Buying a used boat from an individual instead of a dealer can be a bit scary. There is no guarantee that the person is not trying to rip you off. However the case can be made that buying any used product someone could be trying to rip you off even if it is a dealer. The biggest key to buying a product used, especially a boat is to get the as much research as you can. I am going to outline the steps needed to take to make a purchase of a used boat on the classified ad site craigslist.
Here are the are the initial steps needed to take before actually going on Craigslist:
1. Look up prices and read reviews of boats that you are interested. you can go to these sites for info: nadaguides.com, boattest.com, discoverboating.com, and boattrader.com. The will give you a heads up when it comes to pricing, and reliability of different makes and models.
2. If you are going to need financing for your boat, it would be wise to check your credit history before applying for a loan. Take advantage of one of the multiple free credit score websites that allow you to check your credit history.
3. Since you are buying the boat on Craigslist, your loan will come from a third party. Make sure you apply for your loan and get your financing in order before talking to sellers. If you find the boat you want but do not have the financing in order the seller may not be willing to wait for it and the boat might be gone before your financing is approved.
BOAT HISTORY CHECK
4. Buy an unlimited subscription to boathistoryreport.com. For $44.99 this will let you run unlimited history reports for 30 days. For those of you not familiar with boathistoryreport.com it is a service that is very similar to carafax but for boats. Their reports allow you to check if a watercraft has been damaged in an accident, salvaged, has warranty issues etc.
Once you have completed these steps you should have compiled a list of boat models and years with a price range you are comfortable with. You shouldn't limit yourself to one make or model because you are limiting your chances at a good deal. You can definitely have a favorite but it is always good to have options.
If you have got all the information listed above you are ready to start searching Craigslist for boats. Log on to your local craigslist (you can also search further locations but traveling far might not be worth it if you don't end up buying that boat). You will find boats under the "For Sale" section and "boats"
I suggest searching only posts with pictures. Depending on how broad your range of makes and models are you may want to search a specific make also. However, it is possible that there is not a high number of posts in the boat section so you may be able to just scroll through all postings. If there are no boats you are interested in you will have to expand your search to other craigslist locations, but don't go too far.
Now you should be able to compile a good list of boats you could be interested in. Go through each one and compare it to the average prices from your research and see if you can find a good deal.
Each will have different amenities and engine hours and other variables but if you find one you are remotely interested in make sure to get the HIN (hull identification number) from the seller. Use the HIN to run a boathistoryreport.com report on it. Make sure the report doesn't show any incidents that you are not comfortable with. Clean reports are always the goal.
When you find the one that you are interested in enough to buy, set up a test drive. Make sure you spend a decent amount of time with the motor running near full speed to make sure there are no problems. You also, (especially if the boat is over 35ft) want to get a marine surveyor to inspect the boat. They can find problems and flows that the average consumer may not notice. If there surveyor finds something minor it may be a bargaining chip to negotiate a lower price. If he finds something major you may decide to pass on the boat.
If you have followed all these steps and are still feeling comfortable make an offer on the boat. If the boat is a good deal to begin with you may end up having to pay full listing price. Good Luck finding a boat on craigslist!