WEIGHING UP THE OPTIONS

So, you've decided it's time to finally get that boat you've been dreaming of and jump-in to the boating lifestyle. Should you buy new or used?

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There’s not a straightforward answer to the question of buying new or used, as each buyer has different requirements. There are pros and cons to both, so it’s worth considering these carefully before making a purchase.

Some people simply must have new things, whether a car, bike, home or any other of life’s possessions. For others, a good-quality used item can represent prudence and value.
 

NOTHING LIKE THAT ‘NEW’ SMELL

Just like a new car, a new boat smells new. While that’s a fairly superficial reason to buy a boat, there’s nothing quite like it.

More importantly than that is that when buying new, you have a choice of the latest designs, styles, features and gear. Everything works and there’s not a blemish on the boat.

Further, when ordering a new boat you get to choose, for the most part, what layout you want, the optional extras, upholstery colour and even the hull colour on some boats. You don’t have to adapt to someone else’s specification.

Of course, with new gear comes warranty. For many buyers, warranty is a key part of the decision. It’s fairly common knowledge that boats will occasionally break or have faults (like everything, sooner or later) and the peace of mind a warranty brings is a strong pull in favour of a new boat.

In managing a warranty process, a new boat dealer will invariably maintain a service relationship with buyers for many years. If they don’t offer this then it’s a good reason to look elsewhere.

New boats should work straight out of the wrapper – after the commissioning, testing and sea-trial phase is complete, you can cast-off and get straight down to some serious fun and relaxation. The maintenance should be routine and minimal.

Finally, when buying new, you will probably have a range of competitors from which to choose. This is the time to really get out and test the product as not all sales claims stack up.

There are many quality brands out there that don’t have a huge amount of differentiation and that means you, the buyer, have a strong negotiating position.
 

NOT ALL PLAIN SAILING

In light of the above, there are a few negatives to be aware of with new boats.

A new boat is usually more expensive than an equivalent used boat. There are always exceptions to the rule, especially given turbulent exchange rates when considering imported brands, but it’s true in most cases.

Also, unless you’re buying a stock boat from a dealer, you may have to wait for your boat to be built, shipped and delivered, meaning you can’t have it immediately. Having made the decision, are you prepared to wait?

In new boat buying you are usually required to place a deposit for the boat to secure the order with the factory. While this is not normally a problem if buying from a reputable dealer with a solid history, it can be a risk should anything befall the dealer or manufacturer. (It’s not entirely unheard of in boating circles.)

Depreciation is a significant part of a new boat purchase and, depending on the make, model and market, is usually at least 10 per cent in the first year.

Finally, when choosing a new boat you’ll want to get out and take a test drive or sail. But the exact boat you’re interested in is not always available – the test model may have a different engine or set-up, be a different weight based on specification or even be a slightly different size – so you may not get the ‘feel’ of exactly what you’re ordering.
 

NEW LOVE FOR PRE-LOVED

Used, pre-loved, brokerage, second hand… these are all terms for a boat that is not new.

A used boat can be anything from six months old to decades old. A used boat is often just right for many people and the brokerage market in Australia has a large range of craft to suit every boating desire.

So what are the pros of buying a used boat?

To start with, the boat is usually immediately available. You can physically climb onboard the boat you have in mind and know it’s the one you’ll get when you hand over the cash.

Used boats have also usually seen-through the largest portion of depreciation. Again, depending on make, model and market, used boat depreciation would be somewhere between three and four per cent after the first year or two for around the next 10 years or so.

When buying a used boat you also have the option to hire a marine surveyor to assess the vessel for its condition. It’s the buyer’s responsibility to organise and pay for this and most brokerage agreements will highlight responsibility and liability in the contract.

While it’s an option to get a surveyor, unless you are extremely experienced in marine vessel structure, build types and components, you are taking a serious misstep if you don’t hire a surveyor. It’s a small price to pay for what can be a sizeable investment.

The fact you will be able to look at the exact boat you’re buying means that any test drive or sail will be on the very boat you might eventually own.

If you’re in the market for a project then there are plenty of them out there – you can while your weekends away to your heart’s content, ‘doing up’ the boat that will become your pride and joy – can’t do that with a new one (ruins the warranty!).
 

ONE CAREFUL OWNER

There’s nothing worse than buying someone else’s problems – and that’s exactly what can happen when buying a used boat. Even with a good survey, there can often be hidden issues with the engine, structure, electronics, rigging or gear.

Most of the time when an issue comes up it’s an honest one and no-one either knew about it or could predict it was about to happen. A problem on a boat has to start somewhere and sometime. If it happens while you own the boat, then you pay for it.

Similarly, the gear that comes with the boat will not be the latest and, as with all things on a boat, will have a finite life. Whether electronics and instruments, the engine, sails or fixture and fittings, you’ll be replacing things sooner than you would be on a new vessel.

Used boats will invariably require more maintenance. It’s important with boats to work on the prevention-better-than-cure mantra. As they get older, there’s more prevention and the occasional cure. If you don’t work on the prevention, the resulting required cure will probably cost more overall.

It’s also possible that a used boat will have a somewhat murky history. If the boat is being sold by anyone other than its first owner, there is the possibility that something has happened to the boat that the current owner might not know about.

Finally, used boats generally don’t come with warranty or service support. Although used-boat buyers often try to pin an issue on brokers, it isn’t their problem. The brokerage may well have a service department but it’s more likely you will have to find your own mechanics and shipwrights as and when required.

Brokerage sales are not completely straightforward – it’s all about price, location and presentation. Well-maintained boats with full records should demand a higher price; location usually has a roll-on effect to presentation; boat maintenance that’s regular lends to better presentation and condition overall and has real value while minimising the cost of major repairs that will result from neglect.
 

EXCHANGE RATE

A final, all-encompassing consideration is the exchange rate. In boat pricing, this is impossible to ignore. Many boats are imported into Australia from various countries around the world – the price of dollars, euros, yen or whichever currency their country of origin uses will affect the market value of all boats, regardless of origin, new and used.
 

MY CHOICE FOR MY BOATING LIFE

If you love the shine, the (good) smell, the warranty and the latest gear, new is for you.

If you want your boat immediately with lower depreciation, lower financial risk and the reassurance of a marine survey, then take a look at the brokerage lists.