New boats are super expensive. In my case for me to find a brand new boat with everything I wanted, the price tag would be at minimum $30,000. That's why there is a lot of people in the market for a used boat.

When I started my search it was just casual, but I realized soon that this was not going to be easy. What even is a good deal? How do I know this boat is worth the money? What problem things should you look for on a boat?

Find a friend with boat knowledge. It may seem obvious, but a friend that knows a thing or too is incredibly valuable. For me, it was my friend Rich who has bought and sold a number of boats over the years. I'd send him links to boats for sale and he'd let me know if they were even worth looking into. He even talked me out of buying a boat, and I'm so glad he did. The right deal did eventually come.

Know where to find them. Online is a great resource. Check your local Facebook Marketplace. There's a ton of boats on there right now. Craigslist can still be useful as well. I found a lot of boats on the Facebook group Walleye Boats For Sale.

Don't be afraid of a dealership. I was under the assumption that dealerships would be the ones asking too much money for a boat. I figure I would have had better luck going it on my own online. On a whim one day, I pulled into a small town boat dealer that was on the side of the road. A boat that was traded in late last year sat under a cover, and it turned out to be the perfect boat and deal for me. It was thousands less than the online boat market would have had it at. There's a lot of used boats that are priced less in small towns across Northern Minnesota. If you get away from bigger cities, you can find better deals because there is less demand for them.

Know what you're looking for. I've had a 14ft aluminum fishing boat for some time. It was fine, but we needed something bigger for the family. I originally thought a 16 foot boat would do, then a 17ft boat, before I finally realized we needed an 18 ft boat to do what we needed to do. I originally figured a 75 hp motor would cut it on a 16ft boat, but after further research I knew I needed a much bigger motor to push a much bigger boat.

Be prepared for sticker shock. It's amazing how much people are asking for and getting for boats. I quickly realized that my few thousand dollar budget wasn't going to get me anywhere.

Talk to a lender before you make an offer. Or better yet, before you start looking at boats. If you need to finance a used boat, ask what the lender uses for value confirmation. My lender used NADA guides, which too be honest were far lower than most people were asking for their boats. I looked at one boat that a guy had for sale. He was asking $5,000 over what the bank said the boat was worth. Turns out the bank was right, he was just way overpriced.

Pay close attention to how the boat has been cared for. You can find out pretty quickly if a boat has been taken care of. The better the condition of the boat interior, likely the better the condition of the mechanical things on it. Look for water lines on an outboard motor where you can tell it either sat in the water on a dock or if it was on a lift. It may still be worth buying, but paying attention to the details can really help give you an idea of if it's a good purchase. This is where bringing a friend can really help you out. A lot of times you are so excited you miss stuff on a big purchase.

How's the transom? The transom is the stern of the boat where an outboard motor mounts to. Check for cracks, damage, or anything that appears to be weak. A new transom is pretty expensive to have done.

Don't forget about extra costs with owning a boat. Even if you buy from a private party you're going to need to license it and pay taxes. For me it ended up being an additional $300. Also I needed to insure the boat, and for my boat valued at roughly $10,000 it cost about $230 a year. I needed to pay that up front. Life jackets and other gear can really add up as well, so make sure you figure that into your budget.

Be patient. Bad deals always happen to people to eager to jump in. A good boat will sell fast, but that doesn't mean you have to jump in if it's not comfortable. The right deal will come your way. Good luck.


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