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Buying a Cheap Boat: Is it a good idea?

We all love a bargain, and why would anyone want to pay more than they have to when buying a boat? Boats are luxury items, and anyone makes such a major purchase is keen to get the very best price they can. But value-for-money and cheap are very different things, and here we will take a look at why you might want to avoid boats which might seem cheap and instead pay a little more and get something that is going to last. 


Be Wary of ‘Too Good to be True’


Yes, it is possible to find a gem of a boat out there with a very low price tag, snap it up and sail off into the sunset. Perhaps the owner needs an urgently quick sale, or the market is competitive with similar model boats. In most instances however when a price tag seems way below market value there will be a very good reason for it, and these are not immediately obvious. 


When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. While this seems like a rather negative approach to life, when it comes to buying a boat, it is prudent advice that will ultimately save you a lot more money down the line. Too good to be true prices could also be a red flag of a scam. 


Competitive Marketing or a Red Flag?


You see three used boats for sale of the same model, similar age and for all intents and purposes the same specifications. One of the three boats has a considerably lower price tag than the other two. It is human nature to be drawn to the one with the lower advertised price. Again, who wants to pay more than they have to? But the first question to ask yourself – and the seller – is why? It may very well be that the seller knows they have competition in the local market and wants a quick sale, so is pricing the boat attractively. And it’s working. Competitive pricing is everywhere, from your local supermarket to furniture, clothes and cars. The seller chooses a lower profit margin to get their boat sold more quickly, and you get a bargain price.


On the flip side, the lower price could be to entice buyers to buy a boat that is hiding problems. Cheap boats for sale often have mechanical or structural problems and those are reflected in the lower price. Whether it’s a cheap small sailboat which needs a full set of rigging, or a cheap speed boat whose engine needs replacing, those repairs will be costly. Always ensure you get a marine survey done on any used boat you are considering buying, and armed with the report and subsequent estimates on repairs, calculate if you are actually saving money (you can use our guide on what to look for when viewing a used boat). Would it be financially more beneficial to buy a boat with a higher asking price but less to do? Consider to that you will likely want to use your boat as soon as possible and not wait for costly repairs to be done. 


If however you have your heart set on taking an old and unloved boat and restoring it to its former glory by way of a full refit, then this is when searching for old boats for sale cheap is certainly a good approach. With money, time, patience and passion in abundance for the restoration, a low asking price for the perfect boat for your project is a good start on your journey. Check out our guide to buying a Project Boat. 


Brush up on your Negotiation Tactics


Instead of scouring the internet and used boat listings for the cheapest boats, a far better approach is to find the best value for money vessel you can and negotiate a deal that you are happy with. In this way, you won’t be compromising on the things that are important to you just to secure a more attractive price, but you’re getting the right boat to suit your needs. Follow our step-by-step guide to How to Buy a Boat to begin your search, and once you have narrowed it down to the perfect boat, it’s time to strike a deal. You don’t have to accept the asking price, and it is very common to negotiate. To be successful in negotiating, the most essential thing is to leave your emotions at the door. Be businesslike and practical, and prepared to walk away. Do your research, calculate the cost of repairs, and be courteous and patient, and you’d be surprised at what a deal you can strike. Read our guide to negotiating the best deal. 


Price versus Value


The price of a used boat for sale does not necessarily reflect the value of the boat, and this applies to both boats priced too highly and those priced too low. It is an interesting concept, and one that first time buyers particularly can easily get bogged down in. In essence, the price is what you pay, the value is what you actually get for your money. When someone comes to sell their beloved used boat, they put a price tag on it and that price tag can often reflect a lot more than an objective value of the boat in question. It can often be swayed by:


  • Personal attachment to the boat. Everyone believes their boat is special, and while that may be true to the person who has spent many memorable moments on it, that shouldn’t affect the price of the boat.

  • The popularity of the boat. Popular or more sought-after models can have elevated price tags simply because of supply and demand. There are hundreds of models of boat for sale on sites like Rightboat.com, so it’s always worth looking at less popular but equally worthy models to get the perfect boat. You could end up with a fantastic boat for far less than the price of the popular models.

  • Location. A boat moored in a busier location where they may be a bigger market of prospective buyers will have a higher price tag than ones in more remote locations. Widen your search to see if you can find the same model further afield at a lower price (but don’t forget to factor in the transport costs of getting the boat to you). 


The above examples tend to be more relevant to over-priced boats, but boats priced too low also fall within the value-for-money conundrum. Ask yourself the following questions:


  • How many compromises am I making to buy a cheaper boat? 

  • Am I getting everything I need from this boat? 

  • Are there costly repairs to be done? The purchase price is just the beginning when it comes to buying a boat (see our guide to creating a budget)


Rightboat.com has hundreds of new and used boats for sale all across the world, both with brokers and private sellers. Using our clever search tools you can select your price point, the style of boat you’re searching for, location, length and much more to narrow down your choices. And because our platform is cost-effective for sellers, that gets reflected in some of the most competitive pricing on the used boat market. Start your boat buying journey today, or get in touch for expert guidance and advice. 


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Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

Get in touch:Linkedin

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