Buying a second-hand boat
Repairs: Even if a second-hand boat saves some cash and might come better equipped than a brand-new model, there may be added expenses in repairs and upgrades.
Track record: Although the second-hand boat's warranty is not valid for long, it will have a proven performance and reliability track record that can be checked out through repair shops.
Broker: The safest way to buy a second-hand boat is through a broker, although there is the extra cost of paying a commission. They can give you a good valuation and appraisal of the vessel. A good broker will take you through the entire boat-buying process, from determining what type of boat you really want to negotiating a contract.
Warranty: A dealer may offer a limited warranty on the used boat and has likely serviced it for resale. But because he is a third party and has overheads, including commissions, the price is generally higher than what you would pay the owner directly.
Ownership: It is important to check the seller's proof of ownership, especially if the price is a steal. There are no free lunches. So check the necessary documents, and if they can't be produced, beware.
Engine: A used boat engine has to work much harder than its automotive counterpart, so pay special attention to its condition. If you are not mechanically astute, it is best to have a mechanic to check the engine before you commit to a sale. Some tips for checking engines - is there oil in the bilge, are there signs of lubricant leakage around the gaskets, freeze plugs and hoses?
Boat inspection: Aside from the engine, you also might want to check the steering, throttle controls, cables, switch operations, hardware (ensure they are firmly attached) and condition of backing plates where possible. On a sailboat, check all rigging, hardware and sails.
Marine surveyor: If all this do-it-yourself is overwhelming or the boat is an expensive one, it is worth engaging a marine surveyor. They are experts of boat construction and well-versed in safety and manufacturing laws, requirements, recommendations and approved practices. Some banks require the boat be surveyed before approving a loan, especially on large vessels which represent a sizable investment. The service costs an average HK$140 per foot of the length of the boat.
Survey: When the survey is conducted, it's a good idea to be present as it allows you to observe first-hand the surveyor's assessment of the boat's condition and allows you to ask questions about problems that may arise later. Never rely on an old survey, as new problems may have cropped up since it was conducted.
Test-drive: It is a good idea to bring your broker along on the sea trial or demo ride. During your time on the water you should put the boat through a series of tests. Don't be too trusting. On a power boat, first check to see if the engines are already warm before turning the ignition. If the owner warmed the boat up before you arrived, it may have been done to hide the fact that the engine has problems with cold starts or it smokes a great deal before it warms up.