it. There are many boats out there for sale, take your time and get yours for a good price.
  2. Dont overbuy. Boats are not like houses - you wont 'grow into them'. Unfortunately far too many boats end up being used very infrequently so if you get lured into buying more of a boat than you were originally looking for you will just wind up spending too much money. Everything on a larger boat costs more money, the original purchase price, the price of storage (by the foot), every part is larger and more expensive, insurance and on and on. If your original plan was to buy a small boat for day sailing, stick to your plan.
  3. All boats are not terrible investments. The majority of the boats I have purchased have been used boats - and I sold them for about the same (and one time more) than what I paid for them. Yes I put money into them for maintenance and improvements, but you have to expect to pay something for your fun times. Most of them were sailboats which hold their value better - but I bought them at a good price. Even with new boats, if you look at the price of a boat that is 5 years old and compare it to the original list price - there is often very little difference.
  4. A few more pointers:
    • If you can choose a boat that has spent its life in fresh water versus salt water go for the fresh water boat - the ocean is a tough environment.
    • Remember that a boat that is polished, clean and orderly has probably been better maintained its whole life too.
    • Be wary of boats that have been sunk or underwater for a period of time - there may be many uncovered problems.
    • Bring a flash light with you when you go to check out a boat and open and crawl into every nook and cranny - you never know what you might find.

In closing I would like to add that the old saying 'your happiest days of boat ownership are the day you buy it - and the day you sell it' doesn't apply to everyone. I have loved every boat that I ever owned and hated to see it go. 'Break Out Another Thousand' may have applied to my boats occasionally, but I have also gotten my money's worth out of every one of them.



About the author: Bill Rountree is a lifelong boater, holds his US Coast Guard Masters license and a US Sailing instructor certification. He has owned motor yachts, sailing yachts, racing sailboats, rowing shells, kayaks, windsurfers and on and on. He spent two years living aboard and cruising on a forty foot sailboat and has over 10,000 blue water miles.