If you are reading this, you are very likely in the mood to own a pontoon boat right about now. But you must also wonder how to buy used pontoon boat without getting sunk.
Many buyers hate that word: used. “Isn’t ‘used’ just a euphemism for ‘obsolete dinosaur,’ or ragged, old-ass equipment barely held together by patches?”
Perhaps it is if you look in the wrong place.
Fear not, prospective used pontoon boat owner who will own a pontoon much sooner than he knows. With the right tips, it is totally possible to purchase a high-quality and fully functional used pontoon boat that did not just stumble out of a 1960’s boating catalog asking to be put down.
Unless that’s your thing, of course, and you are proactively searching for that vintage fixer-upper. In that case, you can rest assured that by disregarding these tips you will find plenty of such rundown crafts to go around.
I know full well that this can be an intimidating process. Particularly when you do not know every detail about the boat’s past. After all, where has that boat been? What has it been through? Are there immediate problems you need to address so they don’t surprise-sabotage your craft later on? What investments do you need to make?
Do not fret. If you are willing to put in the time and do a thorough look into your new potential boat, then you will be just fine.
I’ve purchased used pontoon boat before and was thrilled with the final transaction. Everything exceeded my expectations.
However, as with any boat, unexpected situations certainly may and do arise. For this very reason, it is wise to go out prepared. Do everything in your power to avoid starring in the poor man’s version of Gilligan’s Island.
To be honest, I would recommend it and all of those items for anyone out on the water—be it in a new boat, old boat, small or large. For, if you are aware that your ridiculously affordable new boat has some elements in need of being tended to and repaired, then you can use all of that extra money you saved by going the used route and invest it into those necessary repairs. The difference in the finished product will be stark.
In the end, you will come out a winner with a cheaper boat. Now that you are hopefully more reassured on this idea, allow me to walk you through this exciting process of buying a used pontoon boat in one piece.
- 1 How To Buy Used Pontoon Boat
- 1.1 Step One – Inspect The Pontoon’s Condition
- 1.2 Step Two – Test Drive The Pontoon Boat
- 1.3 Step Three – Find The Right Listings
- 1.4 Take The Plunge!
How To Buy Used Pontoon Boat
Step One – Inspect The Pontoon’s Condition
Be sure to examine the hull, to understand what its current condition is that you are working with. As tempting as it is, you cannot just take a quick gander on its outside, eyeballing it, assuming everything will probably be fine.
You will need to have yourself a really good and thorough inspection and consider whether there are any spots that may be an issue.
Are There Any Cracks Or Patches On The Hull?
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 any visible damage, appears to be.
For instance, how large is the crack, patch, lump or dent?
Has it been patched up?
If there is just one generally damaged spot, but it has been patched up excellently, then you are not in too much trouble at all. That is significantly better than seeing numerous patches thrown together here and there carelessly, with no attention to detail. This latter situation alone can provide you with a good enough idea as to what condition the pontoon is ultimately in.
In other words, how well the craft appears to have been taken care of should give you a decent understanding of what you are working with.
As a buyer, the next immediate characteristic you will likely notice is the shine. You want an awesome boat, after all. You simply cannot help but notice the shine—or rather, lack thereof. Remember: dealing with this particular aspect is primarily a cosmetic, aesthetic issue, which appears when the boat has been either a bit scratched or has become worn out with use.
This superficial detail is one of the easier ones to remedy.
Nevertheless, if you are not completely satisfied with the shine of the hull, there are some ways you can actually polish it to improve the aesthetics of the boat. Shine will not affect the boating experience all that much, other than the appearance of your boat.
Consider The Furniture And The Flooring Of A Used Pontoon Boat
Most used boats are naturally going to experience some wear and tear. However, you will need to keep an eye out for excessive wear and tear in, or around, areas that may potentially cause greater headaches for you down the line. If the furniture or flooring looks worn out or ripped up, it probably is. Furniture and flooring are usually the first parts of the craft to go.
When it comes to the furniture, what you are going to want to do first is check for any rips and tears. Err more on the side of common sense on this one. Anything minor is okay. But if you find that there are noticeably large, hard-to-even-look-at gashes in the leather, then you already know that it will only be a matter of time before you need to replace it.
Same goes for mold and mildew. Here’s a good way to check. If you see yourself being highly distressed, grossed out or wanting to be anywhere else but on your pontoon, every time you find yourself actually on your pontoon, chances are you would probably benefit from replacing such defects as soon as possible.
