Inflatable boats are very expensive vessels for recreational sailing and fishing, and they are of different types. These boats are mostly made with two common materials, which are Hypalon and PVC. The former is more expensive than the latter, but even PVC inflatable boats cost a lot of money too. For this reason, many are unable to go sailing, among other things.
However, a used boat offers you an opportunity to own your vessel if cost is a concern for you. Depending on the age, size, and material of the boat, a used one can cost you far less by as much as 40%-50% price reduction. But there are risks involved.
The boat could be nearing the end of its life, or worse still, it may be damaged, and you may not even know. At the end of the day, your bid to save costs may actually end up with a huge financial loss where you lose your money and still have no boat.
However, people buy used boats every day, and wise buyers get value for their investments. You can do the same if you know what to look out for when shopping for a used boat.
Do without further ado, here are tips for buying a used inflatable boat.
Buy from a trusted source
It is unwise to buy boats from just anywhere. Unfortunately, most buyers of used boats are opportunistic buyers who just stumble upon a boat that is up for sale, and they quickly cash in because it is cheap. While a few end up with a good vessel, many regret the sale soon after. Buying used boats from an untrusted source is risky. Besides the fact that you don’t know the state of the boat, you may actually be buying a stolen vessel.
The best way to go about it is to buy it from a trusted source. A good example of trusted sources are
There are hardware stores that cater to the needs of anglers and boaters. These stores are common at fishing resorts. If you buy a boat from such a store, you can be sure that you are getting a fair deal and a good boat. Should it fall apart not long after, or you notice a tear that was not there, you can always take it back to the store.
You can also buy a used boat from a trusted online source, and there are many of them. Platforms Iike Amazon and eBay are good sources. You can also shop for one on Craigslist, where sellers post their boats, but you will have to verify the boat’s quality yourself.
Verify the authenticity of the seller
Once you have found a seller, don’t be in a hurry to pay for the vessel. You need to verify the seller’s authenticity to ensure that you buy from a trusted person. This is even more important if you are buying it online.
Fortunately, most platforms like eBay and Amazon will provide you with the seller’s information on the product page along with their rating and feedback from previous buyers. Spending some time on their page will give you a clear idea about their authenticity and whether the products they sell are of value.
Go for used boats returned to the seller
One of the smartest ways to buy used boats at a discount is to approach sellers for used boats returned by buyers. These boats are still functional, but due to a small dent or other minor issues, the buyer rejected them and asked for a replacement. When sellers get such boats back, they have two options; to dismantle them and make a new boat or sell them in such a condition with little or no financial loss.
Buying a returned Inflatable boat is a great idea because you are buying a brand new boat (with a minor issue) at a discounted price.
Verify the age of the boat
The price you pay for an inflatable boat should be determined by the boat’s age above anything else. Boats have a lifespan of 10-15 years, but some may last a few years longer if used and maintained properly. So it makes no sense to pay the price for a boat that is drawing close to the end of its shelf life.
Is the boat made of Hypalon or PVC? How old is it, and when was it manufactured? These are valid questions you should find answers to. Another thing you should check is its glue. Is it beginning to come off? Imagine being at sea, and the boat begins to take in water; that will put you in grave danger. But how do you know the age?
Just look at the HIN number to be sure. This number is boldly written on the body. The number is a 12 character serial number, and it has meaning. The first three characters are the manufacturer’s ID, the middle three numbers or letters are the serial number of the vessel, and the last three numbers or letters are the manufacturer’s date and certification. HIN numbers are usually placed on the transom.
So when shopping for a used boat, don’t bother about when the seller bought it but when it was manufactured to determine its age. The closer it is to the end of its shelf life, the less you should pay for it.
Evaluate the fabric
You need to know which fabric it is made of. Some fabrics are more durable than others. Modern inflatable boats are made with Hypalon or PVC, and they are priced differently. Hypalon is very durable and can withstand UV rays more than PVC can over time; they both degrade, but PVC degrades at a much faster rate. If you are looking to buy a Hypalon boat, bear in mind that you will have to pay more for it, even in a used state.
Our Climate matters
The prevalent climate in your area matter too. Hypalon is better for colder climates, while PVC is better for a warm climates. While both vessels will work wherever you use them, you may consider this when choosing.
Check out for past repairs
You should inquire if repairs have been done in the boat and which part. Even if the seller says no repairs have been carried out, don’t take his word for it but do your own investigation. Most second-hand inflatable boats have been repaired, and very rarely will you find a boat whose owner has not repaired it at one time or the other.
If you notice that the repair was not done properly or there are different repair sites, just know that the owner has a poor maintenance culture, so you may want to re-evaluate your decision to buy the boat. This is because a badly repaired spot or spots will have to be repaired again, and spending more money on repairs will not be a smart investment.
However, if you feel that you can bear the cost, you can go ahead and purchase it if other parts are in order.
Check the parts
The next thing to do is to check the parts. Inflatable boats have different parts that should draw your attention. Take your time to check the following and ensure they are in good condition before making a final decision.
The seams are an important part of an inflatable boat. This is the point where two fabrics are joined and glued together. In fact, the seams are what hold the boat together. Feel the seams with your hands; are they in order and well fitted? If they are not, that is an indication that the boat is already falling apart. Loose seams mean that the glue holding the fabric together is beginning to break off, which is not a good sign.
Seam repairs can be very expensive, so you may want to back off at this point. If the seams are in place, then you can check the other parts.
The tubes are responsible for keeping the boat afloat when inflated, so what do you check for? Check for tears, leaks, and punctures. If the tubes have several tears and punctures, this is an indication that the fabric is weakening and nearing the end of its shelf life.
Most inflatable boats have cracks in their transom due to the motor engine, so this should not be a deal-breaker, but if the cracks are deep, then it is something you should consider before you pay for it. A few cracks here and there is not a big deal, but severe cracks can cause serious damage in the near future.
If the boat has a hull, you should give it a look for cracks, scratches, and grazes. Scratches and grazes are nothing serious, but cracks are. The more cracks, the clearer the sign that the hull is becoming weak.
Be mindful of the price
The reason why we left out the price until now is because the condition of the boat will determine
- If you will buy it
- How much you will pay for it
If the boat is selling for a ridiculously low price, you have to be careful because even second-hand inflatable boats are not that cheap. It may be that the boat is almost spent, and the owner is desperate to shop it out for a quick buck. So what do you do?
Find out how much a new version is sold for and use this information in addition to the boat’s age and current condition to make a decision. A 5-year-old Hypalon boat selling for 80% less than the price of a new one is a sign that the boat is bad.
Check if there is a return policy
If you buy the boat from a physical store or online, find out if they have a return policy. The return policy is an indicator that they sell quality second-hand items. If they don’t have a return policy, it may be that they know that they sell bad boats and don’t want to be held liable in the future.
So we recommend you only buy boats from sellers who offer buyers the opportunity to return the boats they buy from them.
Check for warranty
You will be amazed to know that some sellers issue warranty covers for the boats they sell. Buying from such a seller is a sure way to secure your investment. This way, you don’t have to spend your money on repairs not too long after you buy it. Some sellers even offer their buyers discounted repairs. This, too, can help you save costs.
Tips for buying a used inflatable boat FAQ
How much will a used inflatable boat cost me?
That will depend on the age of the boat, fabric, and current condition.
Which parts should I inspect before I pay for a used boat?
Inspect the hull, transom, seam, and, more importantly, the fabric for wear and tear
Buying a used inflatable boat can be a risky endeavor, but if you follow the tips highlighted above, you should be able to land a very good second vessel that will serve you for a few more years.
Last updated: 17/04/2022