Hmm... didn't take long for this to become a steel v the others debate
As to the OP's original question, let me say:
Look hard, very hard, on the inside of the hull
for rust. Especially in the hard to see, hard to reach areas. Take a small (and medium sized) inspection
mirror on an extendable handle along with a good torch to really inspect those "hidden areas". The type aircraft inspectors use when looking for problems deep inside a wing or whatever.
The problem rust will only be in hard to find, hard to access areas. Rust found elsewhere is simply not a problem because if it is easily accessible, it is easily fixable.
Look to see it the internal furniture has been designed to be removed (piecemeal) or if it has to be seriously damaged to remove it because one day there will sure to be serious rust behind a "permanently fitted" interior
Amateur built boats are interesting in this aspect. IME, they really do fall into two distinct camps w.r.t. interior
fittings. Some interiors are just chucked in with no concern to latter maintenance
requirements behind them - at the best, they might put on another coat of paint
. Others go the n'th degree to ensure everything can be pulled apart (without damage) to ensure good access to the base steel. Professional interiors seem (again IME) to fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.
Look for anywhere inside the hull
can collect. This is water from above, not from below (ie bilge). Condensation
collects and runs downside the hull
, look for anywhere it might collect before it finds it's way to the bilge
. A well built steel boat has all
these points eliminated in the original build.
Look for boats with insulation
(removable) above the waterline. You sound like you are in QLD; if so, you will
appreciate insulated decks and cabins. I'm told that insulation
below the waterline in good in cold climes but I have no experience to back that up.
I know that after I added insulation (above the waterline) to my 30' steel Starfire (Boro?), life aboard in QLD was much better
FWIW, I have seem great examples of amateur build boats, far better than the average built professional boats, but these have been outnumbered by poorly built amateur boats. In fact, it could suggested that older built amateur boats are a safer bet than recent ones in so far as serious rust problems only so up with age. A poorly built old one will easily show it's true colours.
Summary: Steel boats rust from the inside out, not vice versa.
Lastly, remember the old advice about buying
wooden boats also applies to steel. Be wary if the boat has been recently repainted and be wary if the boat hasn't been recently repainted