Boaterpal is a community supported site. We may earn a commission if you buy from a link.

New vs. Used Boat: What Should You Buy?

Just like in the automotive world, the boating world also has a very extensive used market, and deciding between purchasing new or used is always a difficult thing to do. However, in this article, I will go over all of the differences so that you know everything you need to know in order to make the correct decision for yourself.

To get a better understanding of what most people prefer, I posted a poll in a very active Facebook boating group. 178 people voted, and here was the response:

Let’s find out why people voted this way by reading more.

Why buy a new boat?

  • Don’t have to be worried about how previous owners treated the boat. When you buy a new boat, you know you’re the first person to own the boat. So you won’t have to worry about previous owners’ mishandling of the boat. This is especially true for saltwater boats as they need extra care, and an owner that doesn’t give that care will soon find out how much the salt can ruin a boat.
  • You can buy exactly what you want. When you buy used, you’re forced to buy only what’s on the market and not exactly what you want. When you buy new, not only can you get any boat you want, but you can also get many different add-ons and customizations that fit exactly what you want.
  • They come with a warranty. New boats generally come with hull and engine warranties for the first year or so. This will save you if anything goes wrong.
  • It’s easier to finance a new boat. Dealerships make it easy to finance a new boat, while when buying a used boat, you will have to figure out how to finance it yourself.
  • It’s quick and easy. Everyone who has looked for a used boat to buy knows how difficult it is and how long it takes to find the right boat. Not only that, you may finally find a boat, but it’s located hundreds of miles away, and when you go to see it, it’s not as good as it looked in the pictures.
  • Latest and greatest design and gadgets. Nothing is better than getting out on the lake and showing off all the cool new technology that your boat has that your friend’s boat does not.

Why buy a used boat?

  • You get a better bang for your buck. Just like when a car depreciates the moment it leaves the dealership, a boat does too. I wrote a whole article on this topic and found that boats generally lose 10-15% of their value in the first year of use, 20-30% by the fifth, and 30-40% by the tenth year of use.
  • The engine is already broken in, and any initial faults have probably been dealt with. Not all engines come out perfectly from the factory. Many have initial faults, but if you buy used, these faults most likely have already been dealt with. Along with that, you don’t have to break in the engine for the first 10-20 hours of use because it probably is already broken in.
  • You know if the boat make/model is faulty or not. If you buy a brand new boat, you don’t know how well it will hold up over time because nobody has had it for a long period of time. However, if you buy used, you can compare it to another boat of the same make and model to see if there were any faults with that specific boat.
  • Boat technology hasn’t changed much in the past 5-10 years. Depending on what type of boat you are getting and what features you need on it, chances are a used boat is going to already have all the features you need. Even our Carver from almost 10 years ago from today has a joystick, and that’s about the best feature any boat could have for docking.

Additional costs of a new vs. used boat?

Obviously, the initial cost is going to be cheaper on a used boat than on the same new boat (unless there is a demand or supply issue that drastically shifts prices). However, there are so many other costs to consider than just the initial price of a boat. These include:

  • Maintenance – Everything from cleaning your boat regularly and desalting your boat engine to changing your oil and impeller costs a lot of money and/or time. So depending on the type of boat you have and how much money you put on maintaining your boat, it’s going to cost you about $1,000-$3,000+ per year. A used boat is also more likely to have serious issues that will not be covered by a warranty, so expect to pay more on maintenance for a used boat, especially ones with high-hour engines. Check out this article to learn more.
  • Upgrades – Many times when you buy a used boat, the first thing you want to do is make it more modern. So this may include getting a new motor, trolling motor, fish finder, ballast bags, side thrusters, speakers, etc. If you don’t think you will want to upgrade anything now, just wait until you hop on one of your friend’s brand new boat, and see all of the amazing features his boat has that yours doesn’t.
  • Insurance – Although older boats may be less reliable, according to progressive.com, newer boats are generally more expensive to insure than older boats.

Along with these, there are many other costs to consider when getting a new or used boat that will be similar. These include:

Comments from boat owners

From my Facebook poll where I asked a group of boat owners if they would prefer getting a new or used boat, not only did I get a lot of votes but also comments that I feel would be very useful for this post.

Where should you buy a new boat?

Generally, the best place to buy a new boat is at your local dealer. This way, they make it easy to finance the boat, get the boat, insure the boat, etc. You could also go online to a manufacturer’s website and build the exact boat you want. They will either send that boat to a dealer near you or show you a dealer that has one in stock.

If you don’t know what manufacturer you want to buy from, use the website boats.com. You can look through tons of different boat brands and even contact the manufacturers directly threw the sight. However, I recommend going to the manufacturer’s website after finding the boat that looks best for you.

Where should you buy a used boat?

If you want to stay on the safe route, it’s best to buy a used boat from one of your local dealers. Just look up used boats for sale in my area, and there will be plenty of dealers on that first page of Google.

Going with a dealer could help get you possible warranties, and they will make it very easy to finance the boat. However, you will be paying a slightly high price as they need to make a profit from selling them to you.

If you don’t want to go through a dealer, there are plenty of marketplaces you can find people trying to sell their boats, such as:

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • eBay
  • Letgo
  • Craigslist

Not only will boats generally be cheaper on these marketplaces because they come directly from the seller, the price is also much more easily negotiable.

How to find out how much a boat should cost?

For new boats, the MSRP from the manufacturer plus the cost of any additional upgrades should be how much it costs from the dealer. However, finding the price of a used boat is a lot more complicated than that.

This website here can help you out as it is basically a Kelly Blue Book but for boats. However, it is much more difficult to determine the price of a boat than it is with a car, so the number you get from this site will most likely be slightly off.

So the best way to determine how much your boat is worth is by scanning the market for boats similar or the same as the one you want and making sure that the numbers are similar. You can use Facebook marketplace or websites such as boattrader.com to do this.

Some dealers may also be able to give you boat evaluations to see how much a boat you’re looking for should cost. They may even offer an inspector to come out and make sure your boat has nothing wrong with it that you won’t know about before buying it.

FAQ

How many hours should you look for on a used boat?

Outboard engines can last up to 1,500 hours and more, depending on how well they were taken care of. So if you’re looking for a used boat, you should look for something under 750 hours to ensure it will still have plenty of life left. Check out this article to learn more.

What is the best month to buy a boat?

The best month to buy a used boat is in September. This is because many dealers and individuals will be trying to get rid of everything they didn’t sell before the new models roll out for the next season. Along with that, many boaters may have wanted to use their boat

Sam
Latest posts by Sam (see all)