Buying Your First Boat & Trailer on a Budget: PART III

What do I need to know when buying a boat or trailer

A lot of times boat trailers are over looked when purchasing used boats. But this could be a very expensive mistake if steps are not performed to protect your self. New boat trailers are not cheap and finding a used one to fit your particular hull can be a very daunting task. If you do find a trailer that is the right length you will still have to take the trailer to a fabrication shop that repairs and services trailers and have it modified to fit your particular hull design. (When it comes to boat trailers one size does not fit all)  Also deciding whether you want a Bunk Trailer or a Roll Trailer is another issue.

So let’s not get burned on a boat trailer that is in poor condition. For all intensive purposes, we are going to stay with the 1998 Bayliner that I suggested in Part I. If you haven’t read Part 1 please give it a read and Part II.

Protect Yourself And Don't Be Ashamed

You are probably going to think to yourself that asking all of these questions and requesting these pictures, the seller is going to think I am a pain. The truth is that if you are a 100 plus miles away or more you really need to protect yourself.

If you get into asking for pictures and questions and the seller gets defensive with you then that is your first red flag. Just tell him you are serious but you need to make sure it’s the right boat and in the right condition before you load up your truck and grab the cash you just spent a year saving to come and look at it.

If he is still defensive and doesn’t want to send you the pictures or answer your questions then walk away.  If you get any red flags from him or your gut says this seller is not honest then walk away and look for another boat.

There are thousands of boats for sale he is not the only fish in the sea.  

boat trailer for sale

 If seller says yeah no problem what pictures do you need and what questions do you have? I already feel better dealing with this seller. He sounds honest and up front and is not hiding anything.

That is what you need when dealing with a seller.

Questions to Ask the Seller About the Trailer

Get a tablet and take down notes before calling or contacting by email.

First question: Do all the lights work on the trailer? If not which lights do not work? If the seller is not sure ask him if he can hook his tow rig up and find out for you?

If all the lights are out on the trailer this could be a very expensive repair. I found that 95% of people do not take care of lights or wiring on boat trailers very few even check for brake lights or marker lights before going under way to go boating.

Depending on how the trailer was taken care of, all the light fixtures could be broken rusted and non operations. The driver could of snagged the trailer wiring on something and jerked it all loose and broken every bit of the wiring.

Lots of boats run the wiring inside the tube on the frame and the rotten wiring will have to be pulled out and all new wiring pulled back inside to repair them.

Electrical is going to be by the hour unless its just one tail light and everything else works. Then they can give you a quote.

But if all of it doesn’t work expect the worst and depending on the trailer and condition if could easily cost to $1,000.00 or more.

So don’t skip this important step.

Your next question: Is there any damage of rust on the trailer?

Service rust is ok as long as it’s not rusted through the trailer and it is ready to break apart in the middle. In areas with salt water this is really a problem. A lot of boaters will back into salt water and use their boat and not bother to pressure wash the trailer or boat to get rid of the salt after they are done with it for the day and this eats up the drive on the boat but also eats up the trailer big time.

It is literally like pouring acid on the trailer and boat. So be very careful on this step and get close ups of potential rust issues and make sure they are not rusted out.

Depending of how bad the rust is on the trailer they may be able to cut out the rust and weld in a patch and repair it. If you have more than one rust repair this could get very expensive.

rusted boat trailer

But there comes a time if the trailer has too much rust you have to throw in the towel and say to hell with it and get another trailer. It is just not cost effective to repair it. While we are on rust and not taking care of things one thing to look out for is owners that also don’t flush out their engines after salt water use leaving salt water in the block of the engine is extremely bad on engines.

There are some owners that take care of their boats and flush and clean and wax but most of them don’t. Those are the ones you have to look out for. We will get into salt water in the engine later in future Parts when we get into lake testing the boat.

Next Question: How are the brakes?

Brakes if applicable, if equipped with trailer brakes most will have surge brakes.

How surge brakes work is the master cylinder is in the coupler for your trailer ball. It has a reservoir for brake fluid. When you apply the brakes on your tow rig the weight of the boat and trailer goes forward with the inertia and weight of the boat and trailer.

When this happens it causes the trailer to move forward on your surge brake actuator and pushes a rod up into your master cylinder which pushes out brake fluid from it to your brakes on your trailer.

This expands the shoes on your brake system and helps you come to a complete controlled stop. Most smaller trailers do not have a brake system. This usually comes in bigger boat trailers.

brake trailers for boat

On tandem axle configurations. Most people do not take care of their trailers or brakes so you need to look at this closely.

Most trailers out there will have broken brake lines bad actuators for the brakes and bad brakes shoes and lots of rust.  Additionally people don’t get their bearings repacked.

Just amazes me how people will hook on the trailer not look at the lights don’t put on new tires and not have the bearings repacked and drive clear across the nation and not have one problem.

Do Your Homework on the Trailer as well as the Boat

So you need to be very careful of this and do your home work, ask questions beforehand and get pictures. If every thing needs rebuilt brakes, master cylinder and brake lines from rust this also could cost thousands of dollars.

But it needs to be addressed and repaired because the lives of not only you, but your precious family are on the line. Don’t skip the brakes because the one day you think you won’t need it is the day you will. In a panic situation when you have to slam on the brakes a trailer with out brakes will come around and jack knife on you and not only cause you to hit the car in front of you but also cause you to roll over and kill everybody on board. It’s just not worth not having it serviced and repaired. It doesn’t cost it pays.

Every Repair Ads Up

All of this will come into play on how much you offer the seller on the boat and trailer. Next Part, we will cover what to look out for and check when we finally go look at the boat.

Here is next part of the preowned boat buying guide and questions to ask about the motor in part IV.