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Old 27-10-2016, 07:22   #1
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Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Hi Everyone,
I'm looking to purchase my first cruiser. I'm extremely excited, and having a hard time containing my enthusiasm. I've been sailing my entire life, starting with dinghy sailing, eventually crewing on a J/105 for part of a season in the Chesapeake, crewing two seasons of beer can racing in San Francisco, and the occasional charter in the Caribbean and Europe.

I've been compiling listings from Yachtworld over the past month, and I wanted to make sure I'm asking the right questions.

I'm looking for boats in the 37' - 42' range, and around 30k - 60k Euro

From what I understand, most of the boats that fall into this range are production boats.

The questions below were specifically asked in regards to a Bavaria 390 Caribic, and whatever boat I end up with, I intend to cruise around the Med, and eventually cross the Atlantic.


General:
What is the history of the boat from 1st owner to current? How often was the boat used?
Has the boat ever had any major repairs?
Has the boat ever been run aground?
When the boat is not in use, how is it stored?
When was the last haul-out? How often has the boat been hauled out and inspected?

Interior:
What is the state of the soft items(i.e. cushions, curtains etc.) Will they need repairing?
What is the state of the floor? Are there scuff marks or wearing?
Do all the cabinets have working latches? Have any of the latches been replaced?
Do all the hatches close properly and completely?
Do the porthole lenses have any clouding/scratches?

Exterior:
Are there any osmotic blisters on the hull?
When was the last time that anti-fouling was applied? Which type and brand was used?
Is there any cracking of the fibreglass around hardware attachment points(mast, stays/shrouds, stanchions, etc.)
Is there any fibreglass delamination?
Are there any soft spots on the deck?
Has the standing and running rigging ever been replaced? If so, when?

Power Train:
Has the engine ever been taken in for non-routine maintenance?
Has the fuel tank been inspected and cleaned?
Have the fuel hoses ever been replaced?
Does the engine start every time, right away?
Have the risers/manifolds been checked for corrosion?
When was the last time oil and fuel filters were replaced?

Electrical:
How many and what capacity are the batteries?(split between system and starter batteries)
Have the batteries ever been replaced, and if so, with what type of battery?
Have any of the electrical systems been modified from stock? If so, what has been added or removed?

Equipment:
What sails will come with this boat? What year are they from?
What type of anchor is included? What size boat is it rated for?
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Old 27-10-2016, 07:44   #2
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Howdy Teddy.
I see this is your first post. Welcome aboard CF!

Your first post is a good one because it tells forum members something about you and it also contains some good content.
_______

I read over the questions you posted. What follows is written in a friendly tone of voice, and with the sole intent to help you.

While I am sure any potential buyer will want to know some of that, I doubt the answers you might receive from a typical broker or seller will answer them as well as your own eyeballs and inspection of the boat.

My advice/opinion: Simply concentrate on the MAJOR systems (Hull, Engine, Sails, Electrical) and leave the details (e.g. Latches on cabinets, soft cushions, when were rubber hoses and oil filters replaced, etc.) for the inspection of the boat.

Most larger boats are sold by boat brokers. Most of them have very little detailed information about the boats they sell.

In fact, with most I have dealt with, they knew little about the particular boat design, history, construction, materials, problems, or issues with sister boats. You can probably learn much of that information online by doing google searches of CF and other sources or owner forums. I will send you (or anyone who asks) a private message with my tips on how to search these forums for answers.

Most boat brokers are sales professionals focused on filtering out "tire kickers" for the boat owners. Just remember, the yacht broker's role is to SELL the boat for the owner.

So, having a long list of questions like this is probably going to put them off with the result that they may never reply to your inquiries.

IF you do deal with a boat OWNER directly, I think you should still just concentrate on the "big stuff" and leave the details about small stuff to your own inspection (eyes).

Personal opinions are just that, so asking some questions about condition to an owner (who has a vested interest in selling the boat) you will by definition be getting a very subjective answer. What to one appears "good" may appear to another "old, used, not good."

It is best to look to the survey by a competent, experienced, and honest professional surveyor.

