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Help with first boat purchase

Old 07-07-2020, 09:58 AM
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Hello, hoping to get some advice on our first boat purchase. We live in southwest Florida gulf side. Plans would be using the boat in harbors, canals and in the ocean(never farther where we cannot see the shore). Would like some power/speed to it say 30-40mph. We had been considering jet skis but decided on a boat as the whole family can use it(mostly 2 adults, 1 child but sometimes up to 4 adults). My biggest concern is safety and reliability of the boat. I know all boats can have issues but I do wish to choose a more reputable brand. Sea Ray is one I have been seeing as being well known and loved. We are also hoping to keep this purchase under $6000.. expecting 1990s possibly early 2000s as anything newer has been out of our price range.


Seen a very nice condition 1998 sea ray 210 sundeck bowrider 5.0 220Hp. They were asking $9500. Definitely higher then hoped but from what I have seen(though cannot find to much) this seems like a decent price? Also seen a 1995 sea rayder f14 120hp but haven’t seen good things about it, $3000 asking price.


Looking for any advice on what we should look for, most important things to check when looking at a boat to purchase? We are buying from private sellers(not dealers). Doing as much research as we can right now before deciding anything. Any recommendations, things to watch for when looking at a boat, etc would be very helpful!
Old 07-07-2020, 11:09 AM
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Do a thread search. Many identical threads with this answered.
Old 07-07-2020, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
My biggest concern is safety and reliability of the boat.

We are also hoping to keep this purchase under $6000..
It's not impossible, but with that budget finding something super reliable will take some time.
Old 07-07-2020, 12:18 PM
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I agree that it will be very hard to find a reliable boat for $6000, especially right now. I've found boat prices to be very high in general. The 210 Sea Ray sounds like a nice option for what you're after. I think it'd make a nice first boat. You will definitely need a survey of the boat. It is easy to skip this step at this price point, but I can't stress how important it is.

Good luck with your search!
Old 07-07-2020, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
Hello, hoping to get some advice on our first boat purchase. We live in southwest Florida gulf side. Plans would be using the boat in harbors, canals and in the ocean(never farther where we cannot see the shore). Would like some power/speed to it say 30-40mph. We had been considering jet skis but decided on a boat as the whole family can use it(mostly 2 adults, 1 child but sometimes up to 4 adults). My biggest concern is safety and reliability of the boat. I know all boats can have issues but I do wish to choose a more reputable brand. Sea Ray is one I have been seeing as being well known and loved. We are also hoping to keep this purchase under $6000.. expecting 1990s possibly early 2000s as anything newer has been out of our price range.


Seen a very nice condition 1998 sea ray 210 sundeck bowrider 5.0 220Hp. They were asking $9500. Definitely higher then hoped but from what I have seen(though cannot find to much) this seems like a decent price? Also seen a 1995 sea rayder f14 120hp but haven’t seen good things about it, $3000 asking price.


Looking for any advice on what we should look for, most important things to check when looking at a boat to purchase? We are buying from private sellers(not dealers). Doing as much research as we can right now before deciding anything. Any recommendations, things to watch for when looking at a boat, etc would be very helpful!
At the age of boat you are looking at condition and how it's been maintained are far more important than the make. You should be able to find a wide variety of boats similar to that Sea Ray. Maxum, Glastron, Stingray, Four WInns, and even Bayliner would suit your purpose well if you like the boat and it's been maintained well.

The most important things to check in a boat that age are if the deck is carpet glued on wood or fiberglass. Fiberglass is great because it doesn't rot. My 1999 Glastron is all fiberglass. If it has a wood deck you need to check very carefully for soft spots or any other sign of rot. Also make sure the the transom is solid with no cracks. Since your going in salt water an outboard would be very desirable since saltwater is very hard on inboard/outboards. If you are looking at an I/O make sure you check exhaust manifolds and outdrive carefully for rust or corrosion and make sure you can do a sea trail to make sure it runs well and does not have overheating issues.
Old 07-07-2020, 12:53 PM
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I used to have an Inboard/outboard (I/O) boat. Never will again.
IMO outboards are easier to work on and seem to have people who will do the right service on them.
Time and time again, I find I/O owners around me not taking care of their boats. Especially not winterizing them. (we get freezing temps that you may not get down there).

Its just me but I would consider looking for an outboard boat. I know the idea of the engine sitting there up out of the water and in the way for watersports is a negative for many boat owners but I just prefer reliability.
Search on Pro/Con of Inboard/outboard (I/O) vs Outboard.

You did say you wanted reliability right? Start there,

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Old 07-07-2020, 03:24 PM
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I'll be painfully honest. If you are in Florida avoid Wine-N-Cheese type boats with I/Os and lots of upholstery/carpeting. They look good for a while and SWMBOs love them, but when sun and salt get to them they look really bad.

