Getting ready to buy a houseboat? The nation’s largest recreational boating advocacy and services group, Boat Owner Association of The United States (BoatUS), has some must-do tips before you sign on the dotted line.
The Internet is your friend and foe: Of course it’s always good to research a boat you’re considering online, first. While the Internet is not always 100% accurate, you may learn about serious problems other owners have had. Check owners group chat boards or online boating, fishing or cruising discussion groups for the kind of boat you’re looking at. BoatUS has the only national consumer complaint database for boats as well, searchable by members. Also be aware of Internet scams if you’re buying online. Any whiff of something odd and you should proceed with caution.
Always get a professional marine survey: Surveys will uncover potential problem spots and can help with price negotiations. On a boat with expensive engines or generators, a separate engine survey could save huge headaches later. Make any purchase contingent on the survey. For a list of accredited surveyors, visit BoatUS.com/surveyors.
Take the boat on a sea trial: You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a drive, and you should treat buying a boat the same way. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 16- or 60-feet.
Give yourself some reasonable protections: Make sure that any deposit is 100% refundable if any contingencies such as a survey, financing or insurance are not met. Get it in writing. If there is a warranty or promise to fix something as part of the sale, get it in writing. Did we say get it in writing?
“Who am I talkin’ to?”: Before getting too serious about a boat, verify that the owner (or brokerage/consignor) has the title and registration on hand. Any liens will have to be paid before transferring title.
BoatUS has additional resources at BoatUS.com/guide, including a free buying guide and boat evaluation checklist. After being as prepared as you can be and signing that dotted line in good confidence, you'll be ready to let off a whoop of joy!