Of course this is just one sailor's opinion, and I am sure by posting my opinion here you will get responses that may take a very different tack.

Good luck on your boat hunt. I am still searching for my future boat, so I know it can be exciting and also a matter of dealing with people (brokers, etc.) who may be hard to get information from at times.
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Old 27-10-2016, 07:52   #3
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Based on my own experience, I'd have zero expectation of receiving honest answers to your list of questions.

You could get the same results with just one question:
Is this a good boat, or is it a piece of junk with a bunch of hidden flaws that are going to cost me money and heartache?

With a long list, you're asking the owner/broker to lie many times. Using my one question method, the owner/broker only has to lie once. The result is essentially the same, but you save a lot of time.
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Old 27-10-2016, 08:15   #4
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

I've been hanging around sailboats for over 45-years and have owned a few, including the current one I am considering selling after 21-years and a lot of cruising miles. Thus, I've been doing a lot of thinking in the last few months about exactly the questions you ask.

I do think that most of your questions are reasonable and should be answered. I am not sure if you intend the questions to be answered before you travel to look at the boat, before you make an offer, or before you accept the boat.

The dealer/broker might not know the answer but the owner certainly should. If you asked me those questions about my boat I could easily provide you very detailed answers.

Regarding brokers lying - Ask OBJECTIVE/FACTUAL questions - where the answer is clearly stated and observed. Then, when you visit the boat you can compare the answer to what you see.

My approach is to ask NO questions and spend a lot of time examining the boat in person. I know boats and can verify most of your questions by a personal inspection. However, history of repairs, and engine maintenance is not always obvious. BUT - the broker/owner should be able to provide receipts and dates for important work. If not - find another boat.

If the broker or owner can not answer the questions - then I would be concerned about the boat's history and maintenance.

General:
If there have been many owners - the following might be a tough question for the current owner to answer
What is the history of the boat from 1st owner to current? How often was the boat used?
Has the boat ever had any major repairs? What is a major repair - is it determined by cost, system, danger to boat or occupants?
Has the boat ever been run aground? Every boat with any substantial usage has touched bottom. You want to know if there has been any damage resulting from grounding. Was it soft sand/mud, rocks, or what?
When the boat is not in use, how is it stored? What is important is HOW the boat was prepared for long term storage, where that storage occurred, and what temperature ranges did the boat experience during storage
When was the last haul-out? How often has the boat been hauled out and inspected? This should be an easy and obvious answer

Interior:
The following questions should all be easily answered by your visual inspection. Some of the answers are subjective so you want to see/feel for yourself. These questions should wait till you visit the boat
What is the state of the soft items(i.e. cushions, curtains etc.) Will they need repairing?
What is the state of the floor? Are there scuff marks or wearing?
Do all the cabinets have working latches? Have any of the latches been replaced?
Do all the hatches close properly and completely?
Do the porthole lenses have any clouding/scratches?

Exterior:
Are there any osmotic blisters on the hull? This would require a haulout so should be deferred to the survey
When was the last time that anti-fouling was applied? Which type and brand was used? should be easy to answer
Is there any cracking of the fibreglass around hardware attachment points(mast, stays/shrouds, stanchions, etc.) Another subjective question and you need to answer it yourself with a visual inspection
The following two questions are again survey issues and must be answered by an expert
Is there any fibreglass delamination?
Are there any soft spots on the deck?
Has the standing and running rigging ever been replaced? If so, when? When? should be an easy answer - what kind of standing rigging is important if it were replaced

Power Train:
These all should be easy answers and if not quickly answered should raise serious doubts about the maintenance history
Has the engine ever been taken in for non-routine maintenance?
Has the fuel tank been inspected and cleaned?
Have the fuel hoses ever been replaced?
Does the engine start every time, right away?
Have the risers/manifolds been checked for corrosion?
When was the last time oil and fuel filters were replaced?

Electrical:
These all should be easy answers and if not quickly answered should raise serious doubts about the maintenance history
How many and what capacity are the batteries?(split between system and starter batteries)
Have the batteries ever been replaced, and if so, with what type of battery?
Have any of the electrical systems been modified from stock? If so, what has been added or removed?

