Buying A Boat That Needs A Little Work?

Fuel tank is far right of photo behind RED fuel filter. This engine room is a mess.

Buying A Boat That Needs A Little Work?

Buying a boat that just needs a little work can be an adventure all in and of itself. Or, to put it bluntly, it can be a fixer upper nightmare. So unless you are doing the work yourself and love a challenging project then don’t do it.

Or maybe you thoroughly understand the work to be done and have a budget to accomplish that work. Then a boat that needs a little work will be a joy to find and work on. We’ve met many experienced boat owners who know exactly what they are taking on with a fixer upper. They’ve lived through extensive projects and delays in otherwise promised completion dates and overruns on cost estimates. And despite knowing about all the headaches and potential surprises these experienced boat owners still are excited to get a deal on a project boat. Many of these boat owners are handy and skilled enough to do some of the projects to defray costs and decrease time in the boatyard. If this is your first boat or you are not handy and skilled in marine specific projects…don’t do it.

Don’t Do It!

Do not buy a boat that just needs a little work. There is no such animal. If you’ve already had the pleasure of owning a boat then you understand what we mean by this. And, in case you are thinking Captain Chris is not very encouraging here…well? There’s a reason, so keep reading and with a nod to Dr. Seuss, learn why we meant what we said and we said what we meant.

So, you may have thought we are all about supporting the new boater to DIY – Do It Yourself. And, you would be correct. We even have a class for that called Introduction to Boat Systems. But there are a few BIG steps you cannot just skip past if you are going to tackle a project boat. We don’t mean to imply that new boats are the best choice, nor are new boats always problem free. But a terrific deal on a used boat should at least raise some questions. In a nutshell: It is essential to identify all the symptoms in order to fully understand and address the actual problem. And if you don’t know what you don’t know then you can easily miss many symptoms. So how can you Do It Yourself and not get sucked into the fixer upper nightmare?

Understanding Boat Units – Money…

Let’s take a stab at understanding boat units. These units are often represented by time and money. Everything on a boat, marine tools, parts, equipment, is usually more expensive than any land use tools, parts, equipment. That’s the money part. And, don’t forget the labor costs if something turns out to be beyond your expertise. So, that terrific deal can start to lose its luster as you total up the estimates on repairs and upgrades. And be sure to get a few experienced and detailed estimates from marine professionals before you take an even bigger discount on the purchase price. Unless, you actually prefer to work on a project boat rather than cruise on it. Some of us are really into the projects so it’s a good thing to first understand where you get your joy.

…And Time

And now for the time part. Full disclosure: we really like being on boats so we learn to accommodate for the issue of boat time. Yes. We really like it despite what you will read to follow. We just want to be sure you are onboard- pun intended. Ask any dreamer and they’ll talk about island time on their boat. Ask any boat owner and they will tell you that everything takes longer to accomplish on a boat…even laundry and groceries. But that’s another story for another day.

So let’s get back to projects. Most equipment and parts are marine specific so you can’t just go to your local hardware or auto parts store for many items. Marine equipment likes marine quality bronze not brass. Prep time includes transporting supplies and tools down a dock and over water onto the boat. Oops! Splash….yup. Another trip to the marine supply store to buy another widget.

Now you are all set with everything you need on board. I have to get where and fit inside that? Or better described, you must remove this part and that part before you can start working on what you originally planned. You get the idea. Or maybe you are starting to get the idea. That one weekend project you planned may extend for the duration of your cruising season.


Still Interested in Buying A Boat That Needs A Little Work?

If you are interested in buying a boat, check everything. This includes the tanks, fuel, water and waste. If any of these tanks need to be replaced it can become a nightmare. Just how do you get the old tank out and the new tank in? Can not cut it up for removal because the new tank will not go in. Many times the engine or both engines must be removed to access the tanks, fuel, water or waste. When boats are built the tanks go in first, then the engines and finally the deck and cabin. That is why everything is so difficult to access 20 or 30 years later.

If you are still interested in a fixer upper think twice.

We have a 44 page pdf of “What to Expect from a Marine Survey”. This can prepare you in advance of even scheduling a survey. When you first go aboard be critical instead of being wowed. Search for some deficiencies in the shopping stage of boat buying. Of course we can help you with an online preview and summary which will point you in the direction of what to look for. And possibly, we can visit the boat before you even buy a plane ticket to see it yourself.

Look over these photographs and documents from a boat that had two fuel tanks replaced. Ouch! But it you KNOW what is ahead when buying a boat that needs a little work then you can decide if your deal will really bring you joy. Ask Captain Chris 772-205-1859