Buying A New vs. Used Boat

Buy new or used? Both are worth considering when boat shopping—especially for first-time buyers. Of course, everyone wants a new boat. Even if your budget favors new, though, there are good reasons to consider pre-owned.

Being the first owner and reaping the benefits of the latest features and accessories are obvious checkmarks in favor of a new boat. On the flip side, if you’re new to boating, you can spend less, test the water and then trade up from a pre-owned boat.

See, “used” is not the ugly four-letter word it once was for boaters. Newer models are generally better built to last longer. Improved composite materials, quality construction processes and low-maintenance engines are reasons why.

If you’re still skeptical of owning someone else’s boat, we’re here to quell those negative vibes with some surprising statistics. New power boat sales soared to a 10-year high of 262,000 in 2017. By staggering comparison, 988,000 used boats were sold in the same year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). Pre-owned boats even remained the front-runner when divided into each different category of vessels.

So, is new for you? Or is pre-owned more your style? Let us help guide you toward the right decision. 


The latest design
The most popular models of automobiles undergo redesigns or upgrades on average of about five years. It takes that long to complete the research, design and testing before a new model is done and ready to roll off the assembly line. The cycle is much shorter for boats, which can be updated each year with new features, accessory upgrades, restyling and more. If you missed out on that dream rig last year, it might be even more appealing if “now” is the time to buy.

The latest gadgets
Sure, electronic gadgets have short-lived lives before the next gen comes out. But, the new boat will be rigged with the latest gizmos, putting you ahead of the curve. Before taking delivery, you also have the option of upgrading those accessories to fit your needs even more.

This is the biggie. You reap the benefits of full warranty coverage. Better-built boats these days mean manufacturers have the confidence of providing warranties that, for some parts of the boat, last the lifetime of ownership. You have peace of mind and little to worry about over time.

Built your way
The boat business is booming with popular models in high demand. In fact, your dream boat might not even be available at the moment. No worries though, because manufacturers are staying busy building more boats. Ordering a boat from the factory means you can customize the dream rig to your specifications, from pin stripe and hull colors to accessories. The boat will arrive factory rigged and ready for the water.

The dealership where you buy your new boat can make the finance process a breeze. Boat dealers usually arrange financing through marine lenders. Having just one transaction for both the boat and the loan often makes this the easiest course. Above all, the dealer wants to make sure you enjoy trouble-free delivery of your new boat.

Peace of mind
There is no previous history to uncover because you are the first owner. You write the boat’s biography and if taken care of it will last for years. There are no worries about hidden problems appearing later on. 


Savings with a purpose
The number one advantage of buying a pre-owned boat is lower price. Get the best deal and reinvest the savings into your boat budget. You can later apply those savings toward upgrades, such as repowering with a new outboard.

Paid depreciation
Your dollars go further and that’s another reason to rejoice. The previous owner paid the 25 to 33 percent depreciation that hits new boats when they leave the dealership. Over time, the depreciation levels off.

Trading up
You found the perfect boat on the showroom floor that’s just too pricey at the time. Searching for a pre-owned like model with reasonable hours of use might be the next best option. Later on, when the price is right, you can trade up if the same model still calls your name.

More inventory
Continue the search if coming up short at the dealership. Remember, the statistics are in your favor. By a wide margin, more pre-owned boats are traded in than new models, giving you more boats from which to choose. 

No warranty? Maybe, but maybe not.
Warranties are usually past tense with pre-owned boats, which have age against them. But, that’s not always the case. Today’s new boat warranties last longer than in years past. Some are even transferrable to the second owner. That benefit can unfortunately be overlooked, because warranties are a selling point to lure owners of new boats. Read the fine print and inquire about the details of a warranty transfer.

More buying power
Depending on the condition of the boat and your budget, you can choose the type of sale to work in your favor. Pay cash, finance or trade-in. All are possible when negotiating the price of a pre-owned boat.

Buying tip
If pre-owned is for you, then buy from a trusted, reputable dealer with a strong track record for quality service and customer satisfaction. Finding all of those qualities under one roof can be more challenging than finding the right boat.

There is a shortcut that gets you on the water sooner with bonus peace of mind.  The NMMA administers the Marine Five Star Certification program, which is designed to improve the sales and service experience for customers. The NMMA’s research indicates that dealers who invest in this program—which is time-consuming and expensive for the dealer—tend to deliver a higher level of service than non-certified stores. So, make it a point to find a certified dealer you can trust.

Every Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center is a Marine Five Star Certified Dealer. What that means for the customer is a total commitment to providing the absolute highest level of customer service possible—from initial contact through years of ownership. In addition, certified sales consultants are extremely knowledgeable and product savvy, so they can help anyone find exactly what they need.


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