Buying a Used Bass Boat - 09/01/2010

There are thousands of used bass boats on the market at all price points. You need only decide on the brand of boat and engine you want, decide how much you want to spend and how far you’ll drive to get the boat of your dreams. To zero-in on the right boat for you, check out’s tests on bass boats. Check out the 46 bass boats we’ve tested.

Once you have located several boats that you think meet your criteria, you next want to eliminate hidden surprises. Price negotiation is only part of the used boat buying process. Even more important is to make sure you are actually getting what you think you’re getting.

1. You need to make sure the seller has proof of ownership. If you aren’t completely confident that the boat is owned by the seller, then move on without hesitation.

Bass Boat
A trailer should be part of your purchase. Make sure it is in good shape.

2. Consider buying a used boat from a boat dealer. The boat might cost more (chances are he has marked the boat up 10-20% from what he paid), but your title should be clear and hopefully the dealer would like to gain you as a prospect for a new boat, and will therefore make sure you are happy with your used boat.

3. Make sure the engine is in good shape. Start the engine yourself. Some owners will have the boat already started by the time you get there, but this may be a sign that they are trying to hide something. Check hoses, connections and cables. Look for wear and lack of care. Take off the cowling. Look for rust, leaks, and worn fittings. Check the oil pressure and water temperature.

Bass Boat
Is carpet clean and fresh or skanky?

4. Look for oil and gas leaks before and after the test drive. Both before and after your test run look at the water around the boat – is there an oil film on the water? Make sure all of the gauges and instruments work, which is problematical on old boats.

5. While on the test run you want to pay careful attention to the maneuvering of the boat. Is steering easy, or does it hang up or bind? Make sure the boat trims out properly and all hydraulic and electrical equipment is working. Run the boat long enough to check for overheating problems. If you don’t like the way the boat handles, move on.

Bass Boat
Aluminum or glass? There is a big difference in price and weight.

6. At the dock test and use all systems. Assume nothing works. Test all pumps, lights, and equipment. Is the deck spongy? (If so, move on.) Are all hinges and clasps in good order? Is anything loose? Look at the electrical wiring. Is it neat or a mess? A mess is trouble waiting to happen.

7. Closely inspect the boat looking for repair and patch work. Let the light play along the sides of the boat and look for irregular ripples in the gel coat – a sure indicator that the boat has been repaired. If the boat is in pristine condition, chances are the owner has given the boat and engine the kind of TLC it needs. If the boat is dirty, worn and skanky, and looks like it has been ridden hard and put away wet, you should move on. Yes, you can probably buy that boat for less money, but don’t.

Bass Boat
All vinyl fades in sunlight but what is the condition of the material?

8. A trailer should be part of your purchase. Make sure it fits the boat and was used with the boat you are buying. Will it fit in your storage place? Do the wiring and lights work? How are the brakes? Is it a cheap trailer or a substantial one? Don’t cheap out on the trailer or it will fail you and ruin your big fishing trip.

Remember, one day you will want to sell this boat to someone else. Some boat buyers are not demanding, but many are and they expect even an old boat to be in meticulous condition.

Shop the Market

The winter is a good time to go used boat shopping because you have the time to get to know the market and become an expert on pricing in your geographic location. Once you’ve seen a dozen boats or so, you’ll be an expert on pricing. Then, when you find a prize, you’ll know what to do.

And – be sure you know what new boats cost. A new boat is going to be your best boat, have the least aggravation, and give you the highest pride of ownership. Make sure that the “discount” you are getting on a used boat more than pays you for the risk you are taking with the older engine, electrical wiring and equipment on the used boat.