5 things to consider when buying a used boat

There is so much choice when looking for boats online, here are some tips for buying a used boat from industry professional Sam Davis.


Can you buy a used boat online?

Man and Woman Buying a Boat Online in Australia

You don’t have to spend hours driving all over town to visit boatyards and marinas in search of that perfect used boat in Australia. The majority of used boats for sale are listed online nowadays with a number of boat marketplaces online making it easy to find nearly any type of boat you could want, all from the comfort of your own home rather than visiting lots of boat dealers. We know a lot of owners might head to sites like boatsales.com.au or boatsonline.com.au although there are specialist choices like the BoatDeal marketplace where you can find a selection of high quality boats for sale in Australia.

Using the online options available also means you aren’t restricted to looking at boats that are in your state. Boat transport companies like Slip Away can pick up a boat from a marina, boat ramp or a boat dealer once you have bought it, it’s that simple. Even if the boat needs work or repairs we even have our mobile slip cradles for hire or can transport your boat to a service contractor to do the work.

By using the online marketplace listings, you can search through hundreds of boat models a day, something that would have taken weeks to do before when you had to visit different locations, but now you can buy used boats online. It does sound a little intimidating, buying a boat from someone you’ve never met, maybe in another state , but there are steps you can take to ensure you will be satisfied with your online purchase.

In this article we will provide some advice on how to buy a used boat online safely, our tips on working with boat dealers over the internet, how to organise a sea trial, inspections and boat transport.

Buying a used boat online

  1. Find the right boat for your needs

  2. Ask the right questions

  3. Survey the interior, exterior, and motor

  4. Take it for a sea trial

  5. Work out what transportation you require

Step 1 - Find the right boat for your needs.

boat haulage from Float on Float Off Boat Transport Slip Away hauling a X Martine Catamaran by road in Sydney to the boat ramp

Before doing anything else in the boat buying process, you have to know what you’re looking for. By determining the exact kind of craft that you want to have, you will save time on your search and be far more satisfied once you find your used boat. Decide on the boat that will meet the needs of you and your family that will serve you best when out on the water.

What do you want to be doing out on the water? Fishing? Wakeboarding? or simply cruising?

You could even ask your friends and family that you are considering taking on the water with you too as they may have some ideas as to the things they would like to do. This collection of ideas will help select a boat that most likely will get used more often & enjoyed by everyone. The activities will determine the kind of boat you need from the facilities it has such as number of cabins and berths, overall range, cooking facilities, space on the deck areas etc

Doing this exercise will also help determine the type and size of boat you are looking for which will then assist making decisions on how it will be transported and then where it will be kept when not in use. Sometimes it may be possible to store it at home, but for larger boats they will be kept at a marina or on a mooring in a sheltered bay.

Eventually you should find a few options that you like where you can then browse through the marketplace websites like BoatDeal or the other option is to use a boat broker like Luxury Marine in Sydney who can can find the right boat for you. 

Step 2 - Ask the right questions

Slip Away interstate boat transportation company moving a Bayliner 285 cruiser boat by road haulage from New South Wales to Hastings in Victoria

Once you find a boat you like, you need to ask the seller or boat dealer the right questions to find out the most relevant information. It is easy to get a little shy or gloss over important items for such an emotionally charged purchase. The best way to approach it is to make a list that you can follow. The owner will know the boat best, and when you are shopping for used boats online this is one of the best ways to gather information on a vessel. 

You need to ask questions like;

  • What year the boat and/or engines were manufactured?

  • Do the engine hours listed online match what the seller or paperwork says?

  • What, if any, major repairs have been done to the boat (either the engine or hull)?

  • Is there documentation and receipts for all the past work?

  • When was the last time it was serviced?

  • Does the boat still fall under the original manufacture warranty?

  • How long have they been the owner & how many prior owners were there?

  • Is it in full working condition?

  • How often did they use it & when was it last taken out on the water?

  • Are there any items, systems etc that do not work fully?

Step 3 - Survey the Interior, Exterior and Motor

Boat Transport Brisbane to Sydney Moving a 895 Merry Fisher boat from Queensland to New South Wales to be put in the water by Slip Away interstate Boat Transport company at a marina in the Hawksbury

Buying a boat online means it could be located anywhere in Australia and you may not be able to inspect it yourself due to distance or accessibility reasons. Either way, you must hire a qualified boat surveyor to provide a full report. Once you find a qualified surveyor in the same location as your boat, ask them to do a full inspection, including a mechanical survey and send over a complete assessment on the boat’s condition.

Any used boats for sale is going to show some signs of wear and tear, but ideally these will not be anything more than just cosmetic. They need to make sure all electrical components and gadgets are in the condition that the seller has described.

You may need to get a mechanic to do the mechanical survey if the surveyor is not qualified to do so. You will want them to inspect the condition of the engine, which will include basics such as confirming the engine hours but also getting into the more important details like;

– engine pressure testing

– condition assessment of major components such as manifolds and risers (which are very costly if they need to be replaced).


Sometimes you can have situations where people selling a boat online may play down the extent of damage or the maintenance if they know the buyer is located elsewhere. So to have a surveyor carefully check everything, including the hull for any damage is critical. If the inspector’s report comes back looking good, then you are ready to attempt a sea trial.

Step 4 - Take it for a sea trial

A Monterey 270 Cruiser Boat restored and going back into the water on a Slip Away Mobile Slip Cradle

The final step before purchasing a boat online is having it tested on the seas. Once again, if the boat is located too far away from you, you will need to hire someone to sea-trial it for you. It’s normal for a 10% deposit to be paid before sea trial, this is both to demonstrate your intentions towards purchasing the boat, and protect the boat on behalf of the vendor. You want to make sure the boat is tested thoroughly, but if the surveyor has been onboard before going out on the water, he is most likely to have picked any major issues by this point.

If you cannot be at the sea trials yourself, you will want to ask about how it feels, and discuss what you need the boat to do. If you plan to go 60kms offshore for fishing, your needs will be very different if you plan to simply find a local mooring to pull up for the odd lunch.

This is where it becomes really important about understanding your needs & selecting the right type of boat. Be clear that a sea trial is not a pleasure ride. It is the best way for you to see how your boat will behave on the water, and whether it meets your requirements as a buyer. There could be the situation that the boat struggles to reach your expectations during a sea trial, although sometimes it is because the wrong expectations have been set, in either case you may want to ask your boat dealer about other options or go back to do some more research.

Step 5 - Work out what boat transportation you need

Boat Delivery A brand new boat Nauticstar 25 VMAX 24 with twin 400 outboard motor transported from Yowie Bay in NSW by Slip Away boat transport company at a house

At Slip Away we help boat dealers, owners, marinas and even government departments to transport their boat by road with our specialist trailers. One of the companies we always enjoy working with is BoatDeal who is run by founder, Samuel Davis, who is an experienced yacht dealer and broker. Samuel has lived around boats most of list life, growing up on the Cornish Coast sailing family yachts and being on the water.

With over nine years of experience in the marine industry, we’ve seen him help so many people to find the right boat. Sam helps anyone interested in boats whether you are a buyer or seller, interested in new, used or even share arrangements. He makes the whole process easy from start to finish and you can search all the new boats or used boats listed on BoatDeal from a variety of sellers.

No matter what you decide on, we can help get it transported either locally or interstate whether it is in a driveway at a house, at a marina or in the water. You don’t even need a trailer to move your boat, we can pick it up and move it by road locally or interstate which also saves extra engine hours compared to moving by water.