Don't bother arguing with my opinion, I don't post often.

Good luck!
Old 07-09-2020, 02:43 PM
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Thanks for all the advice! Looking up suggestions and will add some things to watch for when checking out a boat.

We are possibly seeing a boat on Saturday. 2001 Seado sportster LE for $4500. Seems we maybe able to get it for a little less(least 4k). Great price, pictures look great(I know this could always be misleading) but told its in fine working condition. Still need to research this boat more before then. It looks like a nice fun boat and a good size(4 adults).

Is it common for a buyer to request to see the boat in the water as a way to test drive it before buying? My husband thinks for the price that asking to see it running in the water is to much to ask.. I feel were still paying decent money and would prefer to see it in water first.
Old 07-09-2020, 03:01 PM
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Absolutely get a sea trial. Its customary to see the boat, make an offer (that is contingent on the sea trial) and leave a deposit, then have the seller meet you to put the boat in the water and try it out. If there is any mechanical or safety issue that arrises during the sea trial then you can back out of the purchase. Also, it is worthwhile to have a mechanic look over the boat before you buy as well to ensure that the engine and systems are working.
Old 07-09-2020, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
Thanks for all the advice! Looking up suggestions and will add some things to watch for when checking out a boat.

We are possibly seeing a boat on Saturday. 2001 Seado sportster LE for $4500. Seems we maybe able to get it for a little less(least 4k). Great price, pictures look great(I know this could always be misleading) but told its in fine working condition. Still need to research this boat more before then. It looks like a nice fun boat and a good size(4 adults).

Is it common for a buyer to request to see the boat in the water as a way to test drive it before buying? My husband thinks for the price that asking to see it running in the water is to much to ask.. I feel were still paying decent money and would prefer to see it in water first.
the boat that you are looking at is actual a large jet ski
I cannot be left in the water for too long and it is rough riding
Old 07-09-2020, 03:20 PM
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Take a look at Sea Fox boats. I know they don't have the greatest reputation on THT but my limited experience with them has been positive. I've rented a Sea Fox that I loved, and I jumped on a friends 2004 Sea Fox 197CC that he was selling. The boat and motor is honest and solid for its age. You can find something similar for $7000 or so, may be room to negotiate. With a lower end boat like Sea Fox, I'm sure maintenance has a lot to do with how it holds up, but I can say that I'm very impressed with the boat for the price. Cheap enough to get me out on the water and seems to be reliable enough. It's not at all flashy, and I should probably keep up on my Sea Tow membership. But even if it falls apart after a few years I won't feel too bad about it based on the price paid.

Old 07-09-2020, 03:30 PM
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Looking at an old $6,000 Sea Ray for near shore use in SW FL for your first boat?

I'll put $20 down that you're going to have nothing but problems, ground the thing multiple times when you decide to go out exploring, realize you don't want or need the cabin, and end up regreting your choice.

My recommendation is to spend 6 months reading THT and re-evaluate. I bet you and the family would be happier on a pontoon boat with newer motors and wiring and I'm not a pontoon kind of guy,

Last edited by On the Half Shell; 07-09-2020 at 03:38 PM.
Old 07-10-2020, 06:22 AM
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Great we will definitely do a sea trial before buying. Thanks for the info, we will pass on the seadoo. Nice looking fun boat but with a 9 month old we are not looking to be rough riding all day. We don’t need to be speeding around, looking for more casual relaxing ride with family. Would be nice to have the option in the future to do tubing or other water sports but not a must right now

Hoping to see these today if we can setup times:
1994 four winns 180 horizon 115Hp evinrude 2 stroke $2500 says runs great no issues but motor seized up, thinking we get it cheap, if everything looks good shape, worst case need new motor. Should still stay under our $6000 budget.

1988 sea squirt 16 35hp evinrude 2 stroke $5500, not sure what I can get them to go down to price wise but says negotiable. Small boat, saying great conditions runs well no issues. From what I have seen sea squirt boats seemed to be built fairly well. With this being so small, will taking it in the ocean be a problem? Wasn’t sure how well it will do or if it’s more meant for harbors and bays. Also not sure how many people can reasonably be on this boat. He says he took his wife and kids on it for sunset cruises and used for fishing.

Boats here are going so fast. We seen one listed 8 hours prior and already sold. Trying to jump to see them quickly and make a good decision before they’re gone. Any opinions of the above boats would be welcome.