Sometimes the boat is just dirty and in need of a good scrub. If that is the case check out my other article ‘Pontoon Carpet Cleaning Guide” to get some ideas of how to do it right.
Another highly important area to be conscious of is the floor.
One of the first things you should look for in your inspection is how rotted-out the floor is. Do not be afraid; really get in there and go over the entire floor, locating the spots that appear to be soft. If there is carpeting, look underneath to the extent that it is possible. If it is not, then step all around, feeling for any soft spots, uneven areas and sagging.
This is one of the more important factors to keep your eyes out for. Unfortunately, a lot of soft spots in a boat floor means lots of rotting—in other words, an expensive fix.
How Does The Motor Perform?
The key to expect consistent reliability from your used pontoon boat lies all in the efficiency of its motor when running. Look carefully to ensure that it does not end up breaking down on you unless you are in the mood to fix things. Sidenote: do have paddles in your boat, should this ever happen.
Therefore, you want to thoroughly inspect the motor, exactly as you would before purchasing a car.
Some Important Things To Look For?
For starters, you will want to see how clean or dirty it is. As we touched upon earlier, any noticeable signs telling of how well-maintained the craft was by the previous owner will be dead giveaways as to the true conditions of the motor. See if any fluids are leaking. If there are any leaks, discuss with the seller before you purchase. See if the seller will reduce the price or fix the issue before you sign the dotted line.
Alternatively, you could also choose to explore local repair options yourself, comparing and contrasting prices and parts—and go with the more suitable choice.
While you are in there, looking around, be sure to inspect the various interior parts and consider the condition they find themselves in. The more wear and tear or crackling that you see, the more likely it is that you will need to do some maintenance or replace those parts soon.
Step Two – Test Drive The Pontoon Boat
Again, as you would when buying a new car, I would highly recommend you try to test drive the rig before finalizing your purchase. I came around some sellers that were actually annoyed by that request, I don’t know why.
But, then again, who cares?
If all it takes is for them to take you out onto the water and let you steer for yourself to close a sale, it would be nonsensical for them to turn you down. If you really are serious about the purchase, and everything else has been to your liking thus far, draw the line and make it clear to the seller that it is make-or-break time.
They will oblige.
Unless you are nowhere near a body of water, of course—in which case, well, you are probably out of luck.
If you are able to secure a test run, you will need to pay close attention to the entire process. This includes things like: When you first start it up, how does the motor sound? Nice and smooth, or rusty and clattering?
Furthermore, once you get it going, watch the gauges.
Are they doing their job? Are they telling you what you need to know? If the gauges are working, do they appear to be working accurately?
Remember: this is the time to really assume ownership.
Drive how you would when you are out on the lake or ocean in your boat-to-be. Do not stray from getting up to higher speeds and doing sharp turns. Stop. Take off again. Really try to simulate as authentic an experience as possible. If you just drive self-consciously in a straight line, with your head down at 10 miles an hour, while the seller judges you, you will miss out on a lot of situations that could show you signs of problems with the boat. Don’t be concerned with the seller, ignore him or her as much as possible.
If you are to break the boat, it’s best to break it now. You don’t want your boat to break down when you are having fun on the water with your friends.
Keep in mind that this is not a new pontoon boat. Regardless of the motor’s original horsepower, it will not likely be as fast as you would like it to be. If it is pretty good on speed but could use just a touch more power, there are alternative ways you can look into in order to speed it up.
Step Three – Find The Right Listings
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. There are some key, big and reputable places that will give you the best deal for your money. Sometimes is just best to do that instead.
One place online you can go to is Boat Trader.
The advantage of going with Boat Trader is that it is extremely easy and intuitive to navigate and narrow down your search options based on all of your desired criteria and your 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. This will help you when you refine your search, hunting for better prices in your own region.
As always, you can also just go to boating dealers directly. They will sometimes already 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 prior to putting something out on the lot for purchase. One last thing when it comes to buying used pontoon boats. 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 what a fair price really is.
Protect yourself, and your shuddering wallet, by checking into this prior to the negotiation and purchasing process.
Take The Plunge!
As you can see, there are a number of different things out there that you will need to think about before you choose to stand by your decision to buy a used pontoon boat.
No matter what anyone says, it is totally possible to find yourself a fantastic used pontoon boat at an awesome price. Just look into used options, and keep the right know-how in mind.
You need to be ready. If you are, you will walk away with an envy-inspiring bargain on your next pontoon boat.