What Questions Should You Ask When Buying a Used Sailboat?

What Questions Should You Ask When Buying a Used Sailboat? | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

You're probably in the market looking to buy a used sailboat. But before you commit, it's of great importance to get as much information as possible just to ensure that you get a good deal and, of course, a great vessel that will serve you diligently for many years to come. So how do you do this? Well, here are the questions to ask.

Buying a sailboat is no small task. It's not like going to the grocery store and buying some tomatoes. Things may be even more complicated if you're buying a used sailboat. After all, not all used sailboats will do. So unless you're a sailboat expert, it can be quite challenging to know what to look for when buying a used sailboat.

And because there are a lot of factors to consider, it would naturally make sense to have a few questions to ask the owner or the dealer before committing to buy the sailboat. In other words, being armed with the information you need to make a wise buying decision is a highly important part of buying a sailboat. When you come fully prepared with the questions that you want to ask the dealer, you'll not only avoid making an impulsive or emotional decision but you'll get a vessel that's right for you.

We all know that buying a sailboat is a truly exciting thing to do. You can't, however, rush through it. The best thing to do is to take your time, be patient, and ask plenty of questions. With this, you'll make an informed decision, and chances are you'll find a sailboat that's not only reliable but meets your needs for many years to come.

So if you're in the market looking to purchase a used boat but you don't know where to begin, here are the questions to ask. Your answers to these questions will help you narrow down your options and make an informed choice.


Table of contents

What Do I Want to Do with this Boat?

For many first-time boat buyers, it's easy to be trapped up in the excitement of purchasing a boat. And if you've previously owned the boat you can lose focus on what exactly you want to use the boat for. You have to keep in mind that not all boats are suitable for all activities. For instance, an appropriate sailboat for fishing may not be suitable for sailing or cruising just in the same way a good boat for cruising may not be appropriate for racing.

So before you even start looking for a used boat, you have to know what you'll be using it for. Are you a weekend sailor looking for a vessel that's easy to use? Do you want a vessel that you can use to entertain friends and family? Are you planning to spend nights on the sailboat?

You should, therefore, take time to think about how you'll be using the boat and make sure that you go for a sailboat that matches your needs in terms of what you plan to use it for.

How Big a Sailboat Do You Need?

It seems too obvious that we all need a boat large enough to meet all our needs. You already know that sailboats come in different sizes and have different features. But when it comes to the right size, you may want to consider whether you'll be sailing all by yourself or in the company of family and friends. Again, you may want to consider whether you want a crew to join you on your expeditions or if you want a vessel that you can perfectly sail alone.

Where will You be Sailing?

While this may seem to be almost related to our first question, it's most certainly very different. In other words, it's vital to consider where you will be sailing. You should keep in mind that sailing in the Atlantic Ocean is far much different from sailing in your nearby lake or river. If you're sailing in deep waters, you may not have to worry about how far the keel goes into the water. On the other hand, try squeezing a 20-foot vessel in a nearby river, and you may have to deal with a very unpleasant and regrettable grounding.

Why is the Boat being Sold?

There's certainly no harm in asking why the boat is being sold in the first place. This will most likely reveal a lot of things about your prospective purchase. In addition to revealing the position in which the seller is in (which may be vital when you reach the negotiation table), it can be essential in knowing a thing or two about the vessel. More importantly, be wary if the seller is elusive when answering this question or if their answer is unconvincing or seem too choreographed and rehearsed.

How Has the Sailboat been Used Previously?

While this question can tell you much about the boat, it can also be a great way to open up a conversation revolving around other factors such as how many hours has the engine clocked? Where was the boat being stored? How often has the boat been serviced? Has it been previously involved in accidents?

By asking these questions, you'll also know whether or not the seller was the first owner, whether the previous owner was a novice or an experienced seller, and many more. Again, the answers to these questions could help you in negotiating for a better deal.

What Warranty Does the Boat Have?

It's of great importance to find out whether the boat is covered by the manufacturer's warranty. And this doesn't mean that you should ask and leave it at that. Go into the finer details about the warranty and find out if it suits you. After all, the warranty can sometimes be the difference when choosing between two boats.

When looking at the warranty, ask about the details of the plan. Get to know the components that are covered and those that are not. You should also find out about lifetime coverage of significant components of the boat such as the deck and hull. Generally, these major components have lifetime coverage while other parts such as the engine could have a separate or limited warranty.

What Kind of Accessories is on the Boat?

After your home, purchasing a boat is perhaps the single biggest purchase you're likely to make. For this reason, you have to make sure that you're getting a good deal and this means that you have to inquire and find out about the quality of the components and accessories of the boat.

In addition to finding out about the keel, hull, and deck (through a surveyor), you should take a keen interest in the boat's enclosure fabric. You have to keep in mind that standard fabric isn't suitable for the optimal experience, and so you may have to go for an upgraded version. In most cases, you may have to replace the fabric if it's of low quality and this can be costly.

That being said, it's important to ensure that the boat has a high-quality fabric. The fabric should be durable and reliable as it will help in protecting, you, your passengers, and, of course, your boat from the elements.

What Kind of Maintenance Does the Boat Require?

We have to admit that buying and maintaining a boat is never easy, especially if you aren't prepared for it. While most boat buyers only look at the boat's price tag, it's fundamental to get a clear idea of the maintenance costs that will come with owning the boat. Generally, a brand new boat has lower maintenance costs than a used boat. However, all boats still require regular engine and hull maintenance.

Other additional costs that come with owning a boat may include having a crew (if the boat is large), cleaning it, and storage. In essence, it's important to factor in all the annual costs of ownership and find out if it's something you can financially cope with.

What Kind of Financing Options are Available?

Needless to say, you have to inquire about the financing options that are available when buying the boat. Does the seller want cash or can you pay in installments? While this may differ from seller to seller, you can choose to secure a boat loan and use it to finance the purchase. Even though this is almost similar to a mortgage, the risks of default are quite high. Again, repossessing a boat is a lot more difficult than foreclosing a home or impounding a vehicle. For this reason, many dealers are often cautious when it comes to using this type of financing option.

The best thing to do is to find out with the dealer on his/her preferred type of financing. You can then find out with your financial advisor about the best option for financing your purchase and use it to reach a consensus with the dealer.

Can I Take it for a Sea Trial?

Before closing the deal, you have to insist on taking the boat for a test drive or what's known in the boating industry as a sea trial. You should NEVER buy a boat, new or used, without taking out for a sea trial to get the feel of how it performs. If the dealer doesn't allow you to take the boat out for a sea trial, consider it a major red flag and do not close the deal.

On the test drive, you should test everything about the boat. From the engine performance, the boat's electrical system to the performance, and the general feel of the boat, this is a great chance to make the last decision on whether the boat is or isn't right for you.

Bottom Line

Knowing the answers to these questions when buying a used boat will make the process a little smoother. You, of course, do not want to make an expensive mistake by buying a vessel that won't serve you well. Do not be afraid to ask questions, to negotiate, and to hire a marine surveyor to find out if the boat is in great condition. With this, you'll most likely get the best deal possible and make a good purchase.

What Questions Should You Ask When Buying a Used Sailboat?
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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