float me some advice on buying a boat
August 22, 2006 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of buying a used pontoon boat. Is there anything I should be aware of?

I've already heard "The two greatest days of boat ownership are the day you buy it, and the day you sell it", and "A boat is a hole in the water you pour money into", as well as "BOAT = Bet On Another Thousand".
A useful tip from a friend was "pack the trailer's wheel bearings before you drive it home". Another buddy suggested that I make sure I have a spare tire for the trailer...But what else should I look out for when looking the boat (and trailer) over?
posted by gnz2001 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total)
Having just bought one this summer, I can tell you that the engine is 2/3 the total cost of the boat. Make sure you have the motor checked out by a marine shop. If you have a $6000 boat, you can expect a $4000 engine.

That's for a pretty bare bones 'toon. One all decked out in leather and stereo will have a different ratio, but yeah, a good engine is Expensive.
posted by unixrat at 11:59 AM on August 22, 2006

definitely have a mechanic check out the engine. It may cost you $70 but it will save you 2/3s of the boat cost. Trust me, I bought a $3.5k boat last summer, ran it 3 times before I had to by a $2.5k engine. And that one just broke down on me this week. Luckily I've got a 6 month warranty on it, so hopefully it wont be much of a hassle to fix that.

In addition, check the electronics system (make sure everything works the way its supposed to), check the gauges (especially the fuel gauge), and check out the condition of the pontoons themselves.

I stand by the mechanic recommendation though, next time I buy a boat, that will be the 1st thing I do.
posted by ZackTM at 1:28 PM on August 22, 2006

Yepper on the motor. Very definitely the biggest cost. Good mechanics are worth every penny.

Also, wrt electronics, our boat developed a mysterious ability to blow the fuse when trimming the prop which was later found to be the result of a short "somewhere in the wiring system" when the wash came up upon throttling back. Unfortunately for us, the trim fuse was the same as the motor master fuse. Ack. A bad thing when you are out in the middle of the lake (and have no spare fuses- btw a squashed fishhook can double as a fuse...). Maybe something to remember when you are looking as some mfgs used this procedure to shave the cost of the motor to the boat mfg. Ours is a Mercury.

Also flip the seats, check for wood rot on the bottoms and in between the pontoons. Very rarely does someone flip the seats to dry them out, and it can be indicative of wood rot on the flooring.

Good luck. Tooners can be a lot of fun!
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2006

Pontoon boats are great.

The thing you need on these are a good engine, pontoons, and siderails. Everything else can be rebuilt. I just rehauled over the family pontoon and this was a very easy job, less than $1,000 and ended up with what looks like a brand new pontoon. This involves ripping everything off, laying down new marine plywood, adding new carpet, installing a new console and whatever else you feel is necessary.

Where I come from pontoon boats are the locals, big boats are the imports. The locals come out at night, BBQ, have fun, swim in the dusk warm water, and have a great time -- that's what we do. We cart around the lake at a slow speed, but we got all the time in the world.

As for the trailer, try to get a "sit on trailer" not a push up. Also, make sure you have spares. Last time we pulled our pontoon out of the tobacco barn it had two flats and we had to run on rims to the cow field. We had those spares, quickly switched out and were ready to go. A pontoon boat is also a moderate boat to pull on a F150 type vehicle, shift that thing out of overdrive and go into full pull mode, these are heavy boats and certainly intended to be launched and de-watered once a year.

When you take it out in the fall make sure you have a pressure washer, a friend, or a budget for one. We clean ours with evil chemicals and high pressure spray. The whole season algae and material is hard to get off.

These things are also pretty damn big to store in the winter. Make sure you have somewhere to stash this thing. Also, last said but most important -- a dock or slip is necessary for this sort of boat. It's not something you launch and receive, instead more meant for locals who do it in May and Oct.

Remember, these things are barges -- load it up with family, friends, and great cooking. You can even sleep on this thing. Fishing is possible with a moderate trolling motor and some chairs. Have fun, this is fun!
posted by sled at 6:52 PM on August 24, 2006

Also, thinking about the happiest days of owning a boat are the buy/sell days... This seems to relate to mostly to pleasure boats such as the V hulls, speed boats, etc, and of course bass boats. This involve a lot of launching and removal from the water, constant hauling the boat, a place for it to be, constant worry about decay of the carpet and the seating, etc. All this for your 4 to 10 weekends out on the water. Very often not worth it. A pontoon is a different animal, you launch it once, pull it out once, otherwise it's sitting there in the water when you need it and generally is not a problem. We have a lot of friends with pontoons that don't own trucks or trailers, simply borrow their friends and use a jack with concrete blocks. Also, a pontoon is going to be best for larger kids that are over the powerboat (skiing, tubing, wake boarding, etc phases of life). You're not getting a whole lot of that with this option (consider a used $3-4k jetski with some power for that if necessary - it's what we have). However, if you have a V hull type boat you'll need a 100% time trailer, a truck you can move this with, and all the time dedicated to such. Obviously, a pontoon boat is wonderful if you have waterfront or access proprety and a full time boat dock or slip. Otherwise, this sort of this will be a nightmare and something you'll probably be getitng rid of in soon.. I hope this helps. If you need more info give me a email and I'll give you my number for a call.. Best luck.
posted by sled at 7:14 PM on August 24, 2006

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