Boat Buying Tips

In Bill's forty five years of repairing boats he has come up with some tips on what to look for when you inspect the boat yourself and save you from headaches later on.

Potential customers call Bill saying that they hired a surveyor and bought the boat on their recommendation. After they have some work done to the boat from their mechanic, they are told that the transom or the stringers are rotted out. Then they try to sue the surveyor saying that he didn't check out the boat that well. After spending $500 to $1,000 for the survey report and wasting time trying to call him to make up for the bad report, owners then proceed to call a lawyer. Now they have to deal with court cost and a lot of headaches. Now you know why boating gets VERY expensive and the new owners get very disgusted and then give up on boating.

That's a bad experience. Bill prides himself on offering customers sound advice and tips to try and help his customers avoid these Bad Experiences and save them some money. Boating is a great experience with many good memories.

Custom Boat Repair has checked out many boats for local customers for free after Marine surveyors had checked them out. Often times Bill advises his client to pass on boats that surveyors gave a good report on.

Bill has been doing this for over forty five years and knows most of the tricks that people use. Surveyors can only do a Visual check of the boats that they check out. That's a clean job. Bill gets down to the physical dirty business of repairing boats and this gives him a glimpse of the boats history. A surveyor will see a crack and try to summarize how it happened. A repairman will cut it open and tell you how exactly it happened and what needs to be done to repair it the right way. (Note: Not all repairmen have this capability.)

Some customers even fly Bill to Florida to check out boats. One of those boats was a 55" Wellcraft. Three surveyors said the boat was in great shape and to buy it right away before he lost it. When the stringer system was tested the bottom section was very wet and the top was dry. This said that maybe there was bottom damage. Bill advised that the boat should be hauled out of the water. Nobody wanted to haul the boat, so Bill told the customer to fly him back to Jersey. Finally the customer starting bickering with the owner of the boat and the surveyor and they came to an agreement to haul the boat out of the water.

The group traveled over an hour in the water to get to the marina that was going to haul the boat. It turned out that the boat was in such bad shape that it was not even safe to ride it.

On the bottom of the boat where very big blisters, the size of oranges. The next thing was that when pushing on the starboard strut it moved about an inch & water shot out from in between the layers of fiberglass. The bolts where not loose the fiberglass was just falling apart. That was bad. Then on the same side the four bladed prop had a crack on one of the blades, if that ever broke off it could have gone thru the hull while the boat was traveling at high speeds.

The conclusion on the boat was that it had major work done on the bottom and it was repaired so badly that it should never have left the shop. Bill advised the customer to pass on the boat and he did. ( Update ) The boat was sold to someone else who used it for about a month. He took a cruise out in the ocean blew an engine, the hull cracked and the boat sunk. He abandoned the boat and told the bank he wasn't paying them.

So here are some Tips that the ordinary person can use to check out his future boat. Tools you'll need: ( Ice Pick, Small Ball Peen Hammer, Wrench, Digital Camera).

Boat Buying Example

This guy, Daniel, sent me an e-mail asking about a sailboat he found that he was going to buy for around $4,000:

I'm looking to buy a 25ft sailboat. The boat I found is in Connecticut, not within 1hr to drive to. The seller, named Scott, is real nice guy who has sent me many photos and shared quite a history of the boat, per my request.

One red flag is the attached photo, photo1. The guy said this damage occurred 3+ yrs ago and yet was never duck-taped-over or even repaired. The question I have is what more info can I ask of Scott to determine if the core is dangerously damaged or are we talking cosmetic gel-coat only? Should I ask for a closer picture taken to see the core ?

The second file, topvu_bowpulpit.gif, shows you the bow of the sailboat and where the damage is within the bow pulpit. Let me know if I can have Scott shed more light on what extend of damage we have, if any?

Thank you

He needed a fiberglass guy to check it out since the boat had some fiberglass damage to it. But the boat was in Connecticut, so I told him it was too far away for me to get to with the backlog of fiberglass work that I already had. Instead I told him to send me some photos of the damage, and I'd check them out for anything serious, no charge. From the photos I could see the potential for a lot of trouble. I told Daniel that this type of repair is like opening a can of worms—on the outside the damage looks small but once you start opening the area it can be ten times bigger then what you thought.

The owner of the boat told him that it would only cost a few hundred dollars to repair. So he found three local independent fiberglass repair guys that claimed they could fix the damage for around $300.

I told him no way. The damage I saw in those photos could easily run around $3,500 to $4,000 to repair. He argued with me saying that he was going to buy the boat anyway. I told him not to or else he'd be sorry that he did once he got the final repair bill from any fiberglass guy worth his salt. He hung up the phone and that was that.

The next morning I called him back. I told him to find a reputable company around CT that owns a Moisture Meter that can check the problem area for moisture as well as see how great the damage actually was beneath the surface. He told me that he'd do that.

Well, a few days went by and I got this e-mail:

I want to thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOO much for calling me yesterday 8:52am and being so passionate about the fiberglass boat condition warning!

You are AWESOME if it wasn't for your phone call and conversation I was going to buy that boat in CT. You convinced me to get a fiberglass specialist to inspect and thanks to you I found: www.???.com Nick saw the boat yesterday, charged me $200, and thoroughly inspected the boat......$4000-plus repair needed to get this boat topside safe & sound. WOW the boat isn't worth sailing my 4yr old on it since it requires too much work.

This is how I help future boat owners out. After all my years repairing boats I'm sick of seeing people being taken advantage of. After they get taken like Daniel almost was, and after seeing how much it costs to actually take care of some of these boats, many people give up on owning one altogether. My website has free Boat Buying Tips and Do It Yourself sections that will ease you through this process by teaching you what to look out for, and even how to fix those small repairs yourself.

If you have photos of what you're looking to buy and you're unsure about it and want a second opinion, send me the photos and I'll check them out for free.

Select a Tips Topic Below:

  1. Tips on Buying a Used Boat
  2. Looking for a Marine Surveyor
  3. After Purchase Tips