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Go Wide: How to Search for a Used Boat Far from Home

Localization is a common theme for larger investment purchases. It is no surprise that when we start a used boat search, we try to keep it close to home.  That way, we can lay eyes on the vessel, inspect it and take it out for a sea trial ourselves. 

However, what if it was possible to expand  a used boat search beyond one’s own region? That would provide a much bigger universe of potential boats to choose from, but would also raise some questions and potential problems with purchasing a boat remotely.

Believe it or not, expanding searches beyond a buyer’s home base have become more common practice.   While some buyers still insist on “kicking the tires” themselves, conducting the purchase process remotely and ensuring you’re getting a great boat is absolutely possible. If you’re considering expanding your search from local to a regional or national level, we recommend taking the following precautions: 

  • Request Service Records – Service records are a great way to get a feeling for the quality of the boat and how well their owner took care of it. Think of these like medical records. They give you a good idea of the previous health of the boat. Regular service appointments in the fall and spring are similar to preventative care visits to the doctor, or like annual physicals that act to maintain good health. Spur of the moment service appointments can be similar to our emergency or sick visits to the doctor. In contrast, if you find that a boat has only service records for “sick visits” and emergencies you can question how well it was cared for throughout its life to maintain longevity. 
  • Engine Hours – If the boat has an hour meter,  ask for the total hours for the life of the engine. This provides a good indication of how much the boat was used and how much life the engine might still have before it needs attention. 
  • Compression Test – Request a compression test of the outboard. This will provide a deeper look at how well the motor(s) run. 
  • Hire A Marine Surveyor – Marine Surveyors are like Home Inspectors, but for boats. This is the ultimate step in buyer protection when considering a used boat purchase. If you are not able to physically attend a showing or a sea trial of the boat offered for sale, hire a Marine Surveyor to investigate on your behalf. The Surveyor will do a comprehensive survey of the boat and its engines and provide a full report.  You will get a good overview picture of the boat and a tool for further negotiation if necessary. 
  • Virtual Sea Trials – Something we’ve started offering buyers from other parts of the country are virtual sea trials. With today’s technology, this is a fairly simple offering  using the Garmin VIRB 360 camera. These videos are provided to buyers upon an executed purchase agreement and deposit with a term that the deal is contingent upon successful sea trial. For an example of what this looks like,  here’s a virtual sea trial we created in May 2018:
  • Boat Shipping Resources – Shipping is the responsibility of the buyer. For this reason, we will recommend resources such as U-Ship. This resource allows you to input your boat information and receive quotes from haulers. Once selected, the hauler will communicate with the buyer directly to coordinate shipping and delivery.
  • Boat Insurance – God forbid, your remotely purchased boat could get in an accident during its journey to your home port. Having a good boat insurance policy in place before shipping the boat home will mitigate against any such damages. Boat insurance can be bundled with your car & home insurance policies or can be obtained through Boat U.S.
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