Skip to content

Checklist for Buying a Used Boat in Australia

A complete checklist of everything you need to consider when buying a second hand boat in Australia; from the inspection to the test drive, engine check, encumbrances and finance.

When you’re finally ready to buy your first (or any number) boat, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype. You take one look and instantly start picturing yourself cruising around your favourite spots and find yourself wondering if you can push the purchase through quick enough to use it on the next long weekend.

Like any big purchase it’s important to play it cool and make sure you don’t miss anything important like unexpected repair work or outstanding debts.

We’ve put together a complete checklist of things you should consider before making a purchase, so when you get out on the water you can do so with the peace of mind you made the right choice.

Used Boat Buying Checklist


It may seem a bit early to cover this first, but if you know what you’re looking for and you arrange a pre-approved loan, you can shop with the confidence of knowing exactly what you can afford. Also, when it comes to buying a used boat, you’ll be able to negotiate a better price from the standing that you can access the money on the day because it has already been approved.

But for now, let’s get back to shopping…


Hull Condition – Start with a walk around to ensure the hull is in good condition and free of any blisters, cracks or dry rot. Tap on the hull all the way around to make sure it’s solid and look out for mismatched paint, often a sign the boat has seen some damage.

Propeller – Inspect the prop for warping, cracks, or nicks, all of which can affect performance in the water.

Hours – In a used car you’d look at the kilometres on the dash, with a used boat you measure its use in hours. There should be an hour meter in with the dash gauges. Anything more than 500 hours will usually start needing some maintenance or upgrades.

Storage – Find out how the boat has been stored when not in use. Has it been kept outside at the marina, exposed to the sun, or looked after in protected dry storage?

Upholstery – Storage can be the determining factor here. Check all the upholstery for ripped seams, fading colour, mould (check the whole boat for mould), including the boat cover if there is one.

Engine – Give the engine a look over for any signs of cracks, leaks or corrosion. Check the spark arrestors and plugs, alternator, belts, hoses, strainer, blower, shift cables and engine alignment. Take a look at the oil to make sure it’s not cloudy or gritty.

The engine is pretty important so unless you have a lot of experience with boat engines it’s advisable to have a professional perform this check for you.

Maintenance – Always try to find out the maintenance history of the boat. You need to know if there have been any major repairs, what other work, additions or alterations have been done, and whether the boat is still under warranty. It’s also good to find out where the boat was taken for any repairs.

Extras – Consider the possible extras you can get thrown in. Whether you’re buying from a dealer or a private seller you can usually manage to get a depth finder and radio included. The anchor and life jackets (if serviceable) should also be included. If they’re going to be part of the sale, make sure they all work.

Trailer – If the boat comes with a trailer you’ll have to check it thoroughly and make sure it’s currently roadworthy.

Test Drive

It’s never a good idea to buy any vehicle without first taking it for a test drive. When you take it out, make a day of it and bring some friends or family along. Many eyes are more likely to spot problems if there are any, and you’ll see how it handles at maximum capacity. Also pay attention to the following;

Vibrations – This could mean a variety of problems, the worst of which being a bent propeller. It’s also noisy and annoying.

Trim – For an inboard/outboard boat you want to ensure the trim works and allows the motor to move between the down and angled positions.

Response – Test the steering from one direction to another for how long the boat takes to respond.

Planing – How long does it take the boat to plane after take-off?

Shifting – Does it slip smoothly into gear, or jump?

Reverse – You need to be able to reverse to dock sometimes, so make sure there are no problems with reversing.

Gauges & Instruments – make sure all gauges are responding properly while the boat is running.

Bilge – Whether it comes into use while you’re test driving or you need to run water in the engine hole to test it, make sure the bilge kicks in and that it runs properly.


Appraisal – Look up the price value range for the boat’s model and year. You don’t want to pay too much, but at the same time if the asking price is considerably low there may be some problems you should look into.

Encumbrances – Perform the necessary checks to ensure both the boat and trailer are free from any encumbrances (debt) and are not stolen.


If everything checks out and you haven’t done it already, now is the time to organise finance. We provide competitive marine finance options to help you get out on the water quicker.

For more information about boat loans, pre-approved loans or insurance options, call us on 1300 310 301 or simply apply online to get things started today.

Loyalty Loans offers a complete range of loans for everything from your everyday vehicle to your leisure vehicles and even equipment loans.
Contact Loyalty Loans today to get a free no-obligation quote for your next vehicle.
Find out more about your type of loan below.

Scroll To Top //