Buying a boat

When you're thinking about buying a boat there are many factors to consider to ensure that your purchase will be suitable for your intended boating activities, particularly if this is your first venture into boating.

Key considerations

The type of boat that will suit your needs depends on how experienced you are, your intended boating activities, where you want to take it, and in what conditions.

The Waterways section of this website has information on the different categories of waterway in Victoria, as well as the Vessel Operating and Zoning Rules. You should also check out the safe operation section for information about boating at times of heightened risk. All of these factors, and more, will influence what you should be looking for in your ideal boat.

Once you've answered these basic questions, you need to translate it into which boat features are right for you (hull shape, length, freeboard, engine size/ type, and safety equipment). To assist with this, speak to dealers and manufacturers, the Boating Industry Association, Maritime Safety Victoria or peak sporting bodies appropriate for the type of boating you intend to undertake.

Which boat do I go for?

Once you have decided the type of boat that suits your needs, you will then have to check the boat is structurally sound and suitable for your purpose.

It is important to look for the Australian Builder's Plate (ABP) which must be attached to most new Australian and imported recreational boats. The plate provides information on a boat's capability and capacity when out on the water by specifying the maximum number of people and load allowed, buoyancy characteristics and the engine's rating and weight.

When selecting a boat it is important that you take the time to check that the boat is suitable for your intended purpose and in good condition. This includes checking such things as hull and deck condition, engine condition, fuel tanks, electrical systems, electronics, gauges and safety equipment.

When you go to look at a boat, new or second hand, make sure you allow enough time to fully inspect all aspects of the boat. If you've decided to buy a trailable boat, make sure you carefully examine the trailer too. The trailer should be not only in good condition, but of an appropriate length and capacity to support your boat. Don't forget, you will need to register your boat trailer separately with VicRoads.

Second hand boats

If you are considering buying a second hand boat it is strongly recommended that you ask to see the service book or log for the boat and that you have the boat inspected by a qualified marine surveyor or mechanic prior to purchase.

Also check that no used or non-original parts have been used to repair the boat as these may affect the performance and reliability of the boat.

In addition, when buying second hand from a dealer, make sure that the dealer is registered through Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Can I check a boat's registration?

Can I check my registration? 
If a customer has a myVicRoads account, their vessel holdings will display – in addition to boat trailer registration, car registration, driver licence and marine licence details.

Can I check another vessel's registration?
There is no registration check service available to verify vessel details, registration status, finance and other applicable information in Victoria. It is not possible for a third party to check on the registered status of a vessel.

Hull and deck condition checklist

  1. Look for repairs – are they adequate?
  2. Is there cracking or corrosion on an aluminium hull?
  3. Is there cracking or delamination on a fibreglass hull?
  4. Consider asking for a sea trial – this may expose flaws.
  5. Check the condition and mounting of all deck fittings.

Engine condition checklist

  1. Is the engine of a suitable size and power output for the boat? Remember that, for any given power output, a 4-stroke engine will usually be heavier and more bulky than a 2-stroke engine but may be more economical and reliable
  2. Check whether the engine starts and runs smoothly, cold and hot
  3. Engaging a marine mechanic is recommended to inspect the engine for you.

Fuel systems checklist

  1. Check for corrosion, cracks and leaks in hoses and fastenings
  2. Are fuel tanks easily accessible for inspection?
  3. Don't forget to check ancillary fuel systems such as cooking and heating
  4. It is highly recommended that expert advice is sought from a marine mechanic specialising in engine installation and maintenance when buying a boat powered by an inboard petrol engine.
  5. If the boat is fitted with a petrol driven inboard engine, it is recommended that vapour detectors and venting systems are also fitted. These items should be professionally fitted, inspected and serviced.

Electrical systems checklist

  1. A battery that is specifically designed for marine use should always be used
  2. Look for corrosion and moisture through the whole system
  3. Ensure that all gauges and switches are working
  4. Many boats have multiple batteries set up to start the engine and ongoing power for electrical equipment. It is a good idea to have these multiple installations inspected by a qualified marine electrician.

Safety equipment checklist

  1. Make yourself aware of what safety equipment will be required for your chosen boat and area of operations and how to use it.
  2. Check that any safety equipment, where included with the boat, is of good quality, has been serviced as required and complies with the relevant standards
  3. Our trip preparation section has full details of the minimum safety equipment required for power boats, sailing boats, paddle craft and personal watercraft as well as how to use it.
  4. You should also make sure you know what to do in an emergency.

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