How to Buy Used Pontoon Boat – Basic Rules You Need to Know

Are you looking to become a used boat owner but don’t know the first thing about used pontoon boats?

If so, you are not alone. Thousands of people deal with this same issue every year. You want to avoid doing it because thousands of people end up with a bad deal. You want to come up on top of those deals every time.

This article will show you exactly how to buy a good used pontoon boat and not overpay for it.

Tips to Buying Used Pontoon Boat

Buying a used pontoon boat is kind of like buying a used car. You have to go through specific steps to make sure it is in good working condition.

Always go through the following steps:

  • Step one – Thoroughly inspect the boat, both inside and outside
  • Step two – Tests drive
  • Step three – Find the best deal possible

So let’s look at those steps in detail below.

Inspect The Pontoon’s Condition

As always, the inspection starts with an examination of the outside. Look for the following:

  • Are there any cracks or patches on the hull?
  • What do the furniture and floors look like?
  • How is the motor performing?

Outside Condition

Do you see any cracks, dents, or patches on the hull? More often than not, these are some distinct red flags that the previous owner had a little bit too much fun with the craft.

These can be signs of accidents, the boat being driven into, or against, something, or a whole host of other potential incidents. 

The most important thing to be aware of is how serious the issue or visible damage appears.

  • How large is the crack, lump, or dent?
  • Has it been patched up?
  • How well was it patched?
  • The color

If you see significant damage or a crack, walk away. If you see multiple patches, walk away. If you see one spot that was well taken care of, it’s probably safe.

Look at the overall picture. If the boat is clean, it looks like it’s been taken care of properly. Chances are the patching was done right too. So don’t immediately walk away; use the best judgment.

The next immediate characteristic you will likely notice is the color and the shine of the boat. Boats are beautiful. You cannot help but see the shine—or rather, lack thereof.

Is the color something that you can fix quickly, or does it take a lot of money and effort? If you like the rest of the boat, see if you can lower the price due to poor shine. Once you get the price down and you buy the boat, you can quickly bring the shine out.

Inside Condition

Most used boats are naturally going to experience some wear and tear, but if I were you, I would stay away from any boat that has excessive wear and tear

Check for the following:

  • Ripped carpet and furniture
  • Mold and Mildew
  • Rotten flooring

If you see furniture or carped ripped up, walk away. Those things are expensive to fix unless you can do it yourself. I wrote an article about changing the boat carped if you are interested in learning more.

Also, look around for any mold and mildew. That is typically a sign of poorly taken care of the vessel. Just make sure that what you are looking at is actual mold and not dirt that you can easily clean. 

If you don’t look closely enough, you might potentially be walking away from a great deal when all the boat needs is a good carpet cleaning.

And the last thing you should look on the inside is the floor.

Get down low and inspect every inch of the floor. If you see and soft spots, uneven areas, and sagging, it’s not a good sign. The rotten floor is a definite deal-breaker; run away from it.

Check the Motor Condition

Another expensive fix is the motor, especially the inboard motor, because it can’t be replaced easily. The outboard motor is a different story, and you can read here why I think the outboard motor is a better choice.

Look at the motor. Does it look clean or dirty? Are there signs of leaks? If there are any signs of leaks, ask questions, don’t just look them over.

Maybe you can convince the seller to fix the issue or lower the price.

Are there any funny noises coming out of the engine? Some crackling sound is never a good thing. It almost guarantees issues soon.

Test Drive The Pontoon Boat

The test drive is a must. If the owner refuses to take your out on the water, don’t even bother; walk away. That is a definite sign of trouble that you don’t want to be a part of. 

When test driving, pay attention to the following:

  • When you first start it up, how does the motor sound? Nice and smooth, or rusty and clattering?
  • Watch the gauges. Are they doing their job? Are they telling you what you need to know? 
  • If the indicators are working, do they appear to be working accurately?
  • Test drive the boat like it’s your own. Do not stray from getting up to higher speeds and doing sharp turns. Stop. Take off again. Try to simulate as authentic an experience as possible.
  • Please don’t talk to the seller; he might try to distract you from something.
  • Try to test the limits of the boat; see if it breaks down. It’s better to break down now than when you sign the paper.

Keep in mind that this is not a new pontoon boat, however. Regardless of the motor’s original horsepower, it will not likely be as fast as you would like it to be. 

Find The Right Boat Listing

There are myriads of different avenues you can turn to in finding a used boat. The options may seem endless when you run an online search.

But, there are some key, big, and reputable places that will give you the best deal for your money.

One place online you can find used pontoon boat is Boat Trader.

used pontoon boat

The advantage of going with Boat Trader is that it is straightforward and intuitive to navigate and narrow down your search options based on your desired criteria and location.

Additionally, you may also find local dealer listings on these very sites. They will give you a better idea of their inventory and what they currently have in stock.

You can also go to boating dealers directly. They have used models on sale. Depending on your comfort level and knowledge of boats, this could be the best option for you. 

This way, the salesman can help you out; you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. They will guide you through any questions or concerns you might have at any point in the process.

While it is true that a business wants to sell as much as possible, they will also generally ensure everything is in good shape before putting something out on the lot for purchase. 

If you are ever unsure about the price of what a used pontoon boat should objectively be, you can always check what it is worth using an online guide. People can price them all over the place, making it difficult to know a fair price.

Protect yourself and your shuddering wallet by checking into this before the negotiation and purchasing process.


As you can see, there are several different things that you will need to think about before you choose to stand by your decision to buy a used pontoon boat

If you are still unsure if you should get a pontoon boat, you can read about pontoon pros and cons.

No matter what anyone says, it is possible to find yourself a fantastic used pontoon boat at an excellent price. Just look into used options, and keep the right know-how in mind. 

But before you buy a used or even new pontoon boat, make sure you know how much the ownership of pontoon boat costs.

It would be best if you were ready. If you are, you will walk away with an envy-inspiring bargain on your next pontoon boat.

Recent Posts