Discovering Hidden Gems: Where to Find Old Boats for Sale Cheap

If you’re in the market for a boat but don’t want to break the bank, buying an old boat for sale cheap can be a great option. Old boats can offer a unique charm and character that newer models often lack. Plus, with the right knowledge and preparation, you can find a reliable and seaworthy vessel at a fraction of the cost. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of buying old boats for sale cheap, including where to find them, what to look out for, and how to negotiate for the price.

Understanding the Market for Old Boats

When it comes to buying an old boat, it’s important to have a good understanding of the market. Old boats can offer a great opportunity for boating enthusiasts to own a vessel at a more affordable price. However, you should be aware of certain factors before making a purchase.

1. Supply and Demand

One of the key factors that influence the market for old boats is the supply and demand dynamics. The availability of old boats can vary depending on the region and the time of year. In popular boating areas, the demand for older boats may be higher, resulting in higher prices. On the other hand, in less popular areas or during the off-season, you may find more options available at lower prices.

2. Age and Condition

The age and condition of the boat play a significant role in determining its price. Older boats generally tend to be cheaper, but they may require more maintenance and repairs. It’s important to carefully inspect the boat and assess its condition before making a purchase. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, leaks, or engine issues. Hire a professional marine surveyor to conduct a thorough inspection to ensure you’re aware of any potential issues before parting with your money.

3. Brand and Model

The brand and model of the boat can also impact its price. Some brands are known for their quality and durability, which can result in higher prices even for older boats. Research different brands and models to determine which ones are known for their reliability and value retention. This will potentially save you money in the long run.

4. Market Research

Before diving into the market for old boats, it’s essential to do your research. Browse online listings, visit boat brokers and dealerships, and attend used boat shows to get a sense of the prices and options available. Take note of the average prices for boats of similar age, condition, and features. This will give you a benchmark to compare prices and ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

5. Consider Your Needs

When buying an old boat, it’s important to consider your specific needs and preferences. Think about the type of boating you plan to do, the number of passengers you’ll typically have on board, and the features you require. This will help you narrow down your options and find a boat that suits your needs without overspending on unnecessary features.

Where to Find Old Boats for Sale Cheap

So, you’ve decided to buy an old boat and you’re on the lookout for affordable options. Luckily, there are several places where you can find old boats for sale at a reasonable price. Here are some of the best places to start your search:

1. Online Classifieds

Online classified websites, such as Craigslist and eBay, are great resources for finding old boats for sale. These platforms allow individuals to list their boats for sale, often at lower prices than you would find at a dealership or brokerage. You can search for boats in your local area or expand your search to include other regions if you’re willing to travel.

When browsing online classifieds, be sure to carefully read the descriptions and look at the provided photos. Ask the seller any questions you may have and request additional pictures if necessary. It’s also important to arrange a meeting with the seller to inspect the boat in person before making a purchase.

2. Boat Auctions

Boat auctions are another excellent option for finding old boats for sale cheap. These auctions often feature boats that have been repossessed or seized by law enforcement agencies. As a result, you can often find boats in good condition at a fraction of their original cost. Sites include:

National Liquidators

US Government Auctions

SCA Auctions

Bootveiling (Netherlands)

Salvage Reseller

Certified Sales Inc

Before attending a boat auction, it’s essential to do your research. Familiarise yourself with the auction process and set a budget for yourself. Take the time to inspect the boats before bidding and consider getting a professional survey done to assess their condition. Remember, while auctions can be a great way to find cheap boats, it’s important to exercise caution and not get caught up in the excitement of bidding.

3. Boat Yards and Marinas, and Back Yards!

There is many a fantastic boat lying languishing at the back of a boatyard, the victom of the death of the owner, or a couple’s dreams dashed with a divorce. Explore the boatyards and marinas around where you live and ask the yard manager about boats with outstanding debts; find out abaout legal ownership and see if the owner would be willing to sell.

To my mind, this is the absolute best way to find an old boat at a bargain price. Excepting, perhaps, that boat in the back of a neighbour’s yard that has been languishing for years.

Your best bets for yards with bargain boats are the destinations at the end of a long trip. Couples often set out from home in their dream vessel, only to find that they just aren’t cut out for long distance cruising, or that they just can’t leave their life back home. For example, people depart from Northern Europe for a life in the Mediterranean and don’t continue past Gibraltar; others cruise through the Med and stop at Greece, still others get to the Canaries, and others get to the Caribbean or even to the Pacific Islands. Gibraltar, Greece, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands are all good places to find old boats for sale cheap. The more remote the location, the greater the liklihood that you will find a bargain price on a great boat where the owners just don’t have the inclination to go any further with their project.

