Should you ever buy a used yacht? This is how to do it

yachts-3Often when you see a gorgeous yacht, you may fall in love with it. It’s very easy to gloss over the inspection part and be lured into talking about its performance aspects. Really, you just want to buy your dream machine to get boating! Although water testing is definitely a crucial step in the buying process, we would also recommend a thorough sea-trial before you say yes to the deal and make the final payment. Before everything else, you need to follow these “on land” steps first!

In case you’re not sure on what to look for or what to ask for, we’re providing you a list of things you need to look for when inspecting a potential used boat.

1. Cracks can be concerning!

You should check for cracks in the gel coat above and immediately below the water line. Though boats may have a crack or two (often found where fittings are mounted and stress points). As gel coat is brittle and firberglass is flexible, not all cracks are a cause of concern. However, if you find multiple cracks in one area, or if they radiate in a pattern, it indicates impact or structural damage. Also, multiple cracks in the hull or transom of yacht could hint to de-lamination.

2. Osmosis is not your friend.

Its best to start by checking the hull condition as it is considered the “foundation” of your yacht. Often, osmotic blisters (pockets of moisture between fiberglass and gel coat layer) can be seen on the hull surface below the waterline. Overtime they may grow and may even pop as moisture collects there. Although moisture may not degrade the structure of the boat, it can reduce its resale value and may demand expensive repair at some time in the future.

3. Chips, scratches, old repairs can cause issues

Check the entire surface of the yacht, looking carefully for minor or major scratches, areas that have different texture or color or chunks of gel coat missing. Different texture or color may indicate an area of previous repair. These issues are common, and may not result in any usage issues (unless there is some exposed fiberglass below the waterline). However, they can surely cause some reduction in value.

4. Bellows are the key to floating

Bellows are “accordion type” rubber sleeves that allow various components to easily pass through yacht transom, but keep all water out. You will find them on I/O models only, and are visible with the drive all the way up, and the boat wheel turned to either side. You need to examine them for cracks. They should be pliable and soft, and there should not be any tears, cuts, or holes! If they look really bad, be cautious. A sunk yacht is definitely not the best way to start off the season!

5. Steering is a key to safety

One of the most expensive and dangerous issues with yacht can be a worn steering mechanism. Usually, the points of wear are in the mounting areas, or in the cables. The easiest thing to check for is the drive or outboard engine. Grab a hole of engine or drive and try to move it back and forth with some force. There should be limited slack or play. Any easy movement, while the steering wheel remains still, is definitely a major safety issue and is likely to be an expensive repair.

6. Keg and props should be damage free

Check the skew/ lower unit for missing chunks, and rough areas. Sometimes owners may mask the damage by cutting rough part of the skeg. You can compare the length to other unit. Also, the yacht propeller should be without bends or similar damage.

7. Fuel smell can tell

Remove the cap and check the smell emanating from the fuel tank. If it gives a bad odor, the fuel may be contaminated and/or old. If the tank is portable, you need to look for floating derby. Some marinas these days offer fuel testing to verify water/alcohol concentration.

8. Lubricant can hold clues

Check whether the lower unit lubricant is free of metallic fillings, has no water (otherwise it will appear milky), and smells “burnt”. The last condition only points to hazy pour maintenance practices, and first two indicate major issues.

9. Canvases keep the inside protected

Mooring/cockpit and birmi tops covers are vital for protection, but they can wear out over time. Check all the stitching, fasteners, and zippers. Now put the covers on, and again check for fit. The framing should seem solid and straight if equipped.

10. Start the engine

Start the engine of the yacht you’re considering buying. Does it vibrate, or make excessive nose? Too much oil or old gas are easily fixed during first tune up, but these symptoms also indicate bigger issues, such as low cylinder compression, requiring costly engine overhaul.

11. Corrosion is a killer

Most of the metal of yacht is subject to corrosive environment of salty moisture and sun. Look for excessive amount of white/grey chalky corrosion or streaks of brown/red on steel. Any abundance of these indicate that unit has seen salt water. Ask marina to run engine serial number to see where it was initially sold. It can give you some clues.

12. Upholstery can be TO clean!

Often boaters may clean vinyl upholstery with harsh chemical. This approach can remove various protectants that are added to the fabric during manufacturing stage to protect it against UV damage and mols. If it looks brilliantly clean, compliment the owner and ask what he or she uses to keep it looking that way. You need to avoid certain products.
13. Wires tell no lies

Lastly, check battery connections. They need to be free of corrosion and should be clean, tight and organized. Look for cuts, loose connections and frays. Take a close look under the dash for same issues. Verify the age of battery. Is the battery cracked, bulged, or sitting in liquid?

Once you’ve inspected everything, you need to decide if any of the deficiencies in the yacht you’ve uncovered are negotiating points, deal breakers, or ok to accept as is. You may like to consult an expert. Used yacht usually command higher value than new yacht, so be choosy and do not settle for a boat with poor condition. You’re paying good money and surely deserve a quality product!

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