If you’re thinking about buying a boat, think of it like shopping for a car
Summer 2023 is shaping up to be a big one for boaters headed to popular destinations like Table Rock Lake or Lake of the Ozarks. If you’re thinking of buying a boat this summer, make sure you’re prepared before you shop.
Recreational boating has always been a favorite pastime of people who live near Missouri and Illinois’ lakes and rivers, but it really took off during the COVID-19 pandemic as a safe outdoor social activity. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, demand for boats has remained high ever since, driven by activities like fishing, water-skiing, jet-skiing and sailing. NMMA estimates 85 million Americans will be boating this summer, many of them first-time buyers.
If you’re considering joining in on the fun and buying a boat this summer, think of it like shopping for a car – you want to make sure you’re getting a quality vehicle from a reputable seller. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a veteran boater, you should make the boat is in good condition, that all conditions of the sale are accounted for in the contract and that you receive all documentation from the seller.
BBB’s tips for boat buyers:
- Set a budget. Knowing your budget for financing or an outright purchase will guide your search for a boat. Consider ongoing costs like fuel, insurance, docking and maintenance, too.
- Assess your needs. What are you using your boat for? How much time and money can you spend on it? Do you want a new or used boat? Knowing the answers will help narrow down your options.
- Research and choose a seller. You can buy boats new or used from a dealer. Research dealers at BBB.org to see their rating, customer reviews and complaints, and whether they’re BBB Accredited. If you’re looking for a used boat, you can use an online broker. You can also purchase from an individual on eBay, Craigslist or local websites – but be extra careful, and verify the seller’s identity and the quality of the product.
- Don’t be hasty. Inspect the boat thoroughly before you buy. Take it for a test drive or “sea trial” to check for any mechanical problems – keep in mind that sellers usually only give sea trials to serious buyers, so you may need to discuss a purchase price first.
- Ask about the warranty. New boats come with manufacturer warranties, but these vary widely in coverage. Compare several before you buy. Ask whether the warranty is transferable, since this can add a significant amount to the resale value.
- Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Scammers sometimes offer outrageous deals to lure in unsuspecting buyers. Be prepared and know the general price range of the boat you intend to purchase.
- Pay with check or credit card. Never wire funds, send bank-to-bank transactions or make payments with prepaid debit cards to a stranger. Remember that purchases made on eBay, PayPal or Craigslist are not guaranteed.
- Get it in writing. Whether you are buying from a dealer, broker or individual seller, you’ll need to sign a sales contract. Make sure the contract includes all information about the sale, as well as the boat’s Hull Identification Number (HIN), engine serial numbers and the serial number of the trailer if it is included in the sale.
- Get the title and HIN. In Missouri, all powered (propelled by means other than oar or paddle) watercraft and sailboats over 12 ft long must be titled. In Illinois, all powered watercraft must be registered, and all registered watercraft over 21 ft. in length must be titled. Make sure the HIN provided to you by the seller matches the one on the title.
Don O’Brien is the regional director for the Quincy Better Business Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (217) 209-3972.
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