4. Boat Dealerships

While boat dealerships may not be the first place that comes to mind when looking for cheap old boats, they can still be worth checking out. Brokers and dealerships often have a range of used boats available, including older models that are more affordable. Additionally, dealerships may offer financing options and warranties, providing you with peace of mind when purchasing an old boat.

When visiting a dealership, be sure to communicate your budget and preferences to the salesperson. They can help you find a boat that fits your needs and price range. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price and ask for any available discounts or promotions.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Old Boat

When it comes to buying an old boat, there are several important factors that you need to consider. While the allure of a cheap price tag may be tempting, it’s crucial to make an informed decision to ensure that you’re getting a boat that meets your needs and won’t end up costing you more in the long run. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:

1. Condition of the Boat

The first and most important factor to consider is the condition of the boat. Since you’re looking at old boats for sale cheap, it’s likely that they will have some wear and tear. However, it’s essential to assess the extent of the repairs needed to bring it back to condition and determine if it’s something you’re willing to invest time and money into fixing. Look for signs of structural damage, such as cracks or rot, as well as any issues with the engine or electrical systems.

Pro Tip: Don’t get caught with your pants down, consider hiring a professional marine surveyor. They will thoroughly inspect the boat and provide you with a detailed report on its condition.

2. Purpose and Intended Use

Before purchasing an old boat, make sure it fits with your purposes and intended use. Are you looking for a boat for fishing, cruising, or water sports? The type of boat you choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors such as size, seating capacity, storage space, and the type of water you’ll be navigating.

Pro Tip: Research different boat types and models to find one that aligns with your intended use. Read reviews and seek advice from experienced boaters to ensure that you’re making the right choice.

3. Budget

While the main appeal of buying a cheap old boat is the price tag, it’s important to set a budget and stick to it. Consider not only the purchase price but also the potential costs of repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. It’s a good idea to have some extra funds set aside for unexpected expenses that may arise.

Pro Tip: When setting your budget, factor in ongoing costs such as fuel, insurance, storage, and mooring fees. These expenses can add up quickly, so it’s essential to be prepared.

4. Research and Documentation

Before making a purchase, do thorough research on the boat’s history and documentation. Check if there are any outstanding liens or legal issues associated with the boat. Obtain the boat’s registration and title documents to ensure that everything is in order.

Pro Tip: If possible, try to get a complete service history of the boat. This will give you an idea of how well it has been maintained and if any major repairs or upgrades have been done.

5. Test Drive and Inspection

Never buy an old boat without taking it for a test drive and conducting a thorough inspection. This will give you a firsthand experience of how the boat handles on the water and allows you to identify any potential issues. Pay attention to the engine’s performance, steering, and overall maneuverability.

Pro Tip: Bring along a knowledgeable friend or a professional boat mechanic to help you with your intial inspection. They may notice things that you might overlook.

Tips for Negotiating the Price of an Old Boat

When it comes to buying an old boat, negotiating the price is an essential skill to have. With some strategic tactics and a bit of research, you can potentially save a significant amount of money. Here are some tips to help you negotiate the price of an old boat:

  1. Do Your Research: Before entering into negotiations, it’s crucial to research the market value of the specific make and model of the old boat you’re interested in. Look at similar boats that have recently sold and compare their prices. This will give you a better understanding of what a fair price would be.
  2. Inspect the Boat Thoroughly: Take the time to thoroughly inspect the old boat for any issues or repairs that may be needed. This will give you leverage during negotiations, as you can point out any flaws that may affect the value of the boat. Use a checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything.
  3. Highlight Maintenance and Repair Costs: If you notice any maintenance or repair issues during your inspection, be sure to bring them up during negotiations. Estimate the cost of these repairs and factor them into your offer. This will give you a stronger position to negotiate a lower price.
  4. Be Prepared to Walk Away: One of the most powerful negotiation tactics is being willing to walk away if the seller is not willing to meet your desired price. This shows that you are serious about getting a good deal and can often lead to the seller reconsidering their offer.
  5. Use Comparable Sales as Leverage: If you’ve done your research and found similar boats that have sold for a lower price, use this information as leverage during negotiations. Show the seller that you have other options and are willing to go elsewhere if they don’t meet your price.
  6. Consider Timing: Timing can play a significant role in negotiating the price of an old boat. If the seller is motivated to sell quickly, they may be more willing to negotiate on the price. Keep an eye out for boats that have been on the market for a while or sellers who need to sell due to personal circumstances.
  7. Be Polite and Respectful: While negotiations can sometimes become tense, it’s important to remain polite and respectful throughout the process. Building a good rapport with the seller can increase the chances of them being more flexible with the price.
  8. Consider Additional Costs: When negotiating the price of an old boat, don’t forget to consider additional costs such as registration fees, taxes, and any necessary upgrades or modifications. These costs can add up, so factor them into your overall budget and negotiation strategy.

