Where to buy a boat

Where to Buy Boats (Plus 7 Tips on When & How to Buy One)

Written by Boatsetter Team
January 8, 2024

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by Boatsetter Team

Buying a boat can be a long process so be sure to do your research and dial in exactly what will fit your needs before deciding where to buy. One consideration is whether you want a new or pre-owned boat, another is what kind of boat you’re seeking, and finally, give some thought to where you’ll be using the boat before starting your search.

Post summary:

  • Boat dealership 
  • Boat brokerage 
  • Buying from a private party 
  • Boat shows 
  • 7 tips (Including a pro tip)

List your boat & start earning an avg. of $20K yearly with Boatsetter 

Boat dealership

If you’re looking for a new boat, a dealership that represents a manufacturer’s brand is the best place to start since most boat builders don’t sell direct to consumers. If there’s no dealer near you, consider traveling after doing extensive research online and calling the dealer to see what they have in inventory. Sometimes, you may be able to buy last year’s “new” model at a deep discount.

Dealers are typically reputable, can help you order the options you want, may have a model in stock for you to test drive, and usually have financing available. They will also service and commission a boat, add on aftermarket options, and do warranty work in the future. Dealers are generally experts in the brands they sell and any commission to the individual salesperson is paid by the dealership, not the buyer.

Boat brokerage

Man buys a boat from a private party

When purchasing a pre-owned boat, a certified broker should be able to walk you through his/her direct inventory or put out feelers with other brokers. A brokerage will also have resources to let you know typical prices of older boats through BUC values which are like the Kelly Blue Book valuations for boats. When buying a used boat, you’ll need to make an offer before you can sea trial the vessel.

Also, you should have it surveyed (the buyer bears the cost of the survey, which is usually priced by the foot), and you may need to find your own financing sources. Brokers can help with documents and a title search, so you’ll know whether or not the vessel has a lien on it.

Look for brokers who are certified in your state as well as by CPYB and YBAA. Any commission to the individual salesperson is paid by the seller, not the buyer. Brokers often advertise on specialized brokerage websites such as Yachtworld.com, Boats.com, and BoatTrader.com.

READ MORE: Buying a Boat for Beginners 

Buying from a private party

Some boats are sold by previous owners who usually list them in local papers, on Craigslist, and on other websites. Prices may be lower and more negotiable for privately sold boats but you’ll need to find a surveyor or mechanic to review the condition, and you’ll need to arrange for a private loan if you’ll be financing the purchase. Unless you’re familiar with a particular brand of boat and are confident that you can assess its condition, private purchases can be risky since you’ll be on your own once the purchase is complete. 

Boat shows

Many people go to boat shows to catch deals and discounts on new boats. (There are also brokerage shows with a variety of pre-owned boats in one marina.) Buying at a boat show means you’ll be going through a dealer even if manufacturer reps are present. You can visit the boat in person and you may be able to test the boat after the show before you sign on the line. You can also order a boat to be built and personalized for you. Dealers often toss in additional equipment to close the deal on a boat that has yet to be built. Prices may be good at boat shows, but the pressure is on making decisions quickly.

7 Tips on when & how to buy a boat

Where to buy a boat

Pro tip: Besides getting a boat loan, there are other things you can do to lessen boat ownership costs like list your boat on Boatsetter! Thousands of boat owners are earning an average of $20K yearly by doing this.

  1. Always do deep research before setting your sights on any boat.
  2. Don’t rush the process and if you feel stressed by an owner or salesperson, take a break and ask yourself why someone is creating a sense of urgency.
  3. If you know what you want, you’ll be in the best possible position to negotiate and if you are pre-approved for financing, you may win out over another buyer. 
  4. Consider which options you’ll really use and which ones are just ticking up the price.
  5. Consider buying off season and out of your area where boats may be more plentiful and therefore less expensive, but don’t forget to add in the cost of delivery. 
  6. Don’t forget insurance, which should start the moment you take delivery. 
  7. Calculate the entire cost of boat ownership, not just the boat itself. Add in berthing, insurance, interest from financing, annual maintenance, and any necessary upgrades. 

Read more on buying a boat

Buying a boat can seem like an intimidating proposition, but if you know what you need and approach the process systematically, you’ll be sure to get what you want at the best possible price.

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