UPDATE seen the four winns nice looking boat, fiberglass hull, transom sturdy no cracks. Motor possibly may need replaced. Thing is the trailer it sits on is rusted bad original to boat. RPM tachometer doesnt work. Said lowest he take is $2000. Love the boat itself, seems sturdy and plenty of seating.. Think it would be good for us but just concerns of the trailer and the motor. Could end up lot more into it then its worth. Finding used trailer is not easy it seems, rarely see them. New one guessing $1500 or so? New motor.. Not sure about that. Seen used motor $1500 but no idea if we can do it our self or have to take it somewhere(which will really raise the cost).

Last edited by Icemodeled; 07-10-2020 at 08:12 AM.
Old 07-10-2020, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
1988 sea squirt 16 35hp evinrude 2 stroke $5500, not sure what I can get them to go down to price wise but says negotiable. Small boat, saying great conditions runs well no issues. From what I have seen sea squirt boats seemed to be built fairly well. With this being so small, will taking it in the ocean be a problem? Wasn’t sure how well it will do or if it’s more meant for harbors and bays. Also not sure how many people can reasonably be on this boat. He says he took his wife and kids on it for sunset cruises and used for fishing.
For what it's worth, I see many people riding around inland waters of Jupiter with 16' boats. Or pretty much anywhere that's a no-wake zone. I was recently in the keys and saw two smaller boats around 16-17' in open ocean waters, the Atlantic side, but it did look like the waves were pounding on the boat. Waters are much calmer on the gulf side, right? I really want to get out there!
Old 07-10-2020, 08:53 AM
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a 6000 boat needs 4000 worth of work. This time last year there were lots of boats you could have got cheap, but with covid no longer a reality.
Old 07-10-2020, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
1994 four winns 180 horizon 115Hp evinrude 2 stroke $2500 says runs great no issues but motor seized up, thinking we get it cheap, if everything looks good shape, worst case need new motor. Should still stay under our $6000 budget.


UPDATE seen the four winns nice looking boat, fiberglass hull, transom sturdy no cracks. Motor possibly may need replaced. Thing is the trailer it sits on is rusted bad original to boat. RPM tachometer doesnt work. Said lowest he take is $2000. Love the boat itself, seems sturdy and plenty of seating.. Think it would be good for us but just concerns of the trailer and the motor. Could end up lot more into it then its worth. Finding used trailer is not easy it seems, rarely see them. New one guessing $1500 or so? New motor.. Not sure about that. Seen used motor $1500 but no idea if we can do it our self or have to take it somewhere(which will really raise the cost).
First thing I think of when I read "runs great no issues but motor seized up" is that there is an obvious integrity issue with the seller. So which is it... does it run great or is the motor seized up? Can't be both... not physically possible.

Now that you've seen it....

Do you really think that for $4k you can get another motor, have it rigged, fix any minor trailer issues, and probably a few issues with boat (say batteries, lights, other misc electrical)? IMO $4k won't buy you a reliable motor, and if you don't know how to rig it yourself, you are WAY under estimating this expense.
Old 07-10-2020, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
Great we will definitely do a sea trial before buying. Thanks for the info, we will pass on the seadoo. Nice looking fun boat but with a 9 month old we are not looking to be rough riding all day. We don’t need to be speeding around, looking for more casual relaxing ride with family. Would be nice to have the option in the future to do tubing or other water sports but not a must right now

Hoping to see these today if we can setup times:
1994 four winns 180 horizon 115Hp evinrude 2 stroke $2500 says runs great no issues but motor seized up, thinking we get it cheap, if everything looks good shape, worst case need new motor. Should still stay under our $6000 budget.

1988 sea squirt 16 35hp evinrude 2 stroke $5500, not sure what I can get them to go down to price wise but says negotiable. Small boat, saying great conditions runs well no issues. From what I have seen sea squirt boats seemed to be built fairly well. With this being so small, will taking it in the ocean be a problem? Wasn’t sure how well it will do or if it’s more meant for harbors and bays. Also not sure how many people can reasonably be on this boat. He says he took his wife and kids on it for sunset cruises and used for fishing.

Boats here are going so fast. We seen one listed 8 hours prior and already sold. Trying to jump to see them quickly and make a good decision before they’re gone. Any opinions of the above boats would be welcome.

UPDATE seen the four winns nice looking boat, fiberglass hull, transom sturdy no cracks. Motor possibly may need replaced. Thing is the trailer it sits on is rusted bad original to boat. RPM tachometer doesnt work. Said lowest he take is $2000. Love the boat itself, seems sturdy and plenty of seating.. Think it would be good for us but just concerns of the trailer and the motor. Could end up lot more into it then its worth. Finding used trailer is not easy it seems, rarely see them. New one guessing $1500 or so? New motor.. Not sure about that. Seen used motor $1500 but no idea if we can do it our self or have to take it somewhere(which will really raise the cost).
Unfortunately you're relying on posts here to steer your decision making. That is a mistake. There is a ton of boat bigotry here, this is not a boating forum, this is a fishing boat forum. So all the opinions are going to be skewed towards narrow preferences. You should do far more research and not listen to any opinion about a buying a Sea Ray, or Bayliner, or Grady White unless the person has owned one. YOu will find that most (not all) have never owned the boats they criticize. Good luck.
Old 07-10-2020, 09:40 AM
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I hate to be a debbie downer but just trynig to save you some headache down the road.