By following these tips, you’ll be better equipped to negotiate the price of an old boat and potentially save a significant amount of money. Remember to be patient and persistent, as negotiations can sometimes take time. Good luck with your boat purchase!

Common Issues to Look Out for in Old Boats

When buying an old boat, it’s important to be aware of the common issues that can arise to avoid any costly surprises down the line. Here are some common issues to keep in mind when considering an old boat:

1. Hull Damage

One of the most critical areas to inspect on an old boat is the hull. Look for any signs of cracks, blisters, or delamination. These issues can compromise the structural integrity of the boat and lead to water leakage. It’s essential to thoroughly inspect the hull both above and below the waterline. If you’re unsure about the condition of the hull, hire a professional surveyor to assess it.

2. Engine Problems

The engine is the heart of any boat, and it’s crucial to ensure it’s in good working condition. Check for any signs of oil leaks, corrosion, or unusual noises when the engine is running. It’s also important to verify the maintenance history of the engine and determine if it has been regularly serviced. If possible, take the boat for a sea trial to assess the engine’s performance under load.

3. Electrical System

Older boats are very likely to have outdated electrical systems, and ones that revios owners have spliced into to add or change components. This can pose safety hazards. Inspect the wiring for any signs of fraying, corrosion, or loose connections. Check that all electrical components, such as lights, pumps, and navigation equipment, are functioning properly. Upgrading the electrical system can be costly, so it’s important to factor this into your decision-making process.

4. Plumbing and Water Systems

Inspect the boat’s plumbing and water systems for any leaks, blockages, or signs of corrosion. Check the condition of the freshwater and wastewater tanks, as well as the pumps and hoses. It’s also important to ensure that the boat’s bilge pump is in good working order to prevent water accumulation in the hull.

5. Structural Integrity

Carefully inspect the boat’s deck, cabin, and other structural components for any signs of rot, decay, or damage. Look for soft spots on the deck, sagging cabin ceilings, or loose fittings. These issues can indicate underlying structural problems that may require extensive repairs.

6. Safety Equipment

Ensure that the boat is equipped with the necessary safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares, and a functioning VHF radio. Check the expiration dates on safety equipment and replace any outdated items. Safety should always be a top priority when boating, so it’s essential to have the proper equipment on board.

It’s a good idea to consult with a marine surveyor who can provide a professional assessment of the boat’s condition. Remember, investing in a thorough inspection upfront can save you from costly repairs and ensure that you enjoy your old boat for years to come.

Maintenance and Repair Considerations for Old Boats

Older boats can require some extra care to keep them in top shape. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining and repairing old boats.

1. Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are crucial for identifying any potential issues with your old boat. It’s recommended to inspect your boat at least once a year, or more frequently if you use it frequently or in harsh conditions. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, leaks, or loose fittings. Pay close attention to the hull, engine, electrical systems, and plumbing.

2. Proper Cleaning and Maintenance

Keeping your old boat clean and well-maintained is essential for its longevity. Regularly wash the exterior of the boat with mild soap and water to remove dirt, salt, and grime. Use appropriate cleaners for different surfaces, such as fiberglass, wood, or metal. Don’t forget to clean the interior as well, including upholstery, carpets, and storage compartments.

In addition to cleaning, make sure to perform routine maintenance tasks, such as oil changes, filter replacements, and lubrication. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance schedules and procedures. Regularly check and maintain the boat’s battery, electrical connections, and plumbing systems.

3. Addressing Small Issues Promptly

When it comes to old boats, small issues can quickly escalate into major problems if left unattended. It’s important to address any minor issues as soon as they arise. This includes fixing small leaks, replacing worn-out parts, and repairing cosmetic damage. By addressing these issues promptly, you can prevent them from becoming more costly and time-consuming repairs down the line.

