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7 Red Flags to Avoid When Buying a Boat Online

7 Red Flags to Avoid When Buying a Boat Online

7 Red Flags to Avoid When Buying a Boat Online

You’ve decided to buy a boat, and you’re already dreaming about the joy rides and fishing trips you’ll embark on when the weather warms up. Before you begin your search, it’s important to be aware of boat scams and red flags that you might encounter from sellers online. With knowledge and awareness, you’ll be able to weed through suspicious listings and find the perfect boat for you. To help, Boatline is sharing seven red flags to avoid when looking for a boat to buy online.

1. The listing is missing important information.

If a center console or other boat listing doesn’t have a detailed description, interior and exterior photos, and a legitimate email or phone number where the seller can be reached, this is a red flag. The listing description is where the seller should answer any potential questions that might come up, such as manufacturer specs, how long they’ve owned the boat, if there was a previous owner, why they’re selling it, and if they’ve done any major work or renovations. It’s okay if every single question isn’t addressed, but the major details should be included. 

2. The seller doesn’t want to talk on the phone.

This is a huge red flag. If the seller claims to be living in another country, deployed with the military, or unable to speak on the phone for any reason at all, run in the opposite direction. Keep in mind that scammers will go to great lengths to avoid direct communication. Some additional signs that indicate a scam include poor grammar and punctuation, email addresses that look suspicious, and very specific and unusual demands for payment.

3. The seller resists a pre-purchase marine survey. 

Before buying a pontoon or other boat, it only makes sense to do a pre-purchase marine inspection to look for things like water damage, signs of corrosion or decay, and electrical problems. If the boat is in good shape, this step can help seal the deal and instill the buyer with confidence in the transaction. On the flip side, a bad inspection can give the buyer an opportunity to walk away. If the seller resists a pre-purchase marine survey for any reason, that’s a solid indicator that you should continue your search. The seller might try to entice you with a great price if you’re willing to skip the survey, but that’s likely not a gamble that will work in your favor.

4. The boat hasn’t been properly maintained.

Has the boat undergone routine oil changes and maintenance? Has the hull been washed and waxed regularly? Is the upholstery clean and dry, or does it show signs of mildew? How about the interior of the boat? Does it look clean and tidy, or is it cluttered and dirty? Both the interior and exterior of the vessel can give you a good idea of how well it’s been maintained over the years. If the boat you’re inspecting shows obvious signs of neglect, that’s a red flag.

5. Your request to test drive the boat is denied.

Similar to the pre-purchase marine survey, it makes sense to test drive a yacht or other boat before you hand over thousands of dollars. Driving the vessel yourself will allow you to run the motor through all of its paces, see how the boat handles, and check that all of the electronics work. If you aren’t local to the seller and are unable to travel for a test drive, consider hiring someone to test drive the boat for you. If the seller denies your test drive requests, that’s a red flag .

6. The boat has undergone major repairs.

Major repairs aren’t always cause for alarm. The primary concern with repair work is who assessed and fixed the damage as well as the quality of their work. If the seller is transparent about the boat’s history and the repairs were made properly, there’s no need to back out of the deal. However, if the seller tries to hide the boat’s accident history or the pre-purchase marine survey shows that damage wasn’t appropriately fixed, those are red flags. If you move forward with the deal, you may end up having to sink more money into the purchase to fix any outstanding issues that come with the boat.

7. The deal sounds too good to be true.

If the price is too low, or the boat comes with an amazing variety of free add-ons, the listing might just be too good to be true. Keep this in mind when browsing listings and searching for affordable deals. If you’re unfamiliar with boat prices and what’s normal, look at similar boat listings online to learn about going rates for the brand and models you prefer. If you spot the boat you want at a great price point and want to do some digging to see if it’s legitimate, be smart during the process, and hold off on providing payment until you’re certain it’s the real deal. 

 As you can tell, there are numerous red flags to look out for while searching for a boat to buy. However, staying informed and aware will help you navigate the buying journey with ease and find the perfect boat for you. If you’re ready to purchase the boat of your dreams, check out all of the new and used boats for sale on our nationwide marketplace at


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Shelby Ballou
Shelby Ballou

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Tips For Post-Ride Boat Maintenance

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