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5 Tips for Buying a Used Boat You Won’t Regret

March 8, 2018 in Articles, Fishing, Tips

used boat

This 1988 Astro Glass was our first used boat. We purchased it from a dealer in 2010 for $4500 and sold it in 2014 for $5500 to upgrade. It was a great investment.

As we rounded the bend into the wide open water, I eased the throttle forward on the 20-year-old fiberglass boat. We cruised quickly and smoothly across the flat water on our way to our favorite fishing hole. The whole family was enjoying the simple trill of a boat ride, and we were soon enjoying a warm summer evening catching a few fish and spending quality time together. In that moment, I proudly reflected on our decision to buy a used boat.

Since that first fiberglass boat, I have bought and sold several used boats, each one a small step up on the bigger, nicer, newer scale. By doing my research, being patient and using some basic negotiation tactics, I managed to sell each of those boats for more than what I paid for them. Now, I’m happy to share some lessons I learned along the way when it comes to buying a good used boat.

  1. Get the Family Involved

    used boat

    Kids don’t care about how new or modern the boat is. They just love to spend time on the water with you.

By getting input from the whole family, you can narrow down the type of boat you want to focus on. My family wanted a boat we could fish out of but also use for tubing or water skiing. It needed to be rated for at least 6 occupants, so we could fit lots of kids on board.

  1. Research

Picking the best style of boat can be the toughest decision. Take your time and choose a type of boat that will best meet your family’s expectations. The options seem endless: fiberglass or aluminum, bass boat, Deep-V full windshield, single console, double console, inboard, outboard or a tiller model. Once you hone in on the style you want, spend lots of time researching the different models available.

  1. Set a Budget

A good used boat can be found in everyone’s price range. One of my son’s friends recently found a small boat, motor and trailer for $500. With a little work to fix it up, he is now the captain of his own vessel. Of course, the more you can spend, the bigger and better quality you will find, but there is no need to spend an excessive amount. When calculating your budget, take into account the taxes, registration and any equipment needed, such as life vests, anchors, electronics and more.

used boat

Single console models like this provide ease of operation and lots of space to fish.

  1. Start the Search

Looking for your new, used boat has never been easier. Dealer webpages, Craigslist,, Facebook Market Place and even EBay are excellent resources. While I have purchased some excellent boats through Craigslist, I prefer to buy used boats from dealers when possible. Many dealers sell used boats at very reasonable prices because they would rather spend their time selling new inventory at a higher profit margin. Dealers also ensure the boat operates as it should or disclose problems before the sale. Many even offer short warranties.

  1. Prepare to Purchase

    used boat

    When well cared for, older outboard motors have lots of life left. Be sure to fully inspect the outboard and watch it run.

When you are ready to buy a boat, prepare yourself with as much information about the boat before looking at it. Many manufactures have old catalogs posted on their websites that provide specific details. Search similar models to see what prices they are selling for. Always take a buddy—ideally someone who knows something about boats. Having two sets of eyes on the inspection really helps. It also gives you someone to lean on during negotiations.

Thoroughly inspect the boat, systematically, bow to stern and bottom to top. Pay special attention to the bottom of the hull. Crawl under the boat and look for dents, scratches, gouges, loose rivets, cracked welds and signs of previous repair. Closely inspect the motor, lower unit, prop and skag as they are the most likely locations to have damage. Always insist on listening to the motor run. They make attachments for a garden hose, so the outboard motor can be run properly. If possible, ask to do a test run with the boat at a nearby lake or other body of water.

Go prepared to take the boat home that day. Nothing kills a deal faster than asking the seller to wait. If you are considerate of the seller’s schedule by being prepared to pay cash that day and take the boat home, the seller will be more inclined to accept a lower price. Be polite but make your first offer low. Point out defects and your tight budget as the reason for the low offer. Be willing to negotiate but also be willing to walk away; there are lots of boats out there, so wait for the right boat for a great low price. Take enough to cash to cover the amount you are willing to spend and no more. Once the price is set, ensure the title work is in proper order before making the payment.

used boat

Fishing and tubing are the most popular family boating activities.

