1. Make sure you review the online BoatU.S. Guide to Buying and Selling a Boat at www.BoatUS.com/guide. This comprehensive guide explains the buying process including pricing, sales contracts and sea trials.
2. Sign up for the bimonthly online BoatU.S. Classified Ads E-Newsletter at www.BoatUS.com/classifiedsnewsletter. Get a sense of what houseboats are for sale and at what price.
3. Get free advice. Ask others about their experience with a particular boat model by posting a question on the message boards at www.BoatUS.com/forum. You can also post a question at the new Boat Group forums at www.BoatUS.com/boatgroups.
4. Once you have your eye on a particular boat and before you start negotiating, get a "Value Check" from the BoatU.S. Value Check service at www.BoatUS.com/buyer/valueform. Unlike "blue books," BoatU.S. can provide you with the actual recent prices BoatU.S. members paid for the same model.
5. If the used boat you have your eyes on could "talk" to you, what would it say? Find out by going to the online BoatU.S. Consumer Protection Database at www.BoatUS.com/consumerdatabase, or by calling 703-461-2856. It's the only source of consumer complaints and safety information reported by boat owners, the U.S. Coast Guard, manufacturers, marine surveyors and marine technicians.
6. Get a thorough, professional inspection from a marine surveyor who can point out a boat's hidden flaws or other items that may help you negotiate a better price or avoid a problem boat. You'll find a roster of surveyors at www.BoatUS.com/surveyors.
7. Need financing? Apply online for a boat loan or get U.S. Coast Guard documentation (sometimes needed for larger vessels) at www.BoatUS.com/boatloans. If you're not using a boat broker, BoatU.S. also offers a Settlement Service to help make the purchase process more secure at www.BoatUS.com/boatloans/service.
8. When researching insurance you can learn about BoatU.S. policy options and terms, its one-of-a-kind damage avoidance program or get a free online quote at www.BoatUS.com/insurance.