Buying and selling a boat

Selling or buying a boat in Western Australia? Find out about boat and trailer registration in Western Australia.

  Choosing a boat

Many people do not get the boat they want until about the third one they buy.

The reason is that many people become single minded about the things they do in boats and an all rounder may not do those things well enough.

One of the best starting points is to spend a lot of time in other people's boats and if you have a partner, take them with you. This will let you:

  • Eliminate the different prejudices that people have about boats and the equipment used.
  • Notice how different boats perform with changing weather, in varying conditions and with different loads.
  • Find out the activities you and your partner prefer, to help you refine your search.
  • Learn to gauge properties of a boat, for instance, the balance between comfort at speed and stability at rest.
  • Understand your partner's boating wants may be different to yours, so look for a version of the all rounder.

With the type of boat in mind, your next major purchases include the motor and trailer. Beware of putting too low powered a motor on the boat.

How much motor power?

Low power means:

  • The performance and economy will drop dramatically with increased loads.
  • Power trim, which helps you set the boat up for different conditions will not work well.
  • You will lose flexibility - no casual skiing.
  • Unexpected loads, like towing another boat could damage the motor.

Boating Industry Association dealers will advise you on a range of power to suit your boat and the job that you want it to do.

Opens in a new window Boating Industry Association (BIA)

  Buying a second-hand boat

As with used cars, when you are buying privately you have less legal safeguards than when buying from a dealer.

This means you need to take extra care, especially when assessing the condition of the motor. Unless you are a trained mechanic, it would pay for you to employ an expert to do an assessment.

Buying through dealers

When buying, dealers value the boat, motor and trailer separately, and this is a good system for the second-hand buyer to use.

Even if the motor on offer is a write off, the boat may be a good enough deal to justify buying a new or good second-hand motor for it. Many dealers have rebuilt motors in stock, or near new motors traded in by commercial users.

Cracked aluminium welding
Cracked aluminium welding


Look for cracks where rails weld to decks; where the sides meet the keel; and with an inboard engine, at the engine mounts.

Look for corrosion, though superficial powdering is not a problem, lots of white powder or deep pitting calls for an expert opinion.

Cracked fibreglass
Cracked fibreglass


Apart from cosmetic wear and tear, look for signs of cracking from impact and structural failure.

Look where flat surfaces meet stiffening at chines, planing strakes and bulkheads.

Look closely to distinguish superficial cracks from deep ones.

Hulls with repairs can be acceptable as the quality of repairs is the significant factor.

  Buying an old or second-hand boat (video)

In the market for a second-hand boat? Watch the YouTube video from Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST).

Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) video

  Tips for buying a boat

  • Consider what the boat is to be used for protected or offshore waters.
  • Consult a BIA (Boating Industry Association) member for advice. The BIA has a Code of Ethics which has been designed to protect you.
  • Acknowledge your level of boating skills and whether they are sufficient for the boat you plan to purchase.
  • Determine how many people will be carried for the size of boat safely.
  • Consider where the boat will be kept - anchorage, trailer, at home or in a marina.
  • Assess running costs, maintenance, storage, equipment and safety gear.
  • Determine your overall budget.
  • Inform yourself about the Boatcode HIN (hull identification number) system that gives each vessel a unique identity. You can download the brochure below.
  • Be aware of registration number regulations for recreational vessels by downloading the brochure below.

After you purchase your boat, you will need to register it with the Department of Transport before you can operate it in the water.

Opens in a new window Boating Industry Association (BIA)

Image of boats in marina

Page last updated: Tue May 21 2019 5:42:35 PM