Buying Your Boat: Starting the Process

Once you find your dream boat, it is a matter of going through the motions to make this boat yours. The steps are: Contact, Look at the boat, Offer, Survey, and Sea Trial.

It all begins with contacting the person who is selling it. If you found it in a local paper or while walking the docks, you will probably deal directly with the owner. If you found it through a broker or on, then you will be in touch with the broker. You make a phone call and set up a time to see the boat. While looking at the boat, you fall in love and decide that this is the boat for you! 

The next step is to put an offer on the boat (contingent on survey and sea trial) and wait for the owner to either accept, deny, or counter offer. If he accepts your offer without counter offer, you are dealing with a motivated seller and the following steps will be a breeze!

If the owner denies the offer, then the deal stops there. You can try a new offer that is higher but this is not a good idea as the owner might think he could hold out and see how high your offers could go. Instead, let the owner stew on his denial and wait around. Soon he will realize that no one else is looking at his boat and you are his only chance of a sale. Eventually, the owner will come back with a counter offer.

After the offer or counter offer is accepted, the sale of the boat will proceed to the next step: Survey and Sea Trial. A survey is the equivalent of a home inspection. The surveyor will comb over every inch of the boat, checking all the systems and accessories, along with the hulls condition. 

After the survey is completed, the surveyor will provide you with a paper detailing all of his "recommendations". This is the laundry list of everything that is wrong or not functioning on the boat. The more systems the boat has, the longer this list will be. The owner then has three choices:

  • Fix everything on the list himself and then sell you the boat at the agreed offer.
  • Reduce the price based on the cost to repair everything that is wrong.
  • Refuse to adjust the price.

It is silly for a seller to try to fix everything himself because in the time of repairs, more systems could fail or break. Also, you could find another boat, leaving him with the repaired boat and no buyer.

Reducing the price based on the cost to repair everything that is wrong is the best plan. The seller gets rid of the boat and the buyer has to fix everything himself. This works out best for the buyer as well in points that will be discussed later.

The last option is for the seller to refuse to adjust the price based on the survey. This occurs for one of two reasons: The seller is not motivated to sell and doesn't want to let his baby go for less money, or, the offer price is so low that the seller doesn't want to come down any further. 

After the survey comes the sea trial which is the equivalent of a test drive in a car. This is also the last opportunity for the buyer to back out of the deal. During the sea trial, if there is any reason you do not want to purchase the boat, you can walk away from the deal without penalty. You could even claim that you don't like the noise of the engine, or the way it leans! This is your last chance to walk away form your dream boat if you so choose to.

After the sea trial, if everything is up to your liking, the boat can be yours. All you have to do at this point is pay the sum of money to buy her and she is yours! Smaller boats can be paid in cash, but larger boats tend to be paid with a certified check.

Once the monetary exchanges have been made, a trip to the local Natural Resources office will finalize the arrangement. Both parties, buyer and seller, will go to the office and sign some documents to transfer ownership of the boat. Now the boat is yours!