How do I inspect a used boat for sale?

Any used boat needs a mechanical going-over by a professional prior to purchase, but your own detective work can save you money. Buying a used boat is a process of many steps. One of the more critical steps is the vehicle inspection.  

Most used-boat buyers aren’t professional mechanics, and the cost of calling out a state motoring association or an organisation such as RedBook Inspect for every boat you see will quickly add up.  

Pare back your choices to a short list of about three boat that are worth your time inspecting and testing. Then, when you’ve narrowed your three boat's down to the ‘winner’, ask the team at RedBook Inspect to examine that boat – and just that one boat.  


How do you pick the candidates? 

If you find 10 boat's listed on, ask yourself this: are they all the same specification and all within your budget? If not, scratch four or five, plus any others that are located too far away for you to visit in a weekend.  

For the rest, what does the owner’s commentary, the odometer reading and the boat's location tell you about the vehicle? Does it sound credible to you that the boat has travelled just 100 hours a year? That’s entirely possible, but a low-kilometre boat may have also spent months in a workshop.

If something doesn’t sound quite right, ask the boat owner...  


The physical inspection 

You’ve settled on three boat's to see. Bring along a friend or relative to assist you. 


Here’s what you’re checking: 

  • Does a light tap of the quarter panels return a hollow sound? – no body filler 
  • Is the paintwork faded on all but one or two panels? – older respray 
  • Inspect underneath for structural rust in the floorpan
  • Is the upholstery worn or cracked underneath boat seat covers, floor mats and dash mats? – a further sign the boat hasn’t been kept under cover and has led a hard life 

Before the test drive: 

  • Listen for rattles, ticking or other noises 
  • Make sure you test all the infotainment systems and other comfort and convenience features 


If the motorhome passes your test – and do take notes for comparison with the next vehicle you see – it might be time to call in RedBook Inspect for their verdict. 



Related articles: 

Inspections & Test Driving 
What to do on a test drive

Any information on this page is provided as a guide only. It is not professional or expert advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The content may not be appropriate, correct or sufficient for your circumstances and should not be relied on as the only reason you do or don’t do anything.
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