4. Finding Reliable Repair Services

While some maintenance tasks can be done by boat owners themselves, there will be times when professional repair services are needed. It’s essential to find reliable and experienced professionals who specialize in working with old boats. Ask for recommendations from fellow boat owners or consult online forums and directories for reputable repair services in your area.

5. Budgeting for Repairs

When purchasing an old boat, it’s important to budget for repairs and maintenance costs. While older boats may have a lower initial price tag, they may require more frequent repairs and replacements. Set aside a portion of your budget specifically for boat repairs and maintenance to ensure you can keep your boat in good condition.

6. Upgrading and Modernising

Old boats often have outdated features and technology. Consider upgrading and modernizing certain aspects of your boat to improve its performance, safety, and comfort. This could include installing new navigation systems, upgrading the engine, or replacing outdated electrical components. Consult with professionals to determine the best upgrades for your specific boat.

By following these maintenance and repair considerations, you can ensure that your old boat remains in good condition and provides you with many enjoyable years on the water.

Financing Options for Buying Old Boats

There are several financing options available to help you make your dream of owning an old boat a reality:

1. Personal Savings

One of the simplest and most straightforward ways to finance the purchase of an old boat is to use your personal savings. If you have been diligently saving money over the years, this can be a great option as it allows you to avoid interest charges and monthly payments. However, it’s important to consider whether using your savings for a boat purchase is the best use of your funds and if you will still have enough for emergencies or other financial goals.

2. Bank Loans

If you don’t have enough savings to cover the cost of an old boat, you can consider taking out a bank loan. Many banks offer loans specifically for boat purchases, and the terms and interest rates can vary. It’s important to shop around and compare different loan options to find the best terms and rates for your situation. Keep in mind that you will need to have a good credit score and a stable income to qualify for a bank loan.

3. Marine Financing Companies

Another option to consider is working with a marine financing company. These companies specialise in providing loans for boat purchases and often have more flexible terms and rates compared to traditional banks. They understand the unique needs of boat buyers and can offer tailored financing solutions. It’s important to research and compare different marine financing companies to find the one that best suits your needs. Marine financing options are much more difficult to find for an old boat than a new one. Expect to provide a detailed, out of the water survey by an accredited professional.

4. Seller Financing

In some cases, the seller of the old boat may be willing to offer financing options. This can be a convenient option as it eliminates the need to go through a bank or financing company. However, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of the seller financing agreement and ensure that it aligns with your financial goals and capabilities.

5. Home Equity Loans

If you own a home, you may be able to use a home equity loan to finance the purchase of an old boat. A home equity loan allows you to borrow against the equity you have built in your home. This can be a cost-effective option as home equity loans often have lower interest rates compared to other types of loans. However, it’s important to consider the potential risks of using your home as collateral.

6. Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer lending platforms have gained popularity in recent years as an alternative financing option. These platforms connect borrowers directly with individual lenders, cutting out the traditional banking system. Peer-to-peer lending can be a viable option for financing an old boat, especially if you have a unique financial situation or have difficulty qualifying for a traditional loan.

Before deciding on a financing option, it’s important to carefully consider your financial situation, goals, and capabilities. Take the time to research and compare different options, and don’t hesitate to seek advice from financial professionals. By choosing the right financing option, you can make your dream of owning an old boat a reality without breaking the bank.

Insurance for Old Boats

Insurance provides financial protection in case of accidents, damage, or theft. Here are some key points to keep in mind when it comes to insuring your old boat, and do be aware that policies are more difficult to obtain for a boat over 20 years old. Again, you should expect to be asked for a detailed out of the water survey by an accredited marine professional.

1. Understand the Types of Boat Insurance

The two main types of boat insurance are:

Insurance TypeDescription
Hull InsuranceThis type of insurance covers physical damage to the boat itself, including collisions, storms, and vandalism.
Liability InsuranceLiability insurance protects you in case you cause damage to someone else’s property or injure someone while operating your boat.

It’s important to assess your needs and determine which type of insurance is most suitable for your old boat.

2. Shop Around for the Best Rates

Insurance rates can vary significantly depending on the provider, the age and condition of the boat, and your personal circumstances. You need to shop around and obtain quotes from multiple insurance companies to ensure you’re getting the best rates.