Equipment:
Sail condition is subjective but the detailed history should be easily provided
What sails will come with this boat? What year are they from?
The anchor status should be obvious but it is up to you to decide if the anchoring systems is adequate. This is a very subjective and contentious issue
What type of anchor is included? What size boat is it rated for?

A question you did not ask is about the status of the fuel and water tanks. Do they leak?
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Old 27-10-2016, 08:17   #5
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

My observation would be that a whole lot of your questions are ones that a second or third owner of the boat could not answer with any real certainty. I know what has happened while I have owned the boat, but I cannot be certain what happened before that. And given the size and price range you are looking at, I suspect that most of the boats you will be looking at will be onto their second or third owner at least.

In any case, good luck.
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Old 27-10-2016, 08:34   #6
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Thanks for the advice everyone. I guess the reason that I'm trying to get as much of a detailed picture of the boat at this point is because it is in a different country(I'm currently located in The Netherlands, and the boat is located in Croatia). Then again, I guess the cost of a few flights should be factored into my budget. I just don't want to show up and realize I've been catfished.

What is your threshold for making a long distance journey to check out a boat? Should I find a surveyor for the first inspection, or should I check myself before I bring in a third party?
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Old 27-10-2016, 08:43   #7
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by teddythetwig View Post
Thanks for the advice everyone. I guess the reason that I'm trying to get as much of a detailed picture of the boat at this point is because it is in a different country(I'm currently located in The Netherlands, and the boat is located in Croatia). Then again, I guess the cost of a few flights should be factored into my budget. I just don't want to show up and realize I've been catfished.

What is your threshold for making a long distance journey to check out a boat? Should I find a surveyor for the first inspection, or should I check myself before I bring in a third party?
You are getting some good advice from some of the more experienced members.

In the case of a need to travel to inspect a distant boat?

Here is an idea: CF has members all around the world. Make a post asking for assistance from a LOCAL CF member to visit that boat and have them do a visual inspection and video FOR YOU. PAY THEM to do so, and provide them with a list of what you want to see in videos and photos etc. That would save you time and money from long distance travel.
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Old 27-10-2016, 08:56   #8
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

I think everyone's threshold is different based on their resources, available time to travel, and how desirable the boat in question is. A close friend of mine, someone I race with, just bought a Farr 400 from Dubai, having paid for a surveyor from the US to travel to and inspect the boat. He wanted the boat, did not have time to go look at it himself, and that was that. Would I have done that? No &%#$*@! way.

That said, I think you would be well served, if you're looking at a mass-produced boat, to wait to find one closer to home.

The fact of the matter is that most boats don't live up to their listing. First of all, boats ALWAYS look better in photos than they upon an in-person inspection. Not mostly, not frequently. ALWAYS. And the delta can be shocking. Second, a listing may state that a boat has X equipment "in good condition", but that is a wildly subjective term. I've seen equipment that was poorly maintained and one step from death's door listed as in "good condition". It's a meaningless descriptor, and it points to the fact that there is so much wiggle room in what listing brokers can get away with that pretty much all of the listing information relevant to actual condition should be taken with a grain of salt.

Despite the fact that you're a lifelong sailor, there is a huge chasm between sailing a lot on other people's boats and owning your own boat, not in terms of sailing knowledge, but in terms of knowledge of boat systems, maintenance, etc.

You would be best served by looking at local listings and starting to visit/inspect those that you can easily get to. Look at a LOT of boats, even those that you don't think closely meet your requirements. You'll start to understand the difference between what is listed and what is actual, and you'll gain a mental inventory of the spectrum of poor maintenance all the way up to bristol condition. Ideally, as you start to zero in on a boat that you might actually purchase, you would be well served by being accompanied by a friend who is an experienced boat owner. They will see things that you will not simply because you don't know what to look for, even after being on all those prior boats you visited.

As you look at a lot of boats you'll start to get a better sense of two things. First, what you actually want and need in a boat. You'll see aspects of the boat you thought you wanted that are less than ideal, and aspects of other boats that are favorable that you were not aware of. Second, you'll get a much better sense of VALUE. Every single boat is different, even two boats of the same make and model. You need to have that database of value in your head or you can't make an educated, informed purchase decision.

