First check out these tips from Bubba Beck
If you're interested in buying a used ski boat, now is the time to do it. It is the end of the season and people are usually willing to cut their prices to avoid having to winterize, store and keep insurance on a boat all winter long. Plus, you will be less likely to let the call of peak season influence your decision.
Prepare by doing your homework and narrowing down what you want in a ski boat. If you know you want a 1990-95 Sport Nautique with tandem trailer, for example, you won't waste time looking at something that doesn't meet your needs.
Next, look up the value on the boat of interest as a starting point to get a feel for the price range. Look in both the NADA value guides (nadaguides.com) and the classifieds to get a good idea of the actual market value.
When you're ready to shop, bring along this checklist to help you inspect each boat thoroughly:
• Overall interior condition
• Carpet condition
• Fiberglass blister (cosmetic but expensive to fix)
• Tightness on the lag bolts from engine mounts
(Loose lag bolts mean stringer has started to rot)
• Engine oil (look for signs of water)
• Belts, hoses, leaks around engine
• Run engine and check engine temp, oil pressure, alternator
output, and for water pump leaks and any unusual engine
noise or excess smoke
• Running gear (shaft, strut and rudder)
• Lake-test the boat (check for excessive water coming into bilge)
If you like what you see and you're ready to talk price, start out with the magical phrase: “What do you have to have for it?” Remember, sometimes what the seller “has to have” is less than what you were going to offer.
• Title – A lower asking price doesn't make up for a title problem. It can be a nightmare to straighten out. Once the burden shifts to you, if you don't get a clear title, you cannot register the boat and thus cannot legally use it.
• Transmission Oil – It should look dark red. If it looks pinkish, like Pepto-Bismol, then there is water in the transmission.
• Rotting Stringers – Soft spots in the floor mean you have a floor that is rotting, and it may extend to the stringers. Note: Most ski boats built after 1992 solved this problem by going to all-fiberglass composite floors and stringers.