The biggest issue the OP has, and that I had myself, is being an Out of State buyer. Landlocked. You cannot be expected to spend thousands of dollars travelling around to 'tire kick' boats. And there is no way possible to get details of the ones for sale
except for over the phone
or through email
My boat shopping
experience was entirely frustrating because I actually had cash in hand, I had my shortlist of about 4 boats, I knew what condition and gear
was acceptable, and I knew what area's I wanted to buy the boat in, and yet with all that, I was consistantly Dismissed
as a 'tire kicker' because simply wasn't capable of showing up in person until I had more information.
I wasn't, and still wouldn't be, willing to go see a boat if the owner/seller is not willing to be helpful in every way possible. That's the rules I made after wasting about $2000 travelling for the purpose of getting some questions answered. Those rules served me well and I would suggest any person buying in the used market make it a point to let sellers know how obtuse they are being and that you are not doing them a 'favor' by trying to buy their boat from the them.
Tire kicking is a necessity for any potential buyer, how else do you find out what you want and what is acceptable? I understand visiting marina's and talking to other ownsers etc.. but what about condition? You must assess the condition in person and it usually only takes a few minutes of 'tire kicking' to decide if its worth pursing further or not... BUT when it requires taking a vacation
from work, hundreds of dollars in travel expenses, just to go tire kick a few boats, it's completely unreasonable to expect somebody to not require photos, discriptions, and discussion about the boat beforehand. And they still might take one look and walk away... these people are 'tire kickers' that may very well be SERIOUS buyers.
There's thousands of boats sitting on the market that I'm positive would have sold by now if the sellers would just take a few simple steps towards actively 'selling' their boat.
Private owners may have issues with being active sellers, at times, but that is not what I found when I was out there looking. Most people that were unhelpful/unresponsive, who insisted I come see the boat to get my questions answered, those were the people who consistently had things to HIDE. They had trashy, damaged boats where the listing photo
was 10 years old and they were asking 20 times the boats value. They won't give information over the phone
or online because they know the 'tire kickers' would never come out to see the boat if they knew the actual condition... It's the oldest trick in the book, get them in the door at all cost, THEN begin selling.
Thats all fine and good for private sellers, but the biggest problem I had were brokers who do the same thing! These people are getting paid to sell someones boat for them and yet they still treat potential buyers with contempt and practice these absurd tactics. Its a crying shame.
There are good boats sitting on these websites right now that have been there for at least 3 years since I started looking. Same boats, same brokers. boats I probably would have seriously considered had those people been even remotely helpful.
Ironically, I bought my boat from one of those unresponsive sellers
It had sat on craigslist for months at a ridiculously low price with no photos. They wouldn't respond to emails and the phone calls were always 'come see it and we'll talk'.
I had no intentions of going to see this boat, until I ended up just a few miles away looking at another boat and figured I might as well at least go see what the deal was... Turned out to be the deal of the century. Now if this seller would have sent me a few photos, it would have been the first boat on my list and he would have saved me about $1000 of travel expenses (that time around). Or more likely, he would have sold the boat the first week it was on the market instead of letting it sit for however long it took. It worked out good for me and him both, but it was still not the appropriate way to go about selling a boat IMO.