And when it comes to having the boat surveyed, don't expect a lot. For my last boat I used a surveyor that was highly recommended on this board. If I had a nickel for everything he missed or just flat out got wrong I'd have...well a lot of nickels. They have a routine that they follow, which allows them to spend 5-8 hours inspecting a boat. In reality that is not a lot of time to inspect a boat and a LOT of things are going to fall through the cracks. Again, take a friend along who knows their way around boats, particularly electrical and mechanical stuff.

As an aside, your list of questions are good questions, but in many respects they don't get to deeper issues of condition. For example, it does not matter if the boat has a fresh coat of anti-fouling if it's got 15 layers of alligatored paint under it. It does not matter when the batteries were replaced...it matters what condition the current ones are in, in terms of current CA capacity compared to new, as just one easily procured measure.
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Old 27-10-2016, 09:01   #9
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

"Are there any osmotic blisters on the hull?" Follow this with "have there ever been?"
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Old 27-10-2016, 09:25   #10
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

My general advice, as some one who owned 5 boats in the past 12 or so years, is to keep your search closer to home. Where you are the season is shorter so the boat is more likely to be in better shape. Sort of like here in US Maine/Great Lakes boats vs. Florida ones. Also the cost of shuttling far away will eat into your budget and these costs better be applied to say a survey of a local boat. Not to mention the cost of transporting the boat to where you are, unless of course you plan to cruise the Med and keep her there.
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Old 27-10-2016, 09:25   #11
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Thanks for the response Suijin, you make some very reasonable points. I've just moved here(Amsterdam) and the groups boat owners and people I know don't have a very large intersection. Maybe I'll be able to find someone in The Netherlands on CF(Ik zal je natuurlijk een bierje kopen) to come join me when the time comes. I've owned a few composite & aluminum motorboats, but I'm not sure how much crossover there is beyond hull issues, so any help and advice is greatly appreciated.

Perhaps a Dutch member could also point me to a lot where I can get eyes on a lot of different boats?
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Old 27-10-2016, 09:44   #12
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

If your choice boat is a Bavaria in Croatia - the FIRST question I would ask is

Has it been in a charter fleet or otherwise used as a charter boat?

If so How Long and who maintained it?


Are you looking for a boat to sail in the North Sea or in the Adriatic/Med?

Where do you plan to moor/dock/store the boat?
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Old 27-10-2016, 13:46   #13
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

TacomaSailor, I've heard this advice around different forums online. I can only assume it's because they are generally not treated very well?

I'm looking to sail more tropical waters, starting in the Med and building confidence and miles until I feel comfortable making an Atlantic crossing. It really depends on the timing for me. My plan is to transition to living full-time on a boat by July 2017 and then seeing where life takes me. I see this as the initial planning stage for that transition.

I think my biggest danger is two-fold. Either picking a boat and moving on it too quickly, or being too cautious and waiting for ever to find the perfect boat. Realistically, I want something that will allow me to achieve the above goal. Gotta find the sweet spot.
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Old 27-10-2016, 14:20   #14
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by teddythetwig View Post
Hi Everyone,
I'm looking to purchase my first cruiser. I'm extremely excited, and having a hard time containing my enthusiasm. I've been sailing my entire life, starting with dinghy sailing, eventually crewing on a J/105 for part of a season in the Chesapeake, crewing two seasons of beer can racing in San Francisco, and the occasional charter in the Caribbean and Europe.

I've been compiling listings from Yachtworld over the past month, and I wanted to make sure I'm asking the right questions.

I'm looking for boats in the 37' - 42' range, and around 30k - 60k Euro

From what I understand, most of the boats that fall into this range are production boats.

The questions below were specifically asked in regards to a Bavaria 390 Caribic, and whatever boat I end up with, I intend to cruise around the Med, and eventually cross the Atlantic.


General:
What is the history of the boat from 1st owner to current? How often was the boat used?
Has the boat ever had any major repairs?
Has the boat ever been run aground?
When the boat is not in use, how is it stored?
When was the last haul-out? How often has the boat been hauled out and inspected?