A first time boat owner and buying an old boat with mechanical and/or electrical issues is a recipe for a lot of unhappiness. If anyone is going to be buying an old boat that is bound to have issues it should be someone who has a lot of experience, knows how to do a lot himself, knows what local shops are good and which ones will rip him off, knows which ones are good for mechanical work but will never "have an opening" to troubleshoot electrical issues".

The 1st time owner needs to buy something reliable and learn these things over time. The last thing you want is a wife of a new boat captain onboard when it fails to start a couple of miles out or when you ground the thing on an outgoing tide in the late evening.

At your price point, your only considerations should be safety and reliability. Not size, brand, color, style, etc.

My best advice... If you're going to buy an old boat for a few thousand dollars to use in saltwater, as a first timer.:

1. make sure to allocate $150 for a Boat US or Sea Tow membership before it hits the water

2. pay the $400 to have a survey done on the boat before you buy it so that alteast a professional has looked everything over and identified that a thru-hull needs to be resealed and the bilge pump is not working. This may seem silly to spend $400 on a survey for a $6000 boat but you need to know what works and what doesn't and that safety issues are not an issue before it hits the water.
Old 07-10-2020, 10:02 AM
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We were already hesitant on the boat anyways, so yes we should pass on it to. We tend to buy fixer uppers(first rental property was a mess, camper needed all redone etc) so we always seem to go for those, put some work into and enjoy. Perhaps this method with boats is not so good.

We are going to see the 1988 sea squirt 16 at 2pm. 35hp evinrude. Listed as in great running condition and can have a water test for it. Seems its a boat more for harbor and bay not so much ocean so we will keep that in mind.

Another one to consider will be a 2001 triumph logic 15ft 50hp evinrude Johnson 2 stroke. Also listed as great condition water ready. Can probably get it for $6000. I know the material is different not fiberglass which I see good and bad things about. Size is rather small but will normally just be 2 adults and one child on it. Not sure if this boat would be ok for ocean use near shore or more for bay and harbor use. Still looking more into it.

When researching you can find good and bad with about any boat so yes it is difficult picking the right one. I do know both the boats above were said to be well maintained and cared for. Will see in person if true.

Thanks for all the comments. Did not realize right off this was more of a fishing boat forum. I have certainly appreciated all the comments and advice though!
Old 07-10-2020, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Icemodeled View Post
We were already hesitant on the boat anyways, so yes we should pass on it to. We tend to buy fixer uppers(first rental property was a mess, camper needed all redone etc) so we always seem to go for those, put some work into and enjoy. Perhaps this method with boats is not so good.

We are going to see the 1988 sea squirt 16 at 2pm. 35hp evinrude. Listed as in great running condition and can have a water test for it. Seems its a boat more for harbor and bay not so much ocean so we will keep that in mind.

Another one to consider will be a 2001 triumph logic 15ft 50hp evinrude Johnson 2 stroke. Also listed as great condition water ready. Can probably get it for $6000. I know the material is different not fiberglass which I see good and bad things about. Size is rather small but will normally just be 2 adults and one child on it. Not sure if this boat would be ok for ocean use near shore or more for bay and harbor use. Still looking more into it.

When researching you can find good and bad with about any boat so yes it is difficult picking the right one. I do know both the boats above were said to be well maintained and cared for. Will see in person if true.

Thanks for all the comments. Did not realize right off this was more of a fishing boat forum. I have certainly appreciated all the comments and advice though!
For the most party fixer upper does not work very well with boats. To get a new outboard and have it rigged for example is likely a $8,000 to $15,000 job unless you can rig it yourself. You can probably shop around and find a questionable older used motor and have it rigged for around $4000 but it could still have issues and could blow up on you at any time.

Those little 15 or 16 foot boats will be fine on a lake, but they are older and small for even for a bay or harbor unless it's perfect weather and very light traffic. A little wind chop or to many wakes and it will be a very rough ride.

I would keep looking for something at least around 18 foot and around 2000 or newer. You may need to travel a distance or wait a bit, but you should be able find something around $6000 eventually and will better then sinking your money into something that just doesn't work for you.

And yes, THT is definitely full of offshore fishermen that frown on anything that is not a large CC with outboard made for fishing. But you will still get much good advice if you weed through the all fishing centric posts.

Last edited by CaptainSteveo; 07-10-2020 at 10:38 AM.

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