Photo credit: Avi Richards
5 best places to buy a used boat
Part 2 of 6: Young & Salty “How to Buy a Boat” series
There are many ways to go about finding boats for sale, from skulking around boat yards to compulsively checking Yachtworld 30 times a day. We’ve found employing a blend of strategies has allowed us to quickly isolate a pool of suitable boats, while avoiding buyer burnout (see: frantically driving around attempting to view 6 boats in a weekend). In our view, these are the best places to buy a used boat.
Yachtworld and Sailboat Listings
Searching a website like Yachtworld or Sailboat Listings is one of the easiest ways to view many boats in a short period of time. It’s great for getting a sense of the market and what’s out there. I have spent many, many hours on Yachtworld, but strangely every boat we have made an offer we found through other means. One of the drawbacks of Yachtworld is that it is so popular that competition is a bit fiercer and can drive the price up a bit.
Craigslist, Kijiji and classifieds
We have found many boats for sale on Craigslist that never appeared anywhere else online. Our Dufour 35 was a misspelled ad for a ‘Sail boat for sail,’ and didn’t have any pictures and wasn’t categorized. It was located on a mooring buoy amidst a group of islands off the coast of Vancouver. It was a little risky, but after talking to the owner we decided to check it out. Many cities use Kijiji more than Craigslist and it is worth checking as well. It’s a good idea to search a variety of terms online as people are terrible with their posts. Sometimes the word ‘boat’ won’t even be in the posting and the posting will be miscategorized. I’ve found useful search terms to be:
- sail boat
- ‘sloop’ ‘cutter’ ‘ketch’ ‘daysailer’ ‘cruiser’
- the manufacturer’s name, like ‘Beneteau’ or ‘Hunter’
Some folks still prefer posting classifieds in newspapers. You can peruse these classifieds by visiting the websites of your local newspapers. It’s wonderfully old-fashioned and goes well with listening to the radio and a cup of coffee in the morning.
Surprisingly, we have found many boats that are only on a yacht broker’s website. We search the nearby yacht brokers and their listings online. We also give them a call and let them know what we are looking for and our price range. Sometimes boats barely make it online because the broker will give their list of interested people a call and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got something you might want to check out.’ We’ve met the odd broker who’s the boating equivalent of a used car salesmen, but for the most part we’ve found them forthcoming and knowledgeable.
Marinas and clubs
When we start viewing boats, we make a point of exploring the marinas we visit because there’s always the chance our dream boat is sitting right next door to the boat we originally came to see. We read the marina notice board and tack up our own posting describing what we’re looking for and our price range. We’ve found it always pays dividends to spend some time walking the docks. Not only have we familiarized ourselves with boat models but we’ve also met people who are delighted to give us tips and point us in the right direction. It’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to the harbour master. Two weeks ago we were visiting a marina in Alaska and Fiona asked offhand, ‘Are there any boats for sale?’ He turned us onto a 44’ Bruce Roberts that had been sitting on the hard for a year and could probably be bought for under 10k.
The great untapped market for boat buying is the boatyard. There are a slew of boats in almost every boatyard that have been abandoned by their owners for one reason or another. Or the owner just got tired and gave up. These often need a little work, but can be bought for a song. We have seen this so many times that we don’t think we’ll ever buy a boat anywhere else.
In particular, we’ve found the boatyards and marinas in Mexico are the real gems. It’s probably the least accessible way to look for a boat and usually requires actually going down there, which can be expensive and time consuming. Then again, what a great excuse for a vacation in the sun! Almost every boat yard in Mexico is associated with a marina and most marina managers speak English. If you are thinking of cruising in Mexico anyway, it is well worth a trip. We’ve seen boats listed in Mexican marinas at less than half of what they would cost north of the border.
Like the old saying goes, ‘there are plenty of boats in the sea,’ or something like that, there a plethora of boats out there. From Kijiji to Yachtworld to ‘Old Salts’ on the dock, there are so many ways to find a boat it’s just a matter of time. Once you’ve found one, then the real fun begins. See Conducting a mini-survey.