Interior:
What is the state of the soft items(i.e. cushions, curtains etc.) Will they need repairing?
What is the state of the floor? Are there scuff marks or wearing?
Do all the cabinets have working latches? Have any of the latches been replaced?
Do all the hatches close properly and completely?
Do the porthole lenses have any clouding/scratches?

Exterior:
Are there any osmotic blisters on the hull?
When was the last time that anti-fouling was applied? Which type and brand was used?
Is there any cracking of the fibreglass around hardware attachment points(mast, stays/shrouds, stanchions, etc.)
Is there any fibreglass delamination?
Are there any soft spots on the deck?
Has the standing and running rigging ever been replaced? If so, when?

Power Train:
Has the engine ever been taken in for non-routine maintenance?
Has the fuel tank been inspected and cleaned?
Have the fuel hoses ever been replaced?
Does the engine start every time, right away?
Have the risers/manifolds been checked for corrosion?
When was the last time oil and fuel filters were replaced?

Electrical:
How many and what capacity are the batteries?(split between system and starter batteries)
Have the batteries ever been replaced, and if so, with what type of battery?
Have any of the electrical systems been modified from stock? If so, what has been added or removed?

Equipment:
What sails will come with this boat? What year are they from?
What type of anchor is included? What size boat is it rated for?
Some good questions here but i think you need to ask for a full inventory and as many Photos of a boat as possible from there you can decide if the boat is worth following up on then ask gently for some history of the boat if known.
In my case i stopped at this and visited the marina a day before i was to meet the broker and asked around at the boat , surprising what people will tell you about a boat, the dingles it has had, the poor maintenance, the boat has not been moved in a year ,they just cleaned all the mould out of it yesterday etc,etc
if you get caught out (i did i just told them i got the dates mixed up had my date on my watch set 1 day out) and thought i would just wander around and get some info, you normally need to ask at the marina office to get inside but when you tell them you are here to inspect a boat, they will also give you a rundown on the boat and are most helpful. Just my thoughts as brokers are not going to give you negative feedback normally. You will also get more info from a broker when you give him a date you wish to inspect as they have lots of tyre kickers wasting their time.
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Old 27-10-2016, 14:31   #15
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Re: Questions to ask when purchasing a used boat

teddythetwig said: "I think my biggest danger is two-fold. Either picking a boat and moving on it too quickly, or being too cautious and waiting for ever to find the perfect boat. Realistically, I want something that will allow me to achieve the above goal. Gotta find the sweet spot."

I don't think there is any danger in the first choice.

It sounds like you know quite a bit about sailing and have some good experience. What you now need is the experience of owning a boat and being responsible for it year round. Buy a boat that makes you happy and fulfills your current and expected requirements.

If the boat is initially too much for you then hire some help or guidance. Or, talk more experienced sailors/owners into going out with you for sailing trips and for helping do boat maintenance and upgrades.

I know I have done some two and four week cruises with new owners who wanted an experienced hand along. I got to cruise on a different kind of boat and see areas that I might not have otherwise visited.

I also have helped several new owners through the first year or so of boat ownership.

Some of us really enjoy being around boats and are glad to help others experience the joy we feel. Never be afraid to ask for help - many boaters, especially long term or long distance cruisers are eager, some times overly so, to help others with less experience.

The 2nd danger is real - we all have a finite time here and I have always felt it my duty to get on with the really fun and important things in life. I have made 69-years with the attitude that it is better to do what you want today than put it off for a more convenient or more appropriate time in the future.

If you are willing to accept the long term consequences of leading the life you wish, rather than a life society prescribes, then I feel it best to get on with what you think important.

I owned my business for many years and the during the months that I worked I made, and saved, a good amount of money. But, I dedicated three months every summer to sailing and windsurfing, and a month in the winter to sailboarding in warm climates.

It was far more important to me that I sail while younger and healthy than to become a millionaire software mogul. I retired at age 52 in order to sail full time. Many of my clients thought I was foolish - I thought I would enjoy my life with more sailing and less money.
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