New or Used? – The Cash Flow Conundrum con't

Try before you buy, if possible. If you’re near a popular squirt spot, then it’s not unreasonable to request a trial float if the seller is in your area. This will give you the best idea of how the boat will fit you and perform for you. It can also be a good way to tell if there are any leaks that may not be apparent on dry land.

Get a history of the boat, if at all possible. Obtain manufacturer’s information through the serial # of the boat (layup, cut). Determine if there have been any significant repairs/damage, any re-cuts or re-seaming jobs done on it, and how recently they were done, etc. These, depending on who did the repairs/re-cuts/re-seaming, can have a potentially huge effect on the boat’s condition, performance, etc. and will affect the boat’s value accordingly.

Get testimonials. Descriptions of the boat from impartial third parties can be of enormous value; “My boat is in great shape!” is a relative statement, and a few different opinions on the boat from people other than the seller can give you a better perspective on whether the boat is for you or not.

Do the math BEFORE you buy. Factor in other costs involved beyond the initial purchase price. Buying a used boat for 2/3 of the price of a new one can easily become a not-so-good deal if it needs to be shipped across country, re-cut once it arrives, etc. Often the savings on a used boat are negated by the after-purchase costs associated with making it yours. It would be a rude awakening indeed to find out that for the money you just spent getting that “like-new Bigfoot that’ll fit you like a glove and can be sent to you for a nominal fee” shipped in bond across country, re-cut ‘cause it’s actually about 40lbs too big for you and patched to repair the ever-so-slightly leaking cockpit rim, you could have had a brand new custom Bigfoot built just for you! Sometimes it’s just as pricey to go used as it is to buy new – do the math, and decide for yourself.

To be sure, there are some fantastic deals to be had on the used market, but they are widely scattered over a large chunk of time and space. Educate yourself, be patient, and you may be able to get hooked up with a great ride for a fraction of the cost of a new boat. It may not be as “custom” as you would ideally like, but for the buyer on a budget it may be the best option.