Consider reaching out to specialised marine insurance providers who have experience dealing with old boats. They may have better coverage options and rates tailored to your specific needs.

3. Evaluate Coverage Options

When comparing insurance policies, don’t just focus on the price. It’s essential to evaluate the coverage options and exclusions carefully. Look for policies that provide comprehensive coverage for your old boat, including protection against damage, theft, and liability.

Pay attention to any exclusions or limitations in the policy, such as navigational limits or requirements for safety equipment. Ensure that the policy aligns with your boating habits and needs.

4. Consider Additional Coverage

In addition to standard hull and liability insurance, there may be additional coverage options worth considering for your old boat. These may include:

  • Agreed Value Coverage: This coverage ensures that you receive the agreed-upon value of your boat in case of a total loss, rather than the actual cash value, which may be lower.
  • Uninsured Boater Coverage: This coverage protects you if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured boater.
  • Emergency Towing and Assistance: This coverage provides reimbursement for emergency towing, fuel delivery, and other assistance services.

Consider your specific needs and boating habits to determine if any additional coverage options are necessary for your old boat.

5. Review the Claims Process

Before finalising an insurance policy, review the claims process. Understand how to file a claim, what documentation is required, and the timeline for claim resolution. Look for insurance providers with a reputation for efficient and fair claims handling.

It’s also a good idea to read reviews and seek recommendations from other boat owners to ensure you choose an insurance company with a strong track record in customer service and swift settlement of claims.

Frequently Asked Questions about Buying Old Boats for Sale Cheap

1. Are old boats reliable?

Old boats can be reliable if they have been well-maintained and cared for by their previous owners. In many cases an older boat was built more robustly than a newer one. However, it’s important to thoroughly inspect the boat and have a professional survey done to identify any potential issues. Additionally, regular maintenance and proper care are crucial to ensure the continued reliability of an old boat.

2. How do I know if the price of an old boat is fair?

Determining the fair price of an old boat can be challenging, as it depends on various factors such as the boat’s age, condition, and market demand. Researching similar boats for sale and consulting with experts or boat dealers can help you gauge the fair market value. It’s also important to consider the boat’s maintenance history and any additional features or upgrades it may have.

3. Should I get a survey done before buying an old boat?

Yes, getting a professional survey done is highly recommended when buying an old boat. A surveyor will thoroughly inspect the boat’s structure, systems, and overall condition, providing you with a detailed report of any existing or potential issues. This information can help you make an informed decision and negotiate the price accordingly.

4. What should I look for during a boat inspection?

During a boat inspection, it’s important to check for any signs of damage, such as cracks, leaks, or rot. Inspect the hull, deck, and interior for any structural issues. Test the boat’s systems, including the engine, electrical components, and plumbing. Pay attention to the boat’s maintenance history and inquire about any previous repairs or upgrades.

5. Can I finance the purchase of an old boat?

Yes, there are financing options available for buying old boats. You can explore options such as marine loans or personal loans from banks or credit unions. It’s important to shop around for the best interest rates and terms that suit your financial situation. Keep in mind that lenders may have specific requirements and restrictions for financing older boats and you may not be able to find a lender who will accept the boat as security for your loan.

6. Do I need insurance for an old boat?

Yes, it’s highly recommended to have insurance for your old boat. Insurance can protect you financially in case of accidents, damage, theft, or liability issues. Shop around for boat insurance policies that provide adequate coverage for your specific needs. Consider factors such as the boat’s value, intended use, and location when choosing an insurance policy.

7. How much does it cost to maintain an old boat?

The cost of maintaining an old boat can vary depending on its size, type, and condition. Regular maintenance tasks such as cleaning, painting, and winterizing can be done by boat owners themselves, reducing costs. However, it’s important to budget for ongoing expenses such as fuel, oil changes, engine servicing, and repairs. It’s also recommended to set aside funds for unexpected repairs or upgrades.

8. Can I use an old boat for recreational activities?

Absolutely! Old boats can be used for a variety of recreational activities such as fishing, cruising, watersports, or simply enjoying time on the water. However, it’s important to ensure that the boat is suitable for your intended activities and has the necessary safety features. Always follow boating regulations and safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Samantha J Bartlett


Sam Bartlett is an IIMS Surveyor, a Commercial Skipper of sailing boats, and a boat owner for over 30 years. She lives in St Martin in the Caribbean and provides yacht surveys, skippering and marine consultancy throughout the Caribbean.

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