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Your Guide to Buying a Second-Hand Boat in 6 Easy Steps

Updated: Jun 11

Daydreaming about having your own boat?

Picturing yourself cruising the open sea, enjoying fishing expeditions with mates, engaging in adrenaline pumping water sports, or embarking on weekend adventures with the family… exploring the wonders of our awesome coastline?

If you're ready to make your boat ownership dreams a reality, you might be wondering what are the common pitfalls of buying a second-hand boat?

How do i assess the condition?

If you’re looking for a bit of a checklist of sorts, read on for the perfect guide to help you navigate the process of buying a second-hand boat.

From setting your budget to finding the right vessel, we'll be your trusty captain on this exciting journey

Step 1: Chart Your Course -

Defining Your Boat Needs and Budget:

Before you embark on your boat-buying voyage, it's crucial to start with some groundwork.

Begin by determining your budget and identifying the type of boat that best suits your needs and desires. What are you likely to be using the boat for?

1) Family Boating

2) General Harbour Fishing

3) Serious Fishing - Big Game

4) Diving

5) Water Sports

6) Cruising

Once you have a clear idea of the type of boat that suits you best, it's time to consider factors like if you'd prefer Fibreglass or Aluminium, what boat size you'd like, and what features, or specific extras you'd like on board.

Remember Storage:

Ensure the boat can fit in your garage without any major alterations. While we have seen some creative solutions in our travels, it's definitely best to avoid unnecessary modifications.

*If your garage is a little on the low side you’ll definitely want to check out Surtees innovative garaging roof which folds down easily

Check Towing Compatibility:

Confirm if your current vehicle is capable of towing the boat you desire weight wise, and match with your vehicle's specifications *note most European vehicles will have a 50mm tow ball, where in New Zealand the majority of tow hitches are 1 7/8.

With a focused approach to your budget and boat style, you're now ready to embark on your journey towards finding the perfect match!

Step 2: Cast Your Net

-Exploring Boat Listings and Classifieds:

Now that you have your boat requirements sorted, it's time to dive into the online world and local papers.

Browse reputable boat listings and classifieds on dedicated boating websites and local forums.

When you find a brand that catches your eye after thorough research, stick with it.

Be cautious of online forums, as they may provide conflicting advice and opinions that are largely unhelpful.

Opting to buy from a reputable marine shop offers several advantages, that a private lister may not be able to offer, including consumer guarantee laws and potential warranties.

Additionally, boat dealers often provide finance and insurance services for your convenience.

If you are buying a boat from a reputable dealer you'll have peace of mind in knowing the boat has been inspected by a professional a will come with a 90 day mechanical warranty.

While there are still great deals to be found in private listings, be aware of potential issues because there will be no warranty or guarantee, we also encourage you to check out the private boat sale advice given by New Zealand Police and check the stolen boats data base, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Step 3: Put on Your Detective Hat

-Boat Inspections:

Once you've spotted some potential contenders, it's time to meticulously inspect the boat's key aspects, both inside and out.

Pay close attention to

1) Engine condition,

2) Electrical systems,

3) Service history,

4) And trailer (if applicable).

Booking a pre-purchase inspection at a local boat shop is a wise investment. Not only can it save you thousands in the long run, but it also provides peace of mind when towing your new boat home.

Any issues discovered during the inspection may give you room to negotiate a fair price if you decide to proceed with the sale.

Whether you're purchasing privately or through a dealer, it's highly recommended to organise a sea test of the boat before finalising the deal.

Step 4: Test The Waters

- Sea Trials:

Arrange sea trials with the sellers of your shortlisted vessels.

Take the helm, feel the wind in your hair, and listen to the engine roar. Opt for a day with moderate sea conditions to properly assess the boat's performance, avoid sea trials during bad weather, you will get no benefit in a sea trail if you cant even get the boat onto the plane, and experience the it's full capabilities.

Focus on the following during the sea trial:

1. Stability

2. Responsiveness while driving and underway

3. VHF communication with coastguard (ensure a clear signal)

4. Engine's ability to reach maximum RPM

5. Hole Shot (speed at which the boat gets onto the plane) *very important if you'll need to do bar crossings, you cant have enough horse power on the back in these situations, too little power can cause serious problems.

6. Check for any concerning smells, fuel issues, and inspect battery areas and fuel lines.

7. Confirm functionality of sounders and electronics

8. Perform tight turns under power to evaluate responsiveness and propeller performance

"Trim the engine down as you turn and check responsiveness of the boat while doing this, and the RPM of the outboard, if the propeller captivates then the engine may be mounted a little too high. You'll want to have a good bite in the water while turning especially if you’re wanting to use the boat for water sports" say's Boat Sales specialist from Mercury Bay Marine

Step 5: Sealing the Deal

- Essential Documentation:

Congratulations! You've found "The One.

Once you've negotiated a price, ensure the following is in order:

1. Boat's service history

2. Current trailer registration

3. No outstanding debts on the trailer or boat

4. Current Warrant of Fitness (WOF)

5. Tow bar ball compatibility

6. Change of ownership has been completed

6. Notify your insurance provider with all the necessary details to ensure coverage before taking your new boat home.

Step 6: Safety & Coastguard:

Now that you have your boat, the safety of everyone on board should be your top priority.

Joining Coastguard provides invaluable support throughout New Zealand and could save lives in emergency situations.

Create a pre-departure checklist to ensure you've covered all safety measures and avoid any mishaps at the boat ramp.

Consider the following pointers before setting out to sea:

1. Sufficient life vests for everyone on board

2. Check that bungs are securely in place before launching

3. Utilise trip log services with coastguard to communicate your plans

4. Ensure you have enough fuel for your intended trip, allowing for unforeseen circumstances.

5. Monitor weather conditions and only venture out in conditions you are comfortable with and that the boat can safely handle.


With our guide as your trusty compass, you are well-equipped to embark on your boat-buying adventure.

Remember, finding the right second-hand boat is like uncovering a hidden treasure, and each step of the journey should be enjoyable.

So, set sail with confidence, trust your instincts, and soon enough, you'll be cruising the sparkling waters, creating unforgettable memories aboard your very own boat.

helpful links

Download our pre-departure check list here

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