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Looking for a boat? Check the used market

October 26, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

New boat sticker prices for quality boats are very high. Because of that fact, good quality used boat prices are also at an all-time high with limited inventory available.

If you aren't prepared to plunk down $50,000 to $100,000 for a new 21-footer outfitted with the newest everything, including a GPS/Sounder/Underwater View/Plotter/Auto-feed Chummer feature that also doubles as a small dish and sandwich microwave, can receive NETFLIX, and still need a boat? The used market is your game!

Let the buyer beware. As with anything, bright and shiny is nice but often it's what is on the inside that counts. If you don't know boats, by all means when shopping take an educated friend or pay a professional for back up. That help alone could save you thousands and keep you from buying a floating lemon you won't be able to get rid of.

With many unprepared impatient folks with need-a-boat-now fever the old idiom - the best two days in a boater's life are the days he bought it and sold the darn thing - might apply.

Define what you need. Where will you spend the most time pursuing what type of fish? Flats? Deep, offshore waters? Will there be family involved or strictly a hard core angling machine? Trailered, docked and or kept on a lift? What's your budget?

Once you've come to terms with your needs and a realistic budget to make it happen, it's time to move ahead. Forget ads and dealers; go down to the docks on a busy Saturday and ask questions. Find guides/crabbers and ask them about their boat/motor choices and why. Narrow your choices down to two or more and start shopping. is a great place to start. Years ago I got a great deal on a creampuff 2006, garage-kept, 18-foot Action Craft with a 150 outboard and clean trailer with less than 200 hours on the motor. Looked like and ran like a new boat all for $20,000. It's still a creampuff and still has less than 400 hours on it. I'm pretty sure I might get close to what I originally paid for it if I wanted to sell it this season as the used boat market remains strong.

When finding a boat on the Internet, of course call and ask basic questions first. Ever been in the salt? Flushed after each use? How many hours on the motor? Etc. Trailer's condition? Clear, no-issues title? After that assume a lot of that info you've received might not be quite accurate but with an open mind arrange to see the boat.

If you pull up to the prearranged spot, check out the owners tow vehicle. Is it a rundown cluttered mess? Might give you a hint on how the owner maintains everything. Check out all working features on the boat for proper operation, especially electrical matters, pumps, lights, trim tabs, switches, gauges, electric anchoring devices, etc. Get under the boat and look for repairs, cracks, anything not quite right.

When you are convinced the boat looks and feels right for you, the next big hurdle is the motor check. Arrange with the owner to have it taken to a dealer or a mobile repair pro and have a basic check, especially a compression check on all cylinders and to verify the stated running time hours are accurate.

If the seller will not happily agree to a basic check (that you are willing to split or fully pay for), then politely return to your vehicle and continue your search elsewhere as something is fishy. It's not out of the question to split the cost of an inspection if you are a serious buyer dealing with a motivated seller.

Boat shopping for newbies (with Florida need-a-boat-now fever) without lots of research and or professional help is a sure way to long-term boat and wallet unhappiness.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or



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