Buying boats and the coronavirus

Thinking of shopping for a new boat? Here are the answers to some of the questions we’re being asked at boatsales HQ…

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus is widespread and rapidly evolving. And it’s tending to throw up more questions than answers. Here is an example of some of the questions we are being asked at regarding the impact of COVID-19 on buying a boat.

Australia's response to the growing pandemic is changing day by day, so make sure you keep checking back here to see how you are likely to be affected.

1. Are boat dealerships open for business?

Absolutely, just not as we know it. Various states and territories are starting to implement radical measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, such as asking businesses to close their doors to foot traffic, but online showrooms remain well and truly open.


There are, of course, tens of thousands of new and used boats for sale right now on that you can browse.

2. Does visiting a boatyard or showroom expose me to coronavirus?

It’s common sense to take precautions (more so if you are in an at-risk group) but there are no reasons why a visit to a boatyard or dealership should expose you to any more risk of contracting COVID-19 than a trip to the shops – and boat dealers still have stock on the ‘shelves’.

If you have any doubts, check with the dealership via telephone or email regarding the COVID-19 precautions it has taken. If you’re concerned about a long say away from home, perhaps ask for a fixed appointment time.

Remember too, that you can do most of your boat research and shopping online, from anywhere you happen to be, via

Read our independent expert new boat reviews or our used-boat buying guides for information.

Consider also that some brands have new boat configurators at their own websites. Here you can ‘build’ and price a boat to buy or just for fun if you feel that way inclined.

3. Is it still safe to test a boat?

With a few precautions, and as long as you’re not breaking any government-imposed restrictions, absolutely. The first step, though, is to check if local COVID-19 countermeasures will allow you to go out on a test drive, as things are changing every day.

If you can still go out on a sea trial, take a few precautions to ensure the boat is safe and clean before stepping on board.

  • Ask the boat dealer what measures they’ve already taken to minimise the risk of picking up the virus form a contact area, such as the wheel or throttle controls:
  • Consider cleaning the boat with an alcohol-based disinfectant or wipes before you drive it.
  • Ideally wear gloves while cleaning it and test the cleaner on an out-of-the-way area of the interior first. Avoid overly harsh cleaners such as bleach.
  • Touch-points you should target in the boat include the key fob, wheel, throttle controls, door handles and other places you’d normally touch such as knobs or controls.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson to avoid close contact during the sea trial. You’re not being rude, just observing the social distancing recommendations (do the same in the dealership).

4. Should I buy a boat sight-unseen?

Thanks to third-party inspection services such RedBook Inspect (RBI) and the protections offered by dealers under consumer law, this is very much an option.

The key is to do your research first. Make sure you look closely at the pictures that accompany the boatsales ad and if you need more, then ask the dealer.

Compare the market to make sure the price is in the ballpark and start negotiating… And if you’re serious, book an RBI inspection. Dealers may agree to refund the price of the inspection as part of the purchase if you are a serious buyer.

5. Will COVID-19 affect waiting lists and delivery times for new boats?

This is a hard question to answer. If you’re happy to buy a BMT (boat, motor and trailer) package off the showroom floor, a seaworthy used boat or something already on the water, it’s a definite yes.

However, if you want a custom build, the answer may be very different.

Alternatively, if you’re someone who can afford a larger luxury boat, manufacturers already have delivery lead times that could be up to a couple of years away.

Be careful if you’re buying an older boat with the idea that you can repower it with something shiny and new; outboard engine manufacturers have already announced temporary shutdowns overseas, which will have flow-on effects here.

Individual Australian states and territories are also introducing tougher measures that will more or less delay production across just about all manufacturing industries.

There is no shortage of new boats for sale at Australian dealerships, and in some cases, there is an embarrassment of riches. In other cases, there are waiting lists.

Any production delays will ultimately result in delayed delivery.

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