Last summer, I took my 14-year-old daughter with me to look at a 2000 Lund Angler that a large dealer was selling. Her job was to find any dirt, filth or problems in the boat, while I inspected the hull, motor and trailer. She did a great job and found lots of things that were overlooked, which soon had the salesman rambling about how he had not taken the time to detail the boat because he was only selling it on consignment for someone who bought a new one. It was obvious to us that he was more interested in selling new boats and this older used boat. In the end, we scored a great boat at an unbelievably low price, basically, because we were willing to buy a dirty boat. A few hours of elbow grease in the driveway and we have a beautiful “new-to-us” boat. The next day, I took my daughter and her cousins tubing, and we went fishing that evening. The kids could care less about how old the boat is or if it has the newest gadgets; they just want to get on the water and have fun. With spring here, this could be the perfect time to promote yourself to Captain and buy a good used boat for the family.

Don’t forget to check out our article on 5 WORM TRICKS FOR BASS.

Written By Bob Barteck— IAFF Local 425 Alumni

Wet the line.

April 17, 2013 in Tips

USA Staff


When tying any knot always wet your line so as not to damage the line, like the Orvis Generation 3 Clear Intermediate Fly line pictured above. This will guarantee that the knot will maintain 100 percent strength.


Sharp Hooks

April 17, 2013 in Tips

USA Staff


Keep your hooks sharpened for best results and fewer lost fish. Use an inexpensive hook file or an electric hook sharpener to touch up edges and points on spinner and crankbaits and soft-bait hooks, like the Bass Pro Shops XPS .


Organized Tackle

April 17, 2013 in Tips

USA Staff


An organized tackle system, like the Plano Bill Dance 1234 tackle box pictured above, is the key to fishing success. Have the lures you plan to use readily available. Rods and reels are properly set up for the fishing you plan to do. Everything is prepared the day before your trip so when the time comes there’s nothing to do but fish!

The Fix It All

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


If there’s one item that every boater, angler and human needs, it’s duct tape. Keep a roll in the garage, the truck and especially the boat.  You can stop a hole in an aluminum boat, a plastic canoe, a pair of waders, and even form a comfortable cork handle on a bass rod after a puppy teethes on it. Just make sure the surface is dry before you roll the sticky stuff on.


Free of Fog

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


If you wear glasses, there is one thing you can count on in the outdoors—they will fog up. Fishing is equally frustrating, just try looking through misty glasses and a pair of fogged Polaroid clip-ons at the same time.

Well, there’s hope. All it takes are some simple household items like dishwashing liquid and a soft cotton cloth and you’re good to go.

Rinse your glasses in cold water. Take a liquid dishwashing detergent like Dawn, Joy or Palmolive and apply one to two drops on the front and back on your lenses. Grab a clean lens cloth or a very soft piece of cotton and polish until it’s streak free.  When you’re done, your glasses will be clean and won’t fog for five to six hours even in the most humid conditions.


Fly Rescue

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


If your flies or bucktail jigs are looking tired and tattered, you can bring them back to their fluffy past with 212 degrees of steam. Just fire up a pot of boiling water and grab an oven mitt and a pair of hemostats (pliers will also work). Hold the fly over the steam and you will be amazed at how the most matted, trashed fly will regain its shape and buoyancy.

Reel Rules

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


1. Don’t dunk your reel in lake water. Even clear lakes have sand and other particulate matter floating in the water.

2. Use an approved reel oil and grease and don’t use WD-40. It’s a beeswax-based lubricant that when heated will leave a very hard finish that’s brutal to remove.

3. Rinse your reels at the end of every day on the lake with tap or bottled water.

4. Less oil and grease is best. Jamming too much lubricant into a reel will just slow it down.

Vertical Fishing

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen

One deadly summer and fall bass technique is to helicopter a spinnerbait against vertical structures like tall trees, bluffs walls, and bridge pylons. Bounce the bait off the structure, open the bale and let it drop vertically while maintaining line control. Watch for the slightest hesitation in the line, and set the hook. You can fish miles of wall structure in lakes and rivers that many anglers pass.

Match the Egg Hatch

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


One of the best places to find big trout is where salmon are spawning. Trout or char will lay behind a spawning bed to voraciously consume eggs as they float by. With hundreds of salmon often representing four different species in a river at the same time, it can be tough to identify exactly what kind of eggs the trout are keying in on. Usually the trout will choose the largest egg. So find the largest species of salmon and target a female. When the fish is brought to the bank gently run your hand down her belly and check the color and size of the eggs.  Match your fly or bait, and you’ll be in rainbow land in just a couple of casts.


