Boater Envy: New vs. Used

Deep down inside you really wish you could be shopping for a new boat. You want that sweet smell of styrene when you open a hatch. You want that VIP delivery experience. Well, don’t fret. Shopping for and buying a used boat has its benefits and they last a lot longer than the new-boat smell or the memory of taking delivery.

Take heed, used-boat buyer, because there are at least five reasons to be perfectly happy with your used boat purchase.

This was the price of a Grady-White 230 Fisherman at the New York Boat Show in 2011.  Whoever bought that boat new took the main depreciation -- and probably added lots of gear.

This was the price of a Grady-White 230 Fisherman at the New York Boat Show in 2011. Whoever bought that boat new took the main depreciation — and probably added lots of gear. Doug Logan photo.

Yours Costs Less

It’s no secret. Used boats cost less than new boats. A lot less. That’s what makes them so appealing. Less money out of pocket up front leaves more money for important things, like saving for retirement or your kids college education. Or more gas for boating vacations! A used boat gets you out on the water for less money, and there’s tremendous value in that.

Theirs Depreciates More

When you buy used, much of the depreciation already has taken place. The rule of thumb is that new boats depreciate 10 percent the first year and 6 to 8 percent every year thereafter. That may be the rule of thumb, but when I review used boat prices, it looks like more than 10 percent, but we’ll use that figure for our example.

Say you buy a boat that’s four years old. a good age to pick up a used model. The rule of thumb holds that the boat will be priced 28 percent to 34 percent below what it cost new. That’s a large loss that you don’t have to take on, all because you bought used.

Yours is the Same Model

Let’s go back to that four-year old model you just bought. Model cycles for boats are usually longer than four years — probably around five to six years — so if you can find a boat that a particular manufacturer still makes, you are out on the water in the same model as the guy who bought new. Provided you were particular and bought something that was clean and well maintained, you have essentially the same boat as the guy who bought new.

One of my earlier blog entries has a couple of instances of used boats for sale that are essentially the same as new models rolling out of the manufacturing plant today.

Yours Looks Just as Good

If you took your time and bought it right, the odds are pretty good that your boat will look just as good on the water as a new one. For a plan of attack, consider this blog I wrote earlier on the subject of finding a nice, clean, well-kept used boat. Once you put them in the water and get them out scurrying about on the lake or river, they all pretty much look the same anyway.

Nobody Knows the Difference

Can you see much of difference between a brand new Sea Ray and one that’s a few years old? How about a used Monterey, or a used Regal or Bryant? If you can, chances are you will find the differences are negligible, and that’s why it makes a lot of sense to consider a used boat — even if you can afford to buy new.



  1. pat says:

    If you are buying a new boat you had better be getting at least 25-30% discount off the retail price and even with that it’s not a good deal. The manufacturers need to find a way to build these boats than they are because they are way over priced. The Grady show add shown is a perfect example 97k show priced?, for a 23 Grady White, give me a break! Not that anyone wants it but when the next recession hits most of the boat manufacturers (who made it through the first one) wont survive and they only have themselves to blame.

  2. Michael says:

    Buying new or used it is always worth the time to have spare parts. If you have a corner in the garage or a shed to dedicate to spares, because we all know parts are going to wear or break. Find a suitable or similar boat at to get a good collection of parts from. Most cases the owner has bought a new boat and is ready the get the current boat out of their yard. With a little work you can have a good collection of spare hardware for the price of moving the old free boat.