Ask people why they buy anything that has been pre-owned and the top response is to save money, or be able to acquire an upscale "something" they really want more affordable. Definitely true of cars, and almost always true of recreational boats, buying "used" means accepting it has been broken in and incurred wear and tear relative to age for the benefit of a lower price.
Buying used cars has become as easy as buying new ones, with literally all new car dealers offering used stock, plus a few big national chains and countless independents selling used cars exclusively. A growing number of car brands and major chains offer some form of "certification" verifying the used product meets various standards; some toss in warranties. Of course, millions of cars also change hands in private sales, spurred by a "for sale" sign in a window, classified ad or on the Internet.
Used boat buying is not so easy. A limited number of new boat dealers sell used products, but fewer still will take a used boat in on trade. Boat brokers, who tend to serve the bigger boat market, generally 30-feet and up, put used boat sellers and buyers together all the time, but they don't physically prepare the boat for resale, if it needs refurbishing at all. For used boats, certification is not widespread and warranties are rare.
The biggest market by far for used boats changing hands is between private parties, so the seller and buyer have only themselves to rely on to finalize the transaction, assuming it is a simple one. There is a benefit here, of course, and that is hundreds of thousands of boat sellers go to the Internet to post their offerings. These sites become ready resources for those buying to gain information on pricing, brand and model activity, outfitting (or lack of it), power choices, etc.
Knowing these details point many people to the new boat camp. Like many car buyers, they simply want the latest model, latest features, power and colors, and new "smell." They choose what they want, know where it's from and know where to go if it breaks. The extra amount of time to research the used product does not equate to the possible savings they feel they might realize.
But, for those willing to do some research, exceptional values can be found in the pre-owned camp. Some sellers like to call used boats "experienced" or "sea tested," and there is truth to it. Used craft often come better outfitted than new, the initial delivery bugs have been worked out, and the price tag -- except in rare cases -- is dramatically cut. As with anything pre-owned, boat buyers need to get as much information as they can about the particular craft they are considering: who owned it, how long, where it was kept and serviced, any records and registration or title papers. If there are unanswered questions, be cautious. And, the bigger the boat or price tag, smart buyers get professionals to help finalize the deal. These could include brokers, surveyors, marine lenders or maritime attorneys.