Change Your Line

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


The next time you pick up a reel, ask yourself; How long has that line been there? Line that has been used regularly should be changed every 60 days. If your reel has been sitting in the corner all season, you need to change it at least once a year.  Fluorescent lights, temperature changes, and dirt and humidity will all shorten the life of your line.

Turning Green

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


Seasickness will turn a fun day on a boat into a miserable day of chumming your lunch into the water. Here are a few tricks to help keep the dreaded green monster at bay. Stay in the fresh air while the boat is underway. Stay out of the cabin, and don’t stare at the floor. Skip lunch. Drink more fluids (water, not beer). Use the horizon as your visual reference and avoid the boat’s exhaust fumes. You can also try a “Sea Band” or call your doctor for a prescription before heading on a salmon trip in the Gulf of Alaska.

Match the Crawfish Hatch

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


Take the guesswork out of which color and size crawfish to use with this inventive trick the bass pros won’t share by using a simple South Bend Crawfish trap. Stop at the local 7-11 on the way to the lake, and buy the cheapest, fishiest cat food you can find.   Walk several yards down the bank from the boat ramp, because it‘s almost always a rocky shore, set the trap and leave it over night. In the morning, pull the trap and see the color to size of the local crawfish population, then match the baits and get to work.


Rejuvenate a Gore-Tex Rain Jacket

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


Over time, your jacket absorbs dirt and pollutants reducing its ability to shed water. The jacket then starts absorbing moisture, preventing it from breathing.  Although it may not leak, you’re left feeling clammy and armed with the knowledge that you spent $250 or more on a premium raincoat that now functions like a rubber slicker.

To restore the garment, wash your jacket thoroughly with Sport-Wash from Atsko (the Snow-Seal guys). Don’t wash it in Tide, Cheer or detergents for delicate fabrics.Other detergents leave significant amounts of residue that impede the performance of the jacket. Once it’s clean, (wash it twice, if necessary) throw it into the dryer as hot as the manufacturer’s care label recommends. When it emerges from the dryer your jacket should perform like new.; 800-845-2728


Spool Organizer

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


I used to let the extra spools that came with my new reels sit in the box unused. Now I take all the spare spools I can get my hands on and load them up with my favorite line and line sizes. Then I mark each spool with a Sharpie and store it in a plastic lure tray with dividers. This way fresh line of any size can slip on a reel in just seconds.


Stealth Fishing

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Peter B. Mathiesen


If you spend much time stream fishing, learn to move slow, stay in the shadows and wear drab colors. Staying out of the sun will keep smallmouth and trout at the end of your line.


Save Money by Making Your Own Chum

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Capt. Gary Morin, IAFF 146

ring_island_175x175Chum is an effective and proven method of bringing in game or bait fish, but anyone who has paid for chum knows how expensive it can get.  So don’t pay for it.  After each trip, most saltwater anglers have leftover bait like partially frozen mackerel, herring, dead sea worms, defrosted sea clams and shrimp. Instead of discarding it or giving it away, grind it up as chum, freeze it in a Ziploc bag or sealed container and use it for a future fishing trip.  Hand grinders can be purchased at most hardware stores, bait suppliers and online.  You can get a grinder designed for bait or a relatively inexpensive grinder for making sausage.  I have a bait freezer and save all my discarded bait during the season and grind it down at the end of the season. When the mackerel run starts in the spring, I am ready to go.

Captain Gary Morin is the owner of Rings Island Charters in Massachusetts and is proud to offer USA members $25 off any charter service.  Click HERE to learn more. 

Successful February Bass Fishing in the Southeast

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Jamie Olive, IAFF 4103

haulin_bassFebruary is generally still cold but the fishing starts to heat up as the water begins to warm. When water temperatures crawl into the high 40s and low 50s, look for Largemouth (the big females that are full of eggs) to be on rocky points and rip-rap walls where the sun baked rocks make the water even a little warmer. These bass can be tempted into biting a variety of lures.

Spinnerbaits work well, especially in stained to muddy water. One of my favorite lures this time of year is a red/orange 1/2 oz lipless crankbait such as Strike King red eye shad. Retrieve the lure very quickly parallel to the rocky structure. This allows the bait to remain in the strike zone for the entire retrieve and entice a reaction strike. Jigs, shaky heads, senkos and Shad Raps are good choices as well.

Keep in mind that different parts of the country are very different; Largemouth are spawning in Florida and iced out in Minnesota in February. These tips are typical for my area of the southeast from Virginia to Georgia.

Jamie Olive is the owner of Haulin’ Bass in central North Carolina and is proud to offer USA members a 10% discount on all fishing packages.  Click HERE to learn more.


Swim Baits For Giant Fall Muskies

April 17, 2013 in Tips

Bob McNally


Catching oversize muskies isn’t easy anywhere, by anyone. But if you’re going to do it, autumn is the time, as the big toothy predators are on the prowl chowing down for the coming winter.

Huge muskies are caught with many different style and action lures. But in recent years hand-made, meticulously hand-painted “swim baits” have scored high. Such baits perfectly imitate choice  muskie forage such as walleyes, perch, suckers and ciscos. Here are three hot ways to fish these remarkable lures for giant muskies.

1) Rock Reef Casting With Swim Baits – Noted Minnesota angler Ted Takasaki’s favorite late fall muskie tactic is casting “swim baits” over chunk-rock reefs as aquatic weeds die out. This is a weather-water transition period, and feeding muskies are looking for prey that has vacated weeds and headed to rocks for cover.

Ted prefers fishing rock reefs topping out 3 to 4 feet below the surface. He drifts with the wind, making long casts with the breeze. At times in blustery weather he uses a boat wind sock to slow his drift. Often a slow, tantalizing “swimming” bait retrieve triggers big fish best in unstable fall weather. But alternate swim bait retrieve tempos and speeds until fish strike.

A muskie crashing a big, fast-moving swim bait is a collision powerful enough to split the toe nails of some fishermen. And while big fish can hook themselves at the strike, it’s wise to make a hard solid hook set or two to drive big treble hooks home. Additionally, a powerful rod is needed to drive steel into a muskie maw. Most anglers use two-handed plug rods, most 6 to 7 feet line, with heavy braided line and top-quality steel leaders, snaps and swivels.

2) Inside Weed Edge Casting With Swim Baits – At times in muskieland, warm golden days of Indian summer occur, and that can be an outstanding opportunity to bust a big muskie, according to Chicago muskie ace Spence Petros. When air temperature rises well above water temperatures at such times, and while lake or river weed beds are still bright green in color, muskies commonly move to the “inside” edge of vegetation to chase forage fish. It’s a deadly set-up for casting lifelike swim baits that closely resemble perch, walleyes, suckers and other species.


Long casts that keep a lure right on a weed inside edge are good, with snappy, erratic retrieves often deadly.

As fall progresses, weed beds begin to die and turn brown. Some muskie men mistakenly give up fishing weed beds, and move toward other structures. This can be a huge mistake, says Spence, as muskies and their prey species seek the few remaining still-green weeds, where they can be concentrated and are comparatively easy to locate and catch.

3) “Snake” Trolling Two Swim Baits At Different Depths – No tactic works better at finding muskies and making them strike than trolling. And few lures are better for it than modern “swim baits.” But thoughtful trolling is required for best results.

Choice locations for trolling are food shelf areas where a drop-off edge is located – deep water on one side, shallower water on the other.

To troll drop-offs most effectively for muskies, use two lures: a shallow-running “swim bait” on the less deep side of a trolling boat, deeper-running lure on the opposite side. A swim bait with a diving lip can be used for depth work, or rigging a bullet-weight or dog-ear sinker ahead of the lure will take it down.

During trolling, maneuver a boat back-and-forth across the drop-off edge in a “snake” type boat system. This pulls lures through all areas of a structure where muskies may lurk looking for prey.


The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance website is designed to provide valuable articles about hunting, fishing and conservation for members of AFL-CIO affiliated labor unions and all sportsmen and sportswomen who appreciate hunting and fishing and want to preserve our outdoor heritage for future generations. If you would like your own story and experience from the outdoors to be considered for our website, please email us