Buying Private Sale

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What to be aware of when buying boats privately.

Buying a boat from a private seller can have an upside and with such a vast used boat market, it is a source not to be overlooked. But greater caution and consideration is required when compared with buying through an accredited boat broker or dealer.

Price is one of the biggest benefits to buying privately as it effectively cuts out any possible broker commission so the seller can offer a better price.

Private sellers are often keen to sell, presenting an ideal negotiating scenario for savvy buyers. If you have you organised a pre-approved boat loan through Easy Boat Loans, this will further enhance the situation as you will be in a great position to make a firm offer.

First-hand knowledge is another benefit of a private sale. A reliable and trustworthy seller can tell everything about their beloved vessel, information which can be invaluable in terms of handling, specific quirks and getting to know your new boat.

But every upside has a downside and there are few things that you should be well aware of when buying a used boat from a private seller.

Is The Price Right?

There are some people that just prefer to sell privately rather than list with a broker but as a privateer, how have they arrived at the price?

Most people love their boats! They hold many memories and emotional attachments and this can cloud anyone’s judgement when it comes to selling.

Ask if the boat has been professionally valued and compare pricing with similar boats via online sales sites or even have a chat with a friendly broker about what they think it the boat is worth.

Get The Facts

No matter if the seller is a friend, a mate from your marina or a total stranger, you should get as many facts and history on the boat from a trusted and independent sources.
The Personal Properties Security Register (PPSR) is a government service, which allows you to check if any money or security is owing on property, including boats.
You can access the service online at

As an extra or alternative, there are also other commercially run online services where you can purchase history reports on boats. Search ‘boat history reports’ to find these sources.
A history check should also reveal all the previous owners so you can get a fuller picture of the boat’s history. If it has changed hands multiple times in a relatively short time, it could be worth asking more questions as to why? You don’t want to be buying a lemon.

Repair Reports and Inspections

Your private seller may be an extremely trustworthy individual and have done their best to present the full description of the boat including all known repairs, renovations and present condition.

Ask for reports on all recent work done and check that the repairers were all licensed and approved by relevant bodies and the work meets the required official standards and certification.

It is always advisable to have a marine surveyor and/or a marine mechanic carry out as comprehensive an inspection of all aspects of the boat for you, prior to purchase. A full inspection should include hull as well as electrics, metalwork, body work and don’t forget the electronics and condition of all safety equipment.

Professionals have a better chance of revealing any issues, which may not have been known or identified by the seller.

If your private seller is also a bit of a DIY guy, a lot more investigation is required to ensure the work they have done has been carried out properly and meets Australian standards.

In particular, look for any accessories or extras which may have been fitted. You will need to check that all such works have been done correctly, especially in relation to metals, such as aluminium. Using dissimilar metals can cause very serious adverse reactions. Bubbles and blisters around rivets and screws is one of the adverse signs to watch out for.

If a boat has undergone a major renovation or restoration then you would be well advised to ask for full documentation of all work completed.

A professional report may also identify any work which needs to be done fairly soon. This can be a good tool for negotiating a better price, especially if that particular issue was not known by the seller.

Look for the Cover-Ups

Most sellers will have spruced up their boat ready for sale. So watch out for cover-ups disguised as repairs.

Has it been a cheap and easy patch up job or a proper repair of an ongoing problem?

What’s underneath that coat of paint or anti-fouling?

Has it been applied correctly?

Request written documentation, a guarantee and any warranties which may apply.

This documentation may also be of importance when arranging your Easy Boat Loan or your insurance.

If documentation is not available or for whatever reason you are not in a position to engage professionals for inspections and reports and you are still wishing to proceed with the purchase, this aspect could be a good tool for negotiating a better price. The savings could go some way to any future work which needs to be done.

Consumer Protection – Know Your Rights

Accredited brokers must operate within the fair trading and consumer laws and regulations governing their industry.
Private sellers may not be required to meet such stringent regulations.

These laws are usually state-based so you should check out the local requirements in your state or in the state of purchase so you know your rights, should the deal go pear-shaped.

Follow this Australian Government website link for links to individual state consumer protection authorities.

Listen for the Shark Alarm

Not an alarm to get out of the water, but the alarm to back away from the sale.

While the boating world is full of wonderful people, who are always ready to assist fellow boaties, there are also people of bad repute out to take advantage of buyers.

You don’t have the same resources to check the reputations and history of private boat sellers as you do with brokers.

Here’s a few tips for checking out a private seller:

Ask around: if the boat is at a marina, ask the other boat owners and business operators about the seller and the boat itself. If it is a trailer boat, find out which ramp the seller usually uses and ask some of the other users there if they know of the seller and the boat. Clubs and associations can also be a good source of information. The scuttlebutt could be invaluable.

If the boat and the seller have only recently arrived on the boat scene, use online resources to check them both out. Sometimes just putting a name into an online search engine can lead you to some very interesting information.

Your state consumer protection department may also have information on the seller.

Instinct! Sometimes trusting your instincts is the way to go. There are plenty of other used boats for sale through reputable private sellers and